I'm late posting today, sorry!
We’ve reached that time again—the sharp clear days at the end of the summer when, as long as no hurricanes approach from the south, we lose the summer humidity. The skies muscle up cloudless and blue; the pink and purple summer annuals still riot, though if you pay attention, premonitions of rust and orange hint at the tips of lone trees.
I love August and September, October almost as much, though my belly churns a little bit when I think about what comes after that. So I try not to, instead, reveling in the brisk air that flows through the windows in the morning, the cicada’s electric-saw whine in the hot afternoons and the ocean that has warmed to its chilly best. Out on our patio there’s one more reminder of the season; leggy plants hanging with ripening fruit. Yes folks, we finally made it to tomato heaven. I’d like to say you could set you clock by it, but you can’t.
Last summer it rained for almost the whole month of June. As a result, we didn’t taste a tomato until very late in August, and we were lucky at that, as an end-of-the-season blight turned most tomato crops to mush. This summer, we experienced a lack of rain for seven weeks after June…but kept up with the watering, and the crop burst forth weeks ahead of schedule. For the first time ever, I popped a homegrown tomato in my mouth in July, and darned if those plants aren’t still giving.
Perhaps the magic of tomato season is that that you can’t predict what you are going to get when, so when it arrives, it's always a joyful surprise. We grow in small allotments too, and knowing we will not experience harvest-overload increases the excitement. In my imaginary life, our garden grows lettuce and squash, carrots, green beans, radishes, asparagus and much more, but though I yearn for fresh produce, the shade and ledge in our yard limits the options. Aside from that, there are too many vegetables my husband doesn’t like and even if he did, as close as we are to the woods, rabbits, deer and woodchucks would do a fantastic job ensuring we cultivated nothing more than disappointment.
So I rein my aspirations back to six tomato plants in terra cotta pots, clumps of basil and parsley tumbling from window boxes, a stone planter filled with thyme, oregano, rosemary, plus the sage and mint that come up beside it every year. The herbs make every dish special, and yet somehow, nothing has the same impact as the salty, sweet, acidic succulence of the tomatoes.
As they start to turn orange, I rub my hands, anticipating the taste of fruit that has traveled from the sun to the table. Even this summer, when we’ve been plucking the harvest for weeks, the tomatoes still make me giddy. Yesterday, I danced a little and hummed as I picked two pints of cherries, snacked on a few and roasted the rest in the oven with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Now they sit on the counter, covered, at room temperature.
When I come racing home from the cheese shop at about 7:00 tonight, I’ll toss them with whole wheat pasta, sprinkle the dish with fresh basil and shaved parmesan; serve it alongside mixed baby greens dressed with balsamic vinegar and oil and call it a healthy meal. If either my daughter or husband get home first and put the water on to boil before I arrive, we’ll call it a quick meal too.
I’ll take kind of fast food any day.