An Open Letter to the Garden’s Rotted Tomatoes
You did your job. You fulfilled the vocation assigned to you by the One who ordained that seeds and plants and their successive fruits would perpetuate each other in cyclical reciprocity – a dynamic trinity of essence, expression, and expectation. You sprouted, first in the warmed greenhouse soil and air amidst the waning bitterness of winter, then rooting deeply into garden soil while reaching tall up trellising frames, finally to blossom and bulge into the red or purple or golden sunlighted acidic orbs that are your delight.
And you accomplished it against all odds – high winds, pummeling hail, withering heat, drowning rain. Despite injury and stress, you recovered and persisted and choked forth fruit. Beautiful, taste-bursting fruit…
…while I got busy with other things. They weren’t irrelevant distractions, I can assert in my own defense. There were weeds to pull in other parts of the garden; there were obligations that took us temporarily away or absorbed our available time or otherwise claimed our attentions. There were travels, as well - too-long delayed - that took us even further away, which gave opportunity to still more weeds. And then the harvest was upon us with its perpetual gathering and slicing and combining and cooking and canning; and the days simply did not offer ample enough hours. Over the course of recent weeks we gathered as many as we could, but did not get so far as you, which I grieve.
I offer such an accounting not as an aggregate of so many excuses – nothing can finally “excuse” the resulting tomatocide – but more to rebut the understandable but mistaken impression that we simply didn’t care, or couldn’t be bothered. We cared. We bothered. We just couldn’t get it all done. And you were left to rot on the vine.
There is a sense, of course, in which you couldn’t care less. As noted, you did your job: you made fruit which contained new seeds which, even now, are falling to the ground where at least some number of them will nestle into the cracks of the soil, over-winter and, come spring, sprout and produce the next generation of vines. Earlier in my farming I would not have predicted this, but the proliferation of volunteer plants over the years – including this one – attest to the contrary. Seeds want to grow, and yours quite likely will even without my well-intentioned ministrations.
But I suspect you harbored more esoteric ambitions – to occasion the burst of a bite, the ecstasy of flavor, the groans of satisfaction and the dribbles of delight. You, too, must ache to lie together with crisped bacon and fresh lettuce; to melt into marinara, be spiced and surprised into salsa, or simply to drip your way off the edges of a burger.
And I let you down. I left you hanging. And there you languished, softened, drooped and finally dripped into a rotting puddle at the base of the wire support.
I’m sorry. You sprouted and matured for more than this, for better than I’ve given you. You offered yourself in generously delicious glory, but my attentions were elsewhere. I neglect and miss so many gifts this way. And I am the poorer. I give honor to the work you have done – the striving, the ripening, the offering. You are an exemplar for these days.
Chastened and inspired, I move toward autumn and the stillness of winter, before the stirrings of spring gives us fresh opportunity to honor and please one another.