Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tomato Rancher

----------------Harvested Yesterday---------------

Tomatoes are my favorite vegetables. Technically, tomatoes are fruits. According to those who know, they are fruits because they contain seeds, but then so do cucumbers, green beans and walnuts. By that standard, my testicles are also fruits. As evidence of that fact I point to Deuteronomy. Does the Old Testament not warn of the dangers of spilling your seed upon the ground? Do I not consistently fail to heed that warning? Either my nuts are fruits, or tomatoes are vegetables. You can’t have it both ways. Where tomatoes are concerned, the fruit versus vegetable debate is a slippery slope, a slope made even more slippery by seed spilt to no good end. It is a viscous [sic] cycle indeed.

The answer to the riddle is in the context. In my kitchen, those glorious crimson orbs (tomatoes I mean) are treated as vegetables in every sense of the word. Many experts will concede that the manner in which tomatoes are typically processed in the kitchen supports the contention that they can be correctly referred to as veggies. So it looks like my nadicles are not fruits after all.

As I said before, tomatoes are my favorite vegetable. As I stroll the aisles in the vegetable section of the local supermarket, I point and laugh at the waxy, tough skinned, pinkish-green knobs that pass for tomatoes these days. Sometimes in the off-season, when I have failed to practice good tomato husbandry, I fumble through the grocery store pile, reaching far to the back of the bin hoping to find an overlooked specimen, one that is just a little less abominable than the others. But they are all the same. I’ve never eaten a tumor before, but I have the feeling I would not be totally surprised by the experience.

----------------A single day of picking----------------

I’ve raised tomatoes almost every year for the last thirty-five years. I cook with them, can them, prepare them in every conceivable permutation, and otherwise devour them in logic-defying quantities all season long.
From the day my first tomato ripens on the vine each spring, until the last lid on the last jar of tomato sauce is popped off, my intestines maintain a state of agitation due to the high acid content of the varieties I prefer to grow. I liken tomatoes to one of my least favorite deities. They provide happiness and they promise more of the same for all of the days of your life. But they are also menacing and vengeful. If you rely too heavily on them for your daily ration of ecstasy, you will surely turn your blistered colon inside-out on some unhappy day. Not that it’s a bad thing.

These are my tomato plants this year. I trim the tallest ones down to seven and a half feet to keep them safely inside the tomato prison I built for them several years ago. I don’t have time to grow no stinking garden, so I have a garden that requires absolutely no effort to maintain. It has an underground watering system, a weed barrier so there are no weeds to pull, retractable netting, and an electric fence to keep my competition at bay.

The birds jockey for position around the top edge of the frame. They watch my tomatoes ripen to a luscious dark red, but there will be nary a beak hole in a single tomato all season long. The large birds take out their frustrations on the smaller birds and they all fight amongst themselves. Sometimes the tomatoes are almost within pecking distance through the net. I make sure my little tomatoes stay just out of reach of their filthy beaks. Those are my stinking tomatoes you damn dirty birds! My winged adversaries stay pissed-off all season long.
The squirrels run headlong into the netting over and over again. They climb it and try to dig under it. The squirrels don’t really like tomatoes, they just like to bite holes in them and knock them to the ground until there are none left on the vine. There have been a few in the past who figured out how easy it is to chew through the netting. I live-trap the smart ones and provide them with a one-way ticket to a city park down the road. There they will assimilate into a population of expatriate bushy tailed rodents who failed to address my tomato plants with an appropriate level of deference.

The worst of them all are the raccoons. When they found my tomatoes about four years ago, they breached the net barrier in less than one second. They devastated crop after crop. They ripped off limbs and ate their fill, lounging in piles of greenery with tomato juice on their paws and all over their faces. I tried all manner of defensive action until one evening; I looked out the window and saw twelve coons, exactly twelve, having a goddamn party in the tomato patch and laying waste to my jalapeño plants. I waded in amongst them with a paintball gun. By the time the last one made it up and over the fence, their fur matted with mutli-colored dye, I was sure they had had enough. Where brains are concerned, I guess size does matter; they were back thirty minutes later as if nothing ever happened. I installed the electric fence around my tomatoes the next day and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since.
Note: With the exception of a few sore rumps from the paintball incident, no animals were harmed during the tomato wars and no immediate family members were separated. It was primarily old bachelor males and breeding age reprobates amongst the squirrels and coons who were given their marching orders.

--------The first of this season's canned tomatoes--------
Being relieved of concern for almost all known threats to my precious tomatoes, I harvest and eat at will. However, as with any ecosystem where natural predators have been eliminated, overpopulation reaches critical mass early in the season. Rather than re-introduce the tomato’s natural enemies, I choose to fill that vacuum myself. It is for this reason that I often grip my belly and contemplate how much more my colon can take. According to my calculations, my colon will take all I can shove into it until the first frost comes sometime in December. At that point, I settle into the off season with the help of stacks of home-canned tomato products, e.g., tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, stewed halves, and so on. Some will end up in spicy salsas, others in soups and the odd lasagna.


Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Your dedication to the cause is truly impressive. Or scary. I can't quite decide which.

BTW - I nominated you for an award and I am pleased to see my instincts were correct.

4:52 AM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Jazz said...

I'm contemplating moving to Texas and raiding your tomato patch.

6:47 AM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Glamourpuss, thank you for nominating me for the Rokin’ Girl Blogger award. I’ve been a “Brides Maid” in two weddings and a “Maid of Honor” in one, but I’ve never been a Rokin’ Girl Blogger before.

Hey Jazz, you would have to be very crafty to pull it off. In all likelihood, you would end up living down at the city park with all the other trespassers and interlopers who had similar designs on my precious produce. I could just give you a basket load of tomatoes instead.

10:06 PM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger The Gamin said...

Pretty passionate about protecting those 'glorious crimson orbs', aren't we?

1:47 AM, July 05, 2007  
Blogger madpotter said...

I was just starting to feel good about my 2 foot high fruits/vegetables and now I must hang my head in shame as I eye your towering jungle. Size does matter! My hat's off to ya, Slaghammer! That's one fine bunch of crop and defenses you got there. I used to crank the ol' Squeezo-Straino as I fed tomatos in and made some mighty fine sauces/salsas. I must admit I've become lazy in recent years and have fallen back on Paul Newman's fare. If your salsa is as good as your pots, I'd sacrifice my colon any day.

7:16 AM, July 05, 2007  
Blogger Hammer said...

I'm fond of them too and the store's excuse for tomatoes is pathetic at 1.89 per pound.

If the animals go after them with such fervor, yours must be good.

10:43 AM, July 05, 2007  
Blogger skinnylittleblonde said...

Oh my Lawdy! Those look great! Yum, yum, yum for you!
I am amazed of the size and fullness of your plants.

btw, I think your nuts are fruits.

12:38 AM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Gamin, I can’t think of many things in life more worthy of protection than my crimson orbs. I’m pretty particular about my tomatoes too.

Hey Madpotter, there’s no shame in growing two foot tomato plants. If you get five decent tomatoes off them it will have been worth the trouble.

Hi Hammer, I guess I should consider it a compliment that the critters are fond of my produce. But I have a feeling they would be just as happy eating cat turds.

Hi Skinny, I think it’s the other way around, my fruits are nuts. ;-)

3:27 AM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger Evil Spock said...

Dude, your tomato warfare is exquisite!

Our yard is heavily shaded, so no tomatoes for us. We do buy ours at the Farmer's Market. Pricey, but delicious!

11:16 AM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger nic said...

And I thought you were just kidding about the electrified fence.

You truly are the man.
Fruits and nuts aside.

2:02 PM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger Whippersnapper said...

Tomatoes are full of lycopene, which prevents prostate cancer. Your meat and two veg (that's right, they're VEGGIES) sure must be in tip-top shape! When you go in for that bend-over/rubber glove exam, your doctor must purr in happiness when he feels how healthy your prostate is! You'll have to show him a picture of your tomatoes and explain the connection.

11:09 PM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Spaaawwwwwwwwwwk! I think I have it all figured out now. No more midnight patrols of the perimeter defenses. Gotta stay vigilant though, they are out there, waiting and watching for a careless move on my part. ;-)

Hey Nic, I was not kidding. The electric fence is always a last resort and always an effective deterrent.

Hi Whippersnapper, I got plenty of purring from Dr. Baloney Finger. That, along with his gigantic fingers and coconut-like knuckles was a primary motivator for switching to my current Urologist, Dr. Noodle Finger.

6:36 PM, July 07, 2007  
Blogger Cheesy said...

How glorious are those plants... my gawd?!?!

How about I make some homemade pasta and you make the sauce? Lets stuff Jill's little belly... I would have LOVED to have video'd the coon wars!

10:48 PM, July 07, 2007  
Blogger Orhan Kahn said...

You had me at testicles.

12:08 AM, July 08, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Cheesy, I do love my tomato plants, and they love all the crazy shit I do to make them happy. Regarding the pasta, Jilly is all about the stuff. She would be thrilled to have a tag team slaving in the kitchen to that end. I really should get one of those pasta machines and learn how to make ravioli.

Hi Orhan, you really can’t go wrong with subject matter like that. I should have just wrote “testicles, testicles, testicles, testicles” maybe fifty or sixty times and been done with it.

8:47 AM, July 08, 2007  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

Only two things that money can't buy, and that's true love and home grown tomatoes.

I used to grow about thirty six footers and spend my whole summer canning for winter.

The last couple of years I've slacked off, but I still grow my cherry poppers in pots (Oregon soil is not pleasing to tomatoes) and may get a beef steak or two from another pot.

I used to electrifry the deer that wanted to munch down my babies and would get a kick out of hearing them bolt from the jolt.

10:43 AM, July 08, 2007  
Blogger Kara said...

Jebus. If you take this much vengeful care...and...obsessive compulsiveness with growing tomatoes...I'd enjoy watching you plot to take over the world. Or even just a city, really, I'm not picky.

I love tomatoes too. But I buy them. What can I say, I live in a basement.

9:51 AM, July 09, 2007  
Blogger Mystic Wing said...

Good God, what great tomatoes. For me, it's the raspberry patch that turns my crank, but these photos have me itching to buid another bed and have another go at the termaters.

4:42 PM, July 09, 2007  
Blogger David said...

One words for those toms - awesome. I'll settle for growing some canalside chillies, lemon grass and basil.

3:56 AM, July 10, 2007  
Blogger C. Limmesand said...

Wow! I followed David over here...hope you don't mind. Witty post, and real too...dug it here and hope to see you again soon.

1:09 AM, July 11, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Scott, my biggest tomato patch was, if I remember correctly, eighteen plants running maybe six feet tall. That was a long time ago in a land far, far way. My current tomato patch is scaled to fit the yard. Since I no longer have room for garden sprawl, I have to go for high-rise construction instead. Regarding true love, I’m pretty sure you can buy that somewhere.

Hey Kara, I’m content to rule over my backyard domain. You know, basement dwellers can grow luscious tomatoes too. The technology is available at your local head shop.

Hi Mystic Wing, raspberries have lied to me one too many times. They promise glory but they deliver only stains and those little seeds don’t get stuck in my teeth. I haven’t had a fresh one in a couple of decades though. I could be persuaded.

Hi David, canalside chillies? They sound hot, which is always, always a good thing.

Hi C. Limmesand, welcome to my humble blog and sorry it took so long to reply to your comment. I visited your site and it looks like you are attracting some excellent talent. Beautiful images.

12:36 AM, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Little Wing said...

Nice 'mators, Slag!

5:46 PM, July 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Slaggy. This Bazza! Yes I am still alive and glad to see that the quality of your blog has not dropped; it's better if anything.
At present I am without a computer but hope to be back blogging soon.
All the best to you - thanks for your concern.

7:53 AM, July 16, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Little Wing, I love them too much.

BAZZA! Sweet mother of Jayzus, there you are. It must be a drag living without a computer. I live without a lot of things I thought I couldn’t live without, chicken livers for one, I do miss them so. But I’m not sure I could live without a computer. Hope you get connected soon.

12:50 AM, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, are you passionate or what.

As for tomatoes in general, I like to have salsa, brochette, and sauce, but I don't like a whole tomato.

7:26 PM, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Rhea said...

The tomato crop here stinks this year (Boston backyards). But when I was a kid, my dad was an agriculture major in college who knew how to grow 8-foot-tall tomato plants; the tomatoes were delicious.

12:48 PM, July 18, 2007  
Blogger Irene said...

Suddenly, I feel bad that I don't eat tomatoes. ;p

11:47 PM, July 18, 2007  
Blogger Bostick said...

Great looking tomatoes! I grow them every year and this year has been really good.

7:48 AM, July 21, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Andrew, passionate is not what the word most often used to describe me. Thanks for that. As for how you like tomatoes, I suspect your dislike for whole tomatoes has something to do with the texture, the giggly jelly stuff and the seeds, which is perfectly understandable. Lucky for me, I love the giggly.

Hi Rhea, tomatoes like the weather around here until mid to late summer when daytime temperatures get into the high nineties and sometimes the 100’s. They suffer mightily but then bounce back in the fall with lots of tomatoes. That is, as long as you don’t lose interest and stop taking care of them during the hottest part of the summer.

Hi Irene, I would feel terrible if I didn’t get my yearly fix of them. I eat myself so sick on them that I’m not too sad when the last tomato comes off the vine in the fall. Then I end up shuffling through the produce section of the supermarket and start yearning for them again.

Hi Bostick, this has been an excellent year for me too, maybe the best in the last ten or so. By the way, I just got back from your blog (dark side), a very ass-kickin place. I’m working my butt off lately but I’ll check that one out again and the others out as soon as I get a little down time.

12:39 AM, July 23, 2007  
Blogger Whippersnapper said...

Hey!! It was in the paper today on the Health page that the lycopene in tomatoes does NOT prevent cancer!! So ignore my comment above. (I hate it when they change their minds on stuff like this, now I've got to go change my overheads for my Grade 11 biology class... they've really got a nerve, like I don't have better things to do...)

9:12 PM, July 25, 2007  
Blogger Stucco said...

Okay Mister Slag, I'm ready for a new post now please :)

10:18 PM, July 25, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Whippersnapper, I’m all about the placebo effect. I still believe that tomatoes will not only prevent cancer, they will increase the length, width, girth, and volume of my brain.

Hey Stucco, events are conspiring against my blog writing efforts. My one and only employee had a meltdown, resulting in a scheduling crisis. He’s a good guy so I’m helping him start his own business, a business in which he will be in direct competition with me. He’s that good of a guy. In any case, I have a post almost ready to go, just need time to knock the rough edges of it.

6:39 PM, July 29, 2007  
Blogger Crankster said...

Slaghammer, you consistently make me laugh my ass off with your truly bent view of reality. My god, if you could harness that evil genius, you could take over the world.

Or at least terrorize a lot of racooons.

12:10 PM, August 17, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Crankster, if I were able to take over the world, my first measure would be to enslave all the world’s raccoons and shackle them to plows. They would be forced to till the tomato gardens of in every single back yard of every house on the planet. Of course, first I would have to make sure that every single person on earth had a house and a back yard. Then, the raccoons would know my wrath.

1:28 AM, August 29, 2007  

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