To-May-to … To-Mah-to

It’s spring. Yippee, that means time to plant the seeds of summer vegetables in the garden. Winter in the garden is mostly about root veggies … turnips, parsnips, rutabegas, radishes, beets, occasionally carrots and kale, kale, kale and kale. Well, maybe just kale and kale.

But spring in the garden brings dreams of summer vegetables - beans, snow peas, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, winter squash and spinach, to name a few. But the one vegetable, albeit technically a fruit, that makes me want to channel Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and sing “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” is the tomato! You know, they sing, “to-may-to, to-mah-to, po-tay-to, po-tah-to, let’s all the whole thing off.”

I’m happy to report that they’re not actually singing about tomatoes or potatoes, for that matter, because planting tomatoes is an outright necessity, not to be called off. And that’s because there is absolutely nothing that tastes as good as a fresh, just-picked, homegrown, summer tomato. Oh my, it’s no wonder it’s been called the love apple. I have been known to stand in my garden, on a hot July day, picking and eating tomatoes; juices dripping down my chin and onto my shirt. Don’t care. No one around but my chickens to judge me. 

Last month, I filled my greenhouse shelves with pots of tomato seeds; just like the tomato, I’m an overachiever. Currently, I have 37 tomato seedlings that will be ready to plant in the weeks ahead. I’ve got red and yellow and orange; cherry and plum and grape. I’m hoping I have a bumper crop so I can sauce ‘em and sun dry ‘em and pickle ‘em and then in winter when there are no fresh tomatoes to be had, I’ll be in tomato heaven.

As a lover of tomatoes, it’s odd now to think that they were once thought to be poisonous and if eaten would, quite likely, send you to heaven. The tomato plant, a member of the deadly nightshade family, is poisonous; everything but the beautiful red fruit that we eat. And we’ve been eating them here in the States since the 1700s. They took a circuitous route to get here, beginning in Peru where they grew wild, returning to Europe with the Spanish explorers, and brought back to the US with European immigrants where they have become the number one homegrown vegetable … next to zucchini, a topic for another day.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I have a love affair with tomatoes. Fred and Ginger go on to sing:

But oh, if we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.

It would indeed brake my heart to sever my relationship with tomatoes. The only severing I’m going to do is when I pick them off the vine. No matter how you pronounce it, to-may-to or to-mah-to, in my vernacular I just say yummy!

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