Summer’s Harvest, Revisited

Every summer, for about as long as I can remember, my parents have planted tomato plants in their backyard garden. That’s what Victoria Day is for — as long as it’s not pouring rain or freezing cold (both good possibilities up here in the great white north) — planting the vegetable and herb gardens.

On the south side of the yard, where the sun shines the strongest and where the soil has grown vegetables and herbs for more than forty years…that’s where they go. I would make the trip to the nursery and pick out each plant as though it might be a piece of beautiful jewelry, carrying them home in the plastic trays, watching them bounce up and down on the seat next to me. The smell was always what I loved most in the beginning — the smell of freshly growing tomato plants is something beautiful and simple…it’s the smell of sweet and savory combined in one.

Big Boys, Beefsteaks, Romas, Lemon Boys, San Marzanos, Pastes. Pick them late, having allowed them to ripen on the vine in the summer sunshine and bathe in the late August rain. Walking out to the yard at daybreak, after an early morning watering, the grass damp beneath your feet…picking a tomato fresh from the wine and smelling it in your hands is pure heaven. Taking it inside and eating it immediately on a toasted bagel with a little cream cheese and freshly cracked black pepper is divine.

BUT: keeping them (well, some of them) and drying them out with garlic and rosemary or pepper and lemon zest or just by themselves, and saving them for 6 months in the fridge, waiting to be used in a recipe like sun-dried tomato pesto, is unspeakably gorgeous and undeniably rewarding.