Carol Ann Sayle
The June-July Tomato Wars are over, the vine and trellis cleanup begins, and I'm almost relieved.
No more tying the vines to trellises and baskets so that they grow in neat 200-foot-long hedges. No more tomato-leaf green, indelibly stained clothes. No more dark olive sticky residue on hands and arms. No more standing on our heads to pick the first big juicy heirlooms, those that are birthed deep in the "belly" of the plant. (They are so large and delicate, with skins so thin and vulnerable, that care, patience, and gymnastic ability are needed to pick them.) No more lugging them in tubs to the farmhouse. Inside, in air-conditioning, the tomatoes must be wiped clean of the leaf anointments, and placed in newspaper-padded plastic stacking crates, which soon make half our house look like a miniature city of "ceiling scrapers." No more checking for rot. Especially that. It's over. Yea! (Of course, the downside is no more tomato sandwiches or salads.)
Tomatoes are the most important fresh crop that any farmer who sells directly to the public grows. They are the favorite crop of home gardeners too. It's as if we all can be well fed if we have success with this one crop, letting all else fall to insects, heat, cold, or whatever. And, it's the one crop that people, especially men, ask for in every season.