The Yearning Curve

Ripeness is all, the fellow said.

Tried Green Tomatoes
Tried Green Tomatoes

If that’s true, I got nothin’. Plenty o’.

This is the fifth summer I’ve been gardening in Seattle, and you might think I would have made the adjustment by now. You’d be wrong. The problem is, I’m still thinking in Virginia summer terms. As in: July means hot. August means “oh my freaking god thank you for air conditioning.”

Here in Seattle, of course, many residents eschew air conditioning altogether. The temperatures so rarely rise into the 80s, and the humidity, like the rain, vanishes after July fourth. Vegetables which thrive on heat tend to sulk in Seattle. I know the feeling.

In a Virginia summer there are things you can grow without even trying. Zucchini the size of kayaks. Peppers aplenty. And tomatoes. Aaah, tomatoes.

Every winter when the seed catalogues arrive I try to restrain myself. Remember last year? I say to myself. Remember those two scrawny tomato plants you started under lights in February? Remember the pathetic crop of puny rock hard tomato-shaped things that resulted? Yes, I reply, but this year will be different.

Suffice it to say, it never is. At least, not in a good way. This year we seem to be bypassing the summer season entirely. We had two or three days of 90 degree peaks, but my tomato plants weren’t fooled. They waited it out, and sure enough, the heat swept off to the East Coast, where people understand it.

So here it is, nearly the end of August, and my tomatoes are the sizeĀ  and color of green olives. At this point, personally, I’d prefer the olives.

At the start of the season here in June, a gardening friend of mine gave me a fine big healthy tomato plant she’d nurtured in her garden shed. Ironically, it was an heirloom variety, a “Green Zebra,” and supposedly it would have eventually produced tasty, edible, green tomatoes. I’ll never know. The night temperatures are already getting down into the 50s. The days are rapidly getting shorter. There will be no ripe tomatoes, either green or red, from my garden.

Will I ever learn? Doubtful. It’s human nature to strive for that which is unobtainable, be it world peace, a publishing contract, or a ripe tomato. All things considered, I think my chances are best with the tomato quest.

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