Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm a tomato mommy

A couple weeks ago, Terwilliger Plaza had a signup for tomato plants. The Plaza gardener, who gave me that great interview a while back on English ivy, does all the work -- planting, watering, fertilizing -- and individual Plaza residents get to enjoy the result, picking fresh tomatoes off their "own" plant on the roof for a mere $8 fee.

I missed the signup. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that excited about the possibility. There are people who are revivified by getting their hands in dirt. I am not one. I believe we have discussed in the past my geek nature, which kind of counteracts any tendency toward earth mother-tude. And plants know it. I believe I once managed to kill a cactus through either neglect or over-attentiveness, I don't know which, this is really not my thing.

But a couple days ago someone told me that the gardener had actually planted more tomatoes than he had sponsors for. And I thought about it again. There they were, orphan tomato plants sitting up there in Tomato Alley with no one to care whether they produced anything or not. A clipboard opposite the elevator door on the roof lists the unclaimed tomato pots -- #141 through #145.

Stepping out onto the sunlit roof, I found them. Most pots around them have both numbers and names on their labels. These have only numbers. In each pot is a little hard plastic label telling the name of the planted variety and describing its characteristics -- how fast it grows, how long it keeps producing tomatoes, how big the tomatoes are and what they will taste like. The one I chose, a perky, vivacious little plant, is a momotaro tomato, described as a good slicing tomato; according to a seed catalog, "...its flavor is an intricate and harmonious combination of sweet and tangy". Momotaro, I discovered through Wikipedia, is a figure out of Japanese folklore, a child who floated down the river inside a giant peach, to be discovered by a lonely and childless couple who raised him as their own. He later heroically conquered a tribe of demons, brought back their treasure with his talking animal friends, and he and his family lived happily ever after.

So Pot #141 is now Pot #141 Taussig, my diet will be vastly improved by the addition of fresh produce all summer, and I get the rewards of gardening without actually having to, you know, garden. Here's what I can expect in a few weeks.

Anybody know how many tomatoes one plant can produce? Am I going to end up like all the zucchini growers begging friends, associates, and total strangers to PLEASE take some home?


  1. Very cool! And your tomato plant sounds especially cool!

  2. I found a wide variety of responses about the expected yield of a tomato plant when I went to a gardening message board I know of, and the yields are so variable that it looks as if your best course is to wait and be surprised.

    I've grown tomatoes on a very small scale only once, many years ago, and can't remember! Since I wasn't very knowledgeable or very diligent about it, I'm sure I wasn't overwhelmed by tomatoes.

    The legend of Momotaro is lovely--thanks for calling attention to it!

  3. Well, you know my idea of getting great tomatoes (or any good plant) is to give it attention. Breathe on it, talk to it, hold your hands over it, praise it. I think no need to smudge or wave feathers or drum, but do go talk to them. You'll have plentiful tomatoes.