Someone is playing a trick on me. A mean, mean trick.
In January, I ordered six tomato plants from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants, with the goal of having beautiful heirloom tomatoes growing in buckets on my back patio all summer long. In the first week of April, they showed up at my door, all tucked into a little cardboard box. I followed Laurel’s directions to the letter and planted them in giant tubs with holes drilled in the bottom filled with organic potting mix and amendments. Everything was great for the first month. The weather was nice, with plenty of sunny days, and my little babies were happy. They grew and grew.
And then May came. And with it came the May gray. Suddenly the sun was gone and the air was extremely moist. One of my tomato plants had a stem turn yellow. Then another. And another plant started looking not so healthy. Part of the problem was that they were being over-watered; they were within range of the nighttime irrigation system for my apartment complex. I moved them, and they started to look better, but the May gray was still depriving them of the long days of sunlight that tomatoes need. My plants were not happy.
At some point, I noticed that the viney weeds growing next to my patio had little yellow flowers that looked strikingly like tomato flowers. Hrmm. That’s strange. Around the same time, before I went away to Toronto, two of my plants started to set fruit. Henning and his friend Sebastian laughed at me as I came in from the patio jumping up and down saying that we have tomatoes. I showed them some tiny nubs inside a curled, dry flower and they just laughed and laughed. “Great harvest, Maia.” Whatever. I came back from Toronto to find my darling tomatoes in a similar state as when I had left—a few blossoms, a few dead leaves, just starting to set fruit.
And then I looked at the weed patch next to the porch. The whole damned thing was overflowing with hundreds of tiny red orbs. They were everywhere. I ran inside and asked Henning about this. He said that he had noticed them, but he didn’t know if they are tomatoes or not. They were pretty small, but they looked a lot like tomatoes and were growing on vines whose flowers I had already thought looked suspiciously like tomato flowers. I picked one and cut it in half. It looked like a tomato and smelled like a tomato. Could it be that while I was nursing my heirloom plants back to health, mother nature was one-upping me by growing a luscious patch of thriving rogue tomatoes just a few feet over?! Oh, the irony! Someone is mocking me, for sure. I decided to wait a few days before eating any, so that I could ask my dad if he knew of any “false tomato” plants that might grow in the wilds of a La Jolla apartment complex. He thought that they probably were tomatoes. The next day I decided to try one. I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste like a tomato.
A few hours later, as I was standing in my towel in the bedroom, Henning came in saying that someone was harvesting my tomatoes. I looked out the window, and sure enough, there was a ten year old kid yanking up vines of those rogue tomatoes from our weed patch! He saw me and nervously muttered something along the lines of “Oh, are these.. your.. uhm.. nevermind.” I asked if he thought they were really tomatoes. “Looks like a tomato, tastes like a tomato, I say it’s a tomato.” So I told him to go ahead and harvest away, but leave me a few for later. I talked to him for a while, and he said that he had found more of these rogue tomatoes at various locations around the complex. We also talked about his garden patch, in which he is growing just about every vegetable known to man. I showed him my herbs and let him taste my chives. “That would be great with vegetables in a stir fry!” It was wonderful to see a kid in the neighborhood who is into gardening rather than video games. Probably his parents are graduate students (like me) and don’t own a television (also like me).
At any rate, my rogue tomato patch has been partially harvested by our new little friend, so my own rogue tomato harvest will have to wait a week or so. Meanwhile, today’s sun is making my heirloom plants smile.