Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tomato Twister

           Growing vegetables and flowers on the high plains of Western Kansas requires eternal hope that compares to a child’s expectant belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Because we believe, we will harvest succulent, homegrown vegetables and fruits. Each spring gardeners across this region sift through garden magazines and seed catalogues and visit local garden shops with a gambler’s hope that this will be the year.

            Eleven years after moving to our limestone hilltop, payday has arrived.  Yes, Virginia, your garden will produce a bonanza harvest. 

Due to a combination of beneficent rains and chicken poop, we have a dream tomato harvest--this despite hail that totaled our roof and left tender tomato plants shattered and broken.  Even with the set back, our vines began producing at the end of July, only a bit later than they would have without Mother Nature’s challenges. Produce is an understatement.  The plants absolutely burgeon with softball-size, juicy fruits that taste like captured sunbeams.

            Here’s the dilemma.  We have a small, raise-bed plot due to our topsoil- challenged circumstances. Based on past plantings, I left plenty of room between seedlings so they could stretch, grow, and still leave room to harvest ripe tomatoes.

           This year’s timely, ample rains and the perfect addition of cured chicken droppings induced unbelievable growth. The intertwining plants are over three and half high by three and a half feet wide.  That is a minimal estimation since it’s hard to tell how tall the plants would be if they weren’t weighed down by large orbs.  I can’t get through my garden without playing the contortionist game of Twister.

            My visiting mother discovered huge numbers of ready- to-pick tomatoes.  Other than the fun of digging hills of potatoes, I don’t think there is much my mom likes better than finding every last ripe tomato on eight very crowded, over-grown plants.  She became a tomato General Patton as she stood outside the fenced  garden and directed the placement of my feet and hands so that I could reach every last one of the ripened fruits. 

            “More to the left, down a few more inches, don’t step too hard with your right foot, stretch, can you see it, oh look, there’s a great big one on  the other side of that plant, watch out, you’re bending that branch, oh can you get all four of those and pass them to me.”

 It was a form of garden “Twister.”  I was so contorted I barely kept my balance.  In the real Twister game, you don’t have to worry about destroying a producing tomato plant.  The worst you can do is bruise a fellow player or black an eye. 

            By the time I finished following Mom’s directions, we filled a five gallon bucket two days in a row.  Taking our harvested trophies into the house, we rinsed, blanched, peeled, and quartered them until I had six gallon bags of ready-to-turn-into-salsa frozen tomatoes.

            I must recover from my spine-twisting garden game before I can think about lifting the jar-filled canner from the hot stove. 


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