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try not to knock them over

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try not to knock them over


We are gamblers. Risk-takers. We balance shoulder shrugs against sleepless nights. And year after year we ask ourselves: will they turn red? Anyone who plants tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest is rolling the dice. We hold our breath until the last late frost is gone – June if we are lucky – it was July just two years past. May planted tomatoes will never see their day sim card.

If we remember ‘garden’ sometime in March or April – we will remember to get our tomato seeds into little cups of dirt in the best lit, warmest place in our homes. We will baby those cups, remember to water them and try not to knock them over.

By June they are all stems and straggling, climbing around our window seats like large green spiders too big to crawl into our garden boots. Shall I plant them? Excitedly we move dirt and slide the potted plants into neat rows – probably fixing them a trellis of some kind in anticipation of magic-bean-stalk growth and heavy, large, ripe fruit. And not two minutes after they are planted we begin to worry about fall… Will it be an Indian Summer again? Will the sun stretch across September and dangle its rays into October? Will I have more tomatoes than has ever graced this northwest garden? Will my pantry be filled with homegrown canned and juiced, crushed and sauced tomatoes mortagage loan?

We hang onto the dream of a bumper crop year. Or do we? At the end of each season I usually throw a bit of a fit, shake my fist at the ground, then open the gates so my chickens can have their way with the unimpressive, unyielding tomato patch. I then swear to myself that next year I won’t be romanced into lending THAT much space to the hope of red tomatoes.

And yet. How does the saying go? If you cannot beat them – join them? And so I grow green tomatoes. On purpose. I harvest baskets and bushels and swing buckets of green tomatoes with the glee and delight of a preschooler. I slice and dice them, can and preserve them and will one day soon make fried green tomatoes. I am not alone – many have green tomatoes spread across their counters. This year I made green tomato chutney (with candied ginger), green tomato salsa (below) and green tomato relish offshore company.
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