Gifts from the garden

One of my favorite songs is “‘Tis a Gift to be Simple,” an old Quaker hymn that encourages us without any fuss to “come down where we ought to be.” In fact, the song says, to be able to do that is a gift.

I guess I’d have to say that right now one of the simple gifts in my life is bounty from the garden, perhaps even more miraculous than normal because of the drought we have been subjected to yet again these past few months. My lawn is brown, just like everyone else’s, and there are big cracks in the soil, yet the plants in my garden are lush and producing. Especially the tomatoes.

Not that I’m complaining, but I just don’t quite get it. Maybe they know somehow that I like them best of all. And I like sharing them with others, too. I don’t even care if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. (The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it’s a vegetable, by the way, because of the way it’s used.)

To me, there is nothing that comes from a nice little hobby vegetable garden that is any more luscious and wonderful than the tomato. And the 16 plants I planted are, at this rather late date, just starting to produce enough fruit for me to enjoy eating and sharing with others. I don’t even mind that the plants didn’t really get serious about this until now that it’s time for me to get back to work at school again.

So I just pick the tomatoes every few days, preferring to leave them on the vine till they are just the right shade of red. I read that tomatoes have been bred to be an acceptable shade of red that ripens uniformly. I’m for that. Tomatoes should be red; there’s just something wrong about yellow ones.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nice tomatoes right now, but it’s not because they’re coming from perfect plants in a neat and tidy garden. What started off with several rows of tomato plants in cages in nice rows is now a tangle of tomato plants so strong that they have pulled over the wire cages. Still, the plants are covered with blooms and many tomatoes in various stages of ripe. It does make picking the tomatoes rather challenging, but it’s well worth the challenge.

That’s another beauty of gardening: there’s always another growing season to do things-like devise better supports for the tomatoes– a little better. It’s one of the simple gifts you get from a garden.