When I read Jamsey Thomas’ blog about hobbies a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised to see gardening near the top of the list for people age 50-plus. I’m 50-plus, and I love gardening, especially vegetable gardening. But then, tomatoes and I go way back.
I like to say that tomatoes put me through college. (Full disclosure: Washington U. tuition was $900 per semester then). My dad loved home grown tomatoes, and when I was 10 we planted our first family garden. Every year the lawn shrunk as the number of tomato plants grew, and soon we had so many tomatoes that I dragged our patio table and yellow umbrella down the driveway and opened a roadside stand. I sold on the honor system: weigh your own tomatoes, put them in a brown lunch sack and leave payment in the change dish on the table. At peak season, the unassuming stand would bring in $150 on a weekend. Considering my full-time day job while I was in college paid $40 per week, the tomato proceeds were significant!
Fast forward to the 80s. My parents moved to larger property, and when my mother retired from teaching, she gave new meaning to the term avid gardener when she purchased 600 tomato plants and drafted children and grandchildren to plow, plant, tend, harvest—and no, the work was still not done—there was cooking, canning and freezing remaining, not to mention all the eating! Our diet had an abudance of licopene! In the years that followed, we became quite creative with our tomato recipes, with home grown tomato pie topping the list of family favorites.
My mother’s passing in 2003 marked the end of our extreme gardening era. But on Mother’s Day the following year, my children showed up in our back yard with garden soil, shovels and tomato plants and advised, “Mom, it’s up to you now to carry on Grammie’s tradition.” And so I became a real gardener.
My plot is not so big—just 18 plants—my rows not as straight, my harvest not so bountiful, but I love becoming my mother, and like her, I enjoy sharing the fruits of my labor. Every July I bake at least one home grown tomato pie and share it with my Oasis colleagues.
As I plant tomatoes next weekend, I’ll celebrate Mother’s Day in my own special way. Check back to this blog in June for the tomato pie recipe. It’s worth making, but get busy planting — you need to grow your own tomatoes to make it authentic!