Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot weather turns me into Garrison Keillor

My Sweetie, the official scorer, is an avid gardener. Somehow Weisenheimer, though, got put in charge of the tomatoes every year. I suspect that this is due, at least in part, to my successful use of home-made spaghetti sauce as a tool of wooing and seduction from the earliest days of our courtship right up to the present.

Seattle does not have as good a climate for growing tomatoes as does Lake Wobegon. Our usual weather is a drib-drab gray and rainy all through June, often well into July, and then for the rest of the summer if it gets above 75 degrees many Seattle natives run screaming for Antarctica or somewhere even cooler. Two years ago our meager crop of Sauceys was still hard and green well into October. Sweetie and I had to go out into the tomato patch with hair dryers and Klieg lights, trying to coax just the slightest touch of orange out of the fruit before we picked it, brought it in, and hoped the tomatoes got to sauce-making ripeness before they got to compost-making rottenness.

Lake Wobegon, on the other hand, is perfect for tomatoes. I realized this some years ago when reading Garrison Keillor's great book Lake Wobegon Summer 1956. In it, Keillor wrote of visiting his Aunt Eva's farm, picking tomatoes fresh off the vine, and biting in and sucking up the warm juice. I remember thinking that we never got warm juice out of our tomatoes unless we brought them inside and zapped them in the microwave for a couple of hours.

This year I've finally caught up with Garrison Keillor. Since June our rare rain has come mainly when we've been at an outdoor theater production. Late spring was warm and, with the aid of some fancy new single-plant mini-greenhouses, the plants got off to an excellent start. They got as big as me (well, as tall, anyway, as evidenced by the photo above), set fruit early, and even started ripening. I returned from a business trip yesterday on a day of Seattle-record 103-degree heat. During my walk around the garden I picked a handful of ripe tomatoes, bit into them, and sucked up the warm juice. Ahhhh.

I'm pretty sure I've never had a ripe tomato from my own garden until September. We've got a bumper crop going and, barring any weather catastrophes or living pests, there should be enough to create gallons and gallons of my delicious sketty sauce, good for seduction several times a day all through until next summer.

So, if there's light blogging here from September through next June, that's why.

And to Keillor's people: when you stumble across this, please pass the URL along to the editors of the New Yorker.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Oh I envy you. I was just thinking yesterday that I SHOULD have planted tomatoes this year. It was my delight in Cleveland. I had several beefsteak, big boy and Roma plants as well as fresh basil. I lived for it.

There is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING like a tomato fresh off the vine.

I live vicariously through your taste buds.