Friday, September 30, 2016

Harvest/Fall: Homegrown Tomatoes

Guy Clark: Homegrown Tomatoes

In our backyard, we have three raised beds, poorly built by me, and a couple of unraised beds (or should I just say “beds?” Sort of like calling grass “natural turf,” I guess). The newest raised bed got new, rich soil a couple of years ago, and whatever we plant in there tends to do well. The rest of the planting is kind of hit or miss. This year, for example, pretty much everything we grew in the other beds, raised and otherwise, were kind of disappointing. We got very few peppers, despite two waves of planting four different types. Our lettuces were not eaten, as they were last year, by a groundhog, but were pretty sparse. The carrots never came up at all. We harvested a single zucchini (zucchino?) before the plant succumbed to some sort of disease, which also seemed to affect the cucumbers, which were a shutout. Stringbeans grew, and we got a handful, before, it appears, a deer was able to knock down the netting and eat the plant. (Clues were nibbled plants, dislodged netting and a pile of deer poop).

We did get a good showing from the herb division, with parsley, sage, rosemary, and (wait for it), thyme all thriving, along with oregano, chives, mint, and for a brief spell, cilantro.

But, as expected, our most successful plants were in the new bed, which we planted with tomatoes and basil (apparently, you cannot plant mozzarella, and our yard is not big enough for cows, so our caprese salads this summer were not completely homegrown). The pesto, though, was excellent.

We had a bumper crop of tomatoes (see the picture above), and that was, mostly, a good thing. There really is nothing that can compare to the first ripe one that you pick. I love to pick one, slice it and put it on an everything bagel with cream cheese. I did say that it was “mostly” a good thing, because at a certain point, we had more tomatoes than we knew what to do with. I should have made batches of sauce, or fresh salsa, but I never did. Instead, I used tomatoes in every possible dish that I could, trying, unsuccessfully, to use them all before they went bad.

And then, they were gone. We had to stoop to buying heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market (which in these parts is called the “TaSh,” for Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow). Then, a couple of weeks ago, a second wave began to ripen. Smaller, not as lush, but still tasty, they again all pretty much ripened at the same time, and I am again rapidly trying to use ‘em before I lose ‘em. There are a few more out there, so we might get a few stragglers until the frost, but I suspect that pretty soon we will be pulling up the plants.

My wife, who is the real gardener, and I have agreed that next year we need to amend the soil in the older beds, and hope for a better harvest.

Guy Clark’s deceptively simple paean (I word that I have never know how to pronounce) to the joys of “Homegrown Tomatoes” has been featured on this blog twice before, but not since 2012, and it fit the theme, so sue me (but remember that I am a lawyer, so I won’t be paying legal fees). It is a jaunty celebration of the pleasures of eating the titular fruit (tomatoes are fruits. Really.) As Clark sings,

Only two things money can't buy 
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes

Rolling Stone noted, “There are few songwriters in existence who can sing about something as simple as bacon, lettuce and tomatoes and make it sound truly poignant, not silly — and, certainly, Guy Clark was one of them.” Clark was one of the great Texas songwriters, although most of his “hits” were recorded by others. In fact, “Homegrown Tomatoes” is one of only three of his own recordings that charted on Billboard’s Country charts, but it continues to be a beloved song. And, what the hell, here’s another one of my favorite Guy Clark songs, the much-covered “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train”:

Unfortunately, Clark died back in May, just a couple of days after my dad, after a long battle with lymphoma, another casualty in this year in which we seem to have lost so many people whose lives were devoted to giving us pleasure.

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