Rotten Tomatoes

So, I had made some arrangements to deliver to Lesley a whole bunch of tomatoes from the garden. And when I went to pick them up off the counter this morning, every single one of them was rotten. Like the mold had found them all at once and managed to seduce them as a crowd overnight. One burst when I touched it and almost instantly, small flies found it.

I went out to the garden, where I had not been in almost a week, relying on the kindness of family members to keep harvesting while I was sick.  And it’s almost unrecognizable now.  Everything is overgrown. Pumpkins stretch clear across the yard. The watermelons have made a pact with the cucumbers and the French Marigolds have completely overstepped their bounds. I should have known a person would never need 5,000 French Marigold seeds.

I felt bad, at first, about the tomatoes. Not that I couldn’t deliver them to Lesley, but that they’d gone bad, that they’d been wasted.

But it occurs to me that this is the wrong attitude to have to my sprawling, overgrown garden. To myself. To feel guilt over wasting food.

The garden is a luxury for me.  An abundance. What I have on top of what I usually have.

To get all weirdly frugal about it now is kind of strange.

I think a lot about what it means that almost every culture that ascribes gender to the earth, understands the earth as female. And what it means for me, as a woman, to let the garden grow, to let things grown and come to fruition and pass to death while I learn something other than “I have wasted that.”

I used to think that it was important to be in right relation to the land, and that being in right relation was as a proper steward of the land, as one who establishes order and delineates uses and tends and cultivates. But, as always, the thing is to understand yourself as of the land, not on it.

Not that I know that thing in my bones. Yet.

I still understand myself as the one who establishes order out of chaos. The stick that beats a path. Not the hand that reaches for the spinning wheel.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense.

The other day I was, as one does, having drinks with my drinking buddy, mourning the end of our occasional respite, and celebrating that his orders have come in and he’s going home and he said, “I thought my luck had run out. I had a good bout of luck there for a while, but I thought it was over.”

And I smiled, because it always tickles me to hear an ostensibly Catholic Swede talk about luck in a way his ancestors would immediately understand.

And now I think, somethings, they stick with you, and other things, you relearn at the behest of your rotten tomatoes.

6 thoughts on “Rotten Tomatoes

  1. If you started to get all concerned about wasting food like that, it’s a god thing you aren’t some farmer’s wife. My father-in-law would plant crops in abundance because you never know what will happen and how much you’ll get so they would overflow with so much foodstuff it would come close to killing her to put it all up. It was alsays more than they could eat in two years.

  2. Don’t compost the tomatoes unless you’re sure you’ll get enough heat to kill the seeds.

    When my mother died, I found that while it was enormously helpful to me emotionally to be in the garden, I could not focus or concentrate on keeping it weeded and organized. So now the main bed is overgrown with all sorts of everything that I’ll never get caught up with rooting out, the staked tomatoes are falling down, the new beds are producing few vegetables that won’t ripen, and the general air of dishevelment is far past what even my lax standards usually allow. I’ve never thought of myself as the one who brings order out of chaos (in a garden or elsewhere) but I do think that by gardening I get the earth to give me some of what I want. I don’t master it, but I work with it (or, this year, I don’t work with it much). But, you know, with all that, my garden is still producing. Because that’s what gardens do; that’s what the earth does. Some things are bountiful even through neglect. I think that’s an important lesson the earth can teach us, if we pay attention.

  3. I hate, hate, hate to waste fresh food like that. It drives me nuts, but with tomatoes, it will always happen. You have too many or too few; never exactly the right amount. You are lucky to have seen them mature; imagine walking out to your cucumber vine and seeing dozens of shriveled little black cucumber fetuses. Makes my heart heavy. And the zukes and squash? Never mated. Barren.

    Though it’s worse to pay money for something and have it go bad. I swear, I’m going to kill Chris if he doesn’t eat that damn pizza this weekend.

  4. As a woman it’s taken me forever to understand that sending things to seed isn’t waste. To realise that not every egg has to make a baby, that not every unused bite of food is stolen from the starving.

    A tomato which can’t be eaten by you can still be eaten by the earth and by other creatures of that earth. Things pass into different sets of usefulness.

Comments are closed.