I’ve been watching the fruit and vegetables in the garden grow and mature. Weeding, watering and wondering. When exactly is the first tomato going to be perfectly ripe for the picking?
Anticipation, I’ve always said, is a big part of any experience whether it be harvest or travel or concert or film or other highly anticipated event. The days creep along, the calendar dates change slowly. Finally, the day arrives.
Last week, a few tomatoes began to ripen in earnest. Pale orange became pale pink became reddish became almost red but not quite true ripe juicy red. I wandered around the plants, lifting a leaf here and there. I wondered which tomato would be first.
The Early Girl plants are massive, the Jet Stars half their size. Pacific Potager, where I bought plants this year, had at least three dozen varieties of tomato plants to choose from. This being only my third summer in the Pacific Northwest, I was uncertain of which to try, so reliable Early Girl was my first choice. I chose Jet Star plants because they were sturdy with a maturity date several days beyond than the Early Girls.
Surprisingly, when it came right down to it on Thursday afternoon, it was a Jet Star that would prevail.
I was harvesting parsley in the shade of our wisteria-covered pergola. Had pulled up the plants, roots and all. Rinsed off the roots with the garden hose and was snipping the parsley off the stems into a tub in preparation for chopping in the food processor before filing away in the freezer.
After a half hour of snipping, I was ready for a snack and remembered that it might be time for First Tomato.
A few steps away, there she was. Bright red, perfectly red and ready. I tenderly removed the tomato and placed it on a plate. “Tenderly”?
Yes. This was no grocery store tomato, not even a farmer’s market tomato, but a tomato to be consumed in the garden, minutes after picking.
Returning to the pergola table, I slowly drew my knife through its center, the fruit yielding perfectly to the bite of the serrated blade. I cut again, and again, until the tomato lay before me in perfect bite-sized unadorned fragments. Twenty of them. I took the time to count.
Is this beginning to sound obsessive-compulsive?
It was pure anticipation and enjoyment and I was delaying consumption as long as I could.
I sprinkled black pepper and then ground a few twists of pink Himalayan salt, watching the salt dissolve as it landed on the wet surfaces.
Then, the fork. The first taste, the flavor.
I spent a good fifteen minutes enjoying that tomato, while thinking about how I need to cherish more moments like this with pure anticipation and enjoyment.
What’s your tomato today?
The Time is Ripe.