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Attack of the Killer Tomato Plants

Despite years spent working on organic farms, I had somehow deluded myself into thinking tomato plants don’t get very large.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time with tomatoes this year. I can safely say that, although I’ll be thankful for all the lovely canned goods I’ve made come January, right now I’m reaching the end of my "tomato love affair."

Heirloom tomatoes and I have a long history. As soon as I got past my picky eating stage (age 8 and ¾), I loved tomatoes.

During the summer, my mom and I would go to Tierra Rejada Family Farms (now ), pet the ponies and then pick tomatoes. It was hard to stop, even once we had more than a reasonable haul, because they are just so easy to pick. And the smell? Nothing says summer quite like the perfume of a tomato basking in the sun.

We always ate them fresh—usually in the form of a Caprese salad with basil from our backyard, or in a BLT. They never lasted long enough to make it into a cooked dish.

All that changed this year.

In January, my boyfriend and I dug up a large chunk of his front yard, nurtured the soil with compost and mulch, and planted five teeny-weeny tomato plants that we picked out at a local nursery.

I insisted on the sun gold cherry tomatoes and the Cherokee heirlooms. He was bent on the Green Zebra. Somehow, a pineapple varietal and roma-like red tomato made it into the batch as well.

First things first. Neither of us realized that the tomatoes would grow into giant organisms. Apparently he had failed at previous attempts at tomato-growing, and I, despite years spent working on organic farms, had somehow deluded myself into thinking tomato plants don’t get very large. Ha.

Not only have we been trying, since March, to keep them from taking over his yard (and eating small neighborhood cats and children) but now, we are trying in vain to use all the tomatoes before they meet their moldy end.

So far we (and by we, I mean mostly me—sorry hun!) have canned: four pints of stewed tomatoes with lemon, four and a half pints of Italian tomato sauce, three pints of tomato jam, one pint of tomatillo salsa, and for good measure, two pints of pickled bell peppers (did I mention that there are bell peppers in the garden too?)

We have also added tomatoes to our fair share of breakfast scrambles and curries, and given our friends and families fresh tomatoes to boot. And dear god, there is still one last harvest about to ripen.

I now understand why the Tierra Rejada farms started this whole ‘pick your own’ business.

My beau and I start our fall garden in the next month or so. I should probably start reading-up on what to do with 47 kazillion pounds of kale and collards.

*Note to the readers: If you have an over-abundance of garden produce, you can get in touch with one of the local charities that comes to your house. They pick your fruit and vegetables, and give them to those in need.

Julie Bien August 07, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Our harvest is just about over--but I might take you up on it for our next batch of veggies (kale crispies!) And there might be a lot of apples in my future as well...
Julie Bien August 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM
That's because the avocados in my neighbor's tree haven't ripened yet. But soon...and if you're not a guac person, banana/avocado smoothies are pretty fantastic! (I promise!)
Rebecca Whitnall August 08, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I'm thinking if we could all create a community garden where everyone could plant their favorites, THAT would be cool!
Eric Dee August 09, 2012 at 07:08 PM
A community garden was something Jean Amador and I wanted to do with the initial Chamber Moorpark Leadership class acouple of years back. I agree, that would have been cool!
Rebecca Whitnall August 09, 2012 at 08:24 PM
It's not too late, Eric. Maybe the next Chamber leadership group can do it. ...or maybe one of the service organizations can get it off the ground if enough people in the community as a whole were interested... Where would you want to put it?

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