I always find July to be a bit bittersweet. Sure, it’s still in the shank of summer, and it’s still hot enough to melt rock, but July is the beginning of the end of the season, for me. There always comes a point (usually about midway through the month) where I wake up and realize that the birds are not singing their usual pre-dawn/sunrise chorus in search of a mate. The lightning bugs have, for the most part, gone off to wherever lightning bugs go once their season is over. The flowers in the garden are beginning to look a bit bedraggled. There are little changes, in the air, in the atmosphere, in the length of the day, that all tell me fall is on its’ way.
And I don’t mind fall, really. I just really despise what comes after that.
But one thing that makes the “sweet” in this bittersweet time of the year is the fact that — finally — the tomatoes are starting to come in.
Last year we had a weird season, it was basically too cool and cloudy for most of the summer for the tomatoes to set fruit, and what few we got weren’t the robust, juicy kind that we all associate with homegrown goodness. (Side note: the only time I will buy tomatoes in the store is when I need one to chop up for taco toppings, before the garden variety comes in. Hothouse tomatoes are… ugh.) So this year, with the heat and the humidity really pumping in, has been a good year for tomatoes, and we have all (all!) been practically giddy at the thought.
BLTs. Cucumber-tomato salad. Fried green tomatoes. Canned tomatoes for spaghetti and lasagna this winter. It’s all good.
Every year I attempt to limit myself to a few well-chosen varieties in the garden. When you only have four raised beds you have to be very careful about rotating crops so that every year is a bounteous one. It’s hard. At the garden center I’m tempted with Big Boy, Mr. Stripey, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, German Queen, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Lemon Boy and a host of other odd and heirloom varieties. It’s very, very tempting to put all four of my beds in tomatoes. The sight of a basket full of ripe tomatoes in all colors and sizes is enough to make my heart sing.
I like tomatoes.
The best tomato, of course, is the one that you pick fresh off the vine, wipe off the dirt, and eat, warm, with a little bit of salt. Heaven!
My tomatoes are just starting to come in, and already I’m wishing I hadn’t been so circumspect back in May. I’d love to have more varieties than the three I planted. (Three? What was I thinking?) And I’ve found that if you grow the more unusual varieties (yellow, striped, etc.) people are more willing to take some off your hands. You get to be branded as an all-around good person that way.
Next year? Maybe half of my beds will be in tomatoes. We’ll see.
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