red tide

by bam

oh geez. i slept through the buzzer. i promised you, weeks ago, i would send out a certified letter when the season arrived, when the red tide was upon us. was drowning us. pouncing us. ripe on the vine.
oh geez. were you waiting? were you there at the table twiddling your thumbs? thinking, hmm, sure is getting late here? i could swear i smell that fruity tomato. sure looks like everyone else on the block is feasting. is drowning. where is that certified letter?
well, people, here it is.
it’s official: we are deep in the season we wait for. the one that covers the inside of our cheeks in canker sores.
yes, dang it, i’ve downed so many of those acid-y fruits i have spots all over the tender insides of my mouth. spots that shout, “ouch,” each time i bite in a ’mater. but never mind. never fear. the rest of my mouth shouts much louder. the tomatoes win every time.
i’ve got the whole rest of the year to heal those ridiculous spots. those spots that dare to protest at the volume, the quantity, the unending river of red that seems to run straight toward my mouth.
i eat them for breakfast and lunch and then dinner. i eat them all day in between. i believe you might call this a binge. but far as i know, it’s understandable. it makes seasonal sense.
it’s a binge that’s not secret and furtive at all. oh, heck, i am right out there, on the front stoop, i tell you, shlurping tomatoes. i’d shlurp down the highway, if i could hold onto the wheel and swipe juice from my chin.
that there is a problem. the one seasonal drawback. i’ve got tomatoey spots on most of my clothes now. on my shirts, on my shorts, even my clogs. good thing my skin doesn’t stain. i’d be red-faced, and not from the shame.
no shame about it.
i don’t know about you, but it seems that, like most addictions, i’ve sniffed out some partners in crime. i’ve a friend down the alley, she pops ’em like candy she says. and here’s the best part: she’s become my supplier.
she comes up the walk in the back, maybe so no one is watching. she carries a brown crinkled bag. it is bursting with all of the goods. she says not a word, just ferries the stash from her vines to my mouth.
she is sweet, and so is her produce.
she is near drowning this year. tried a new-fangled trick. laid red plastic–it has to be red, cannot be green or aqua or yellow–onto the soils below. a half dozen tomatoey bushes, each wearing a red shiny skirt. the other half are buck naked. just the soil, the vine, and the leaves. this is science, you know. one half’s control, the other is out into the future.
you’ll not be surprised to hear that the future is now, and it sure beats the past. three to one, by my count. by the most pregnant vines that are gestationally-challenged right now, that are drooping and bending and sagging under all of the weight. sort of like me, six years ago, in the ninth aching month.
yes, indeed, the future of growing tomatoes is spilling all over the alley. there is something about the red of the plastic, the way it reflects onto the vine that makes the little red fruits want to grow in stunning abundance. they cannot seem to contain themselves. it’s like someone flicked on a tomato machine.
the sweet things are poppin’ all over. the squirrels are having a picnic an hour. chipmunks too. and those of us neighbors, apparently, thankfully, who share a thing for Lycopersicon Lycopersicum–hmm, that sounds like tomato tomatoes to me, but that’s what the taxonomists call the fruit of our dreams.
perhaps my lack of imagination will show here. but i’m plumb running out of ways to consume them. i eat them as is, or sprinkled with sweet, syrupy, purple-y balsamic vinegar. (i have one select bottle at the back of the shelf, one lugged back from a friend’s trip to italy; i reserve it for this time of year. you’ll forgive me a bit of elitism, but the grocery-store variety balsamic just doesn’t come up to snuff. it does not cut the tomato.)
need i mention the salt and the pepper? that’s de rigeur. a tomato without salt is a tomato i might rather spit out.
it’s the twang of the salt and the sugar. it does a jiggity-jig on my tongue, down my throat, straight into my tum.
oh, boy, all this talk of tomatoes is making my tumbly quite rumbly, as dear old pooh likes to say. as we say around here.
i might have to run, have to pant to the kitchen. i hear the sweet fruit of september calling my name rather insistently.
here goes another shirt, sacrificed at the holy altar of Lyco whatever that was.

yo, people, i need help. i need ways to eat my tomatoes. i am not much of a canner, juicer, prairie girl. i am lacking those skills. i am more of a slice ‘em, dice ‘em, make a fine sauce. do you cook them with chicken? grill them? sign up here if you too are a card-carrying member of the not-so-secret tomato society. is this not yet another reason to savor september? any other seasonal thing you go quite so mad for? early asparagus maybe….