Remembrance of Things…Tomato

by Kelly on June 1, 2012   

So full of potential at this little Mr. Stripeys

Okay, I agree, that’s a silly title for the post. After all, it was a crumbly, tea-soaked madeleine that prompted Proust’s flood of memories, not a tomato. Not only that, as a kid I hated tomatoes, so my memory might be a scary one. I love tomatoes now, especially sweet, fresh, flavorful, home-grown ones. So I’m growing tomatoes, and this year I hope to succeed. Oh, yes, I’ve tried before, but I have always come up empty-handed.

Which brings me to my remembrance. My Kentucky grandmother (“Nana”) grew tomato plants as tall as she was — giant, hairy plants with bright red, hand-sized tomatoes.

You can't see just how green her thumb was

I thought of her the other day when I was tying up my plants, when just a brush across the powerfully scented leaves brought back those hot summer days in Lexington (my grandfather insisted on eating outside every summer evening, there was always iced tea, and farm-grown vegetables abounded). I was suddenly so sorry that I hadn’t learned the art of tomato growing from Nana when she was living. Now I’m relying on the Sunset Western Garden Book: “Tomato plants need regular moisture at root level: they are deep rooted so water heavily each time you water.” What is “regular?” And what is “heavily?” And from Amy Goldman’s beautiful book, The Heirloom Tomato, “Plants grow stockier if you brush the tops lightly with your hand every day.” I have been dutifully brushing my plants! But I don’t remember my grandmother doing that.

Truly a visual delight, and descriptions of possibly every variety of tomato available

When did we stop relying on our elders to teach us how to do things? Did we not trust their techniques or think them ridiculously out-dated? Did we put our faith more readily in “experts,” like authors, TV pundits, or now, internet instructors? Hey, it’s a tomato plant. And my grandmother proved her success at it year after year. What was I thinking, to let that resource slip past me.

So I will grow my plants with great attention this year, and so far things are looking good:

Deep watering -- I think I'm getting it

"Mortgage Lifter" from

I have wonderfully named varieties, such as Mortgage Lifter, Mr. Stripey, and Kellogg’s Breakfast.

Kellogg's Breakfast from

I’m keeping notes, so that I can learn from my mistakes and hopefully correct them next year. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll have some decent knowledge to pass along to my daughters and nieces, assuming they wouldn’t rather get it from YouTube. And Mom, get ready, because I’m going to have you teach me all those cool needlepoint stitches.

Kelly McCune © 2012




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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Blair June 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing family of talented women, each with their own unique gift to share and teach. I thoroughly enjoy the talent of consumption in this family who are proficient in the kitchen… C, needlepointing lessons soon! Love

Kelly June 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Same back at you, talented woman!

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