My Dad’s Tomatoes

Through-out this short life we tend to remember certain things in retrospect that trigger wonderful memories of a person, time, or event. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, its a combination of all three.

In early spring in San Rafael California (where I grew up) my dad would ceremoniously begin the ritual of planting the tomatoes. They were always specific varieties that he preferred usually the Beefsteak tomato and the Cherry tomato.

First my dad would till the ground and use the compost he had so carefully created using a combination of fruits, vegetables and eggshells. This was prior to anyone that I knew of creating a compost pile for just such an application.

This process of creating the compost was laborious in nature. My dad would take uneaten fruit, vegetables, and eggshells from lunch or dinner and dispose of them under the sink into a plastic container. Then, when it was full, he would dispose of the compost down below the house in what we used to call “The Picnic Grounds”. This was really a forested area with a large oak tree surrounded by bayleaf trees, pine, and blackberries. At one time there was a tetherball set up but it had decomposed long before the fruits, vegetables, and eggshells.

My dad was the first organic tomato grower I knew as he never used any pesticides. The only exception regarding pesticides was the ant spray he used to kill the 10,000,000 ants forming a conga line up our driveway.

After tilling the soil and the integration of the compost he would then plant the tomatoes in two separate places on the property. One place was in front of my mom and dad’s bedroom on the north east part of the property outside their side door. This was a perfect place as there were two fences to keep the deer out and protect this very special commodity.

The other place was on our deck in the backyard. That is where he would plant in containers his favorite cherry tomatoes. They were trellised and carefully tied to hoops that would keep the stem from falling to the ground. This would provide more contact with the sunlight for the very special red beacons of deliciousness to thrive and flourish.

Everyday he would tend to those tomatoes watering and picking off any unwanted creatures. This ritual provided the love and caring that would result in the explosion of flavor to this day unequaled.

I remember this part of my life as another example of the fact that the simplest events in our lives we can cherish as proof that expressions of love go beyond the present boundaries of time.

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