Thursday, July 26, 2007
The First Tomato of Summer
The small bright red globe peeked out from inside its nest of green leaves and vines. The only ripe tomato in a mass of hard green marbles. It winked at me, flirtatiously, and I couldn't resist. I was in my socks, having only gone out to harvest some collard greens for my dinner, but the pull of that tomato overcame my distaste at getting my socks dirty. I gingerly stepped over the collards and snaked my hand into the green bush.
The tomato was tiny and came off without a fuss, and even that much activity left me surrounded in that particular aroma that only a tomato plant's oily, hairy vines can give off. What is that smell, anyway? There's nothing else like it, and in an instant my brain was filled with memories of my mom's tomato garden, of playing in the dirt as a small child, of spending hours building fairy houses and villages out of leaves and rocks and sticks, all but hidden in the undergrowth that was more real to me than the human world. The smell of dirt, flowers, sunlight, and those tomato plants that always grew during the hottest summer months, arching over the rest of the plants, like grand dames of the vegetable patch. Even the green tomato worms we sometimes found on the plants were green and juicy and healthy-looking; everything grew there, as did I.
I popped the tomato into my mouth and there again was that perfect taste of my childhood - impossible to describe well but so eloquent that I need to try: sweet, bursting, with a thin barely-there skin and a slight tartness that tasted like flowers. Perfect.