Wild Tomatoes Put Domestic Cousins to Shame

August 17, 2009

Late last spring my husband planted a dozen tomato plants in our garden. He fed them, religiously watered them, staked them as they grew, and yanked out every last weed that dared poke its head through the surrounding soil. The tomato plants grew like crazy and tiny blooms appeared right on schedule. The blooms gave way to green tomatoes which soon ripened to red ones. Unfortunately the ripening coincided with our record-breaking streak of triple-digit temperatures. The juice literally boiled inside the tomatoes, their skins developed angry blisters, and fewer than one in ten proved suitable for eating. So, with a vegetable garden bursting with three-foot high tomato plants right, I found myself trekking to the grocery store to purchase tomatoes for salads and tacos and hamburgers.

Last week, after riding my horse around the pasture, I led him out to graze on some of the grass which really does grow greener on the other side of the fence. The tallest grass to be found was around our thicket of banana trees which my husband always skirts when he mows the lawn. While Cisco snatched up greedy mouthfuls of the ankle deep grass, his lips turning vivid green, I spied something red and shiny and round growing beneath one banana tree. A lot of somethings. Cherry tomatoes! Every last one of them was perfect, not a blister in the bunch. The tomato plant must have self-seeded, probably with the help of one of the many birds who attacked our more successful tomato crop last year.

I tore off one of the larger banana leaves and picked and placed the tomatoes on it, then drew the ends of the leaf together, like the corners of a hobo’s scarf to carry my find inside.

As soon as Cisco had his fill of grass, I returned him to the pasture and went indoors for a treat of my own — sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes. Delicious as they were, I felt as if nature was mocking me every time I popped one in my mouth. What we could not do armed potting soil, organic fertilizer (compliments of the horse), and water from our well, nature had done on her own.