the smell of tomato leaves

Have you ever noticed how tomato plants have a particular smell?  It's mellow as anything until it hits you like a whip and then fades into the earth.  As I've mentioned before, I've caught a few tomato plants growing wild in odd places, and the smell is always the last and final test to see if they are what they pretend to be--it's the only way to be sure.

Now that I have seven varieties of tomato finding their places in the world with the help of my windowsill and not nearly enough help from the sun, I must admit that sometimes I just like to smell them.  They remind me of home a little, and of my mom growing tomatoes.  I used to go out into the garden and pick tiny cherry tomatoes right off the vine, painted with the grey minerals of dried water.  Sometimes I'd wipe them off on my clothes or take them inside, but sometimes I would just kiss them clean and eat them warm.  I've never had better tomatoes.

I was also reminiscing about plums recently; my grandma used to grow plumbs and still grows apricots and pomegranates.  Not even thinking about the season, I tried to buy plums recently, which was a huge mistake.  They were a totally different kind of fruit, sour and clear, and N got a ranting earful about how I've been spoiled for life and I can't buy any of those fruits in a grocery store.

When I pick fruit (in the botanical sense), I always like to wait until the plants gives it up willingly--no pulling, prying, twisting, or cutting.  Just a simple pluck.  They're best like that, and grocery store fruit is rarely, if ever, picked so--farmers' markets maybe, but not stores, lest they spoil in transit.

As a kid, I used to sit in the treehouse that my grandpa built in the bigger of the two apricot trees and test the fruit until I got the ones that were ready to go that day.  You could bite them exactly in half as easy as opening a book.

I'd do the same for the pomegranates, without the biting.  Instead, I'd smuggle a butter knife out of grandma's kitchen and cut them until I could crack them open by hand--they were softball sized fruit, bigger than anything I've even seen at a stand or farmers' market.  They'd bleed all over the treehouse or on the concrete (which I'm sure grandma didn't like) and I'd pick out the seeds to my heart's content, peeling away the translucent pith in as big of sheets as I could.

The plumb tree died when I was still fairly young, but I remember getting out a ladder and making my brother hold it so I could get the very best ones on top.  We ran barefoot and wild...well, I suppose I still do.

I think I'll find a local pick-your-own-fruit orchard this year.  But one day, I'll get my own land...

The photos are of the tomato seedlings I started just three weeks ago.  Top to bottom: Yellow Pear, Brandywine, and Amish Paste.

1 comment:

JBB said...

You made me miss the tomatoes in the garden. I'll be planting some this year. And maybe beets. There is nothing like fresh beet salad with goat cheese. My pomegranates are still not up to Grandma's par and likely never will be. Our canyon is a tad more cold in winter. But maybe when it is bigger and stronger you can have some again. But lemons and grapes are sure to be the harvest this summer.
Thanks for the walk in the garden...Mom