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Liz Neumark

Liz Neumark

Posted: July 26, 2010 04:31 PM

Tomato Thief

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Sunday Night

Dear Farmer Bob,

I was at Katchkie Farm today. I know we usually cross paths, but as it was Sunday and I did not want to go to your house and risk intruding on your peace and quiet. We usually meet up in the fields or at the barn - when you didn't appear, I figured I would do my farm thing and head out. Maybe you were resting, or not even there. A single day a week without work related distractions is not only fair, but also healthy!

Okay, true confessions. I did my farm thing. But I went tomato crazy. I fully intended to start my visit with a good walk around, but got pulled into the greenhouses by the call of the red, ripe tomato. Didn't everyone hear it? It is a Siren, and I was putty in their hands. I went immediately to the vines with the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and started picking them. I filled about 3 quart-sized containers, all the while eyeing the large red orbs that filled my peripheral vision. After the Sun Golds, I transitioned to the Black Cherry tomatoes, which fell easily and without any resistance into my buckets.

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I took your scissors from the barn and a few empty trays and began to harvest the tomatoes. Ah - but where to start? They were all so beautiful and different. I noticed that the leaves were trimmed from the first row, leaving the fruit exposed. (Did they mind hanging out without any cover?) I walked the rows, twisting, snipping, and cajoling the most beautiful of the lot onto my trays. I admit the ripening long red peppers distracted me, as did the aromatic basil. I detoured and filled my basket with peppers so lovely, with a range of deep shades of red and green, and cut basil while dreaming of making pesto. But it wasn't long before I got back to my obsession - to possess the most alluring tomatoes of the day.

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Two trays - was that enough? No. How about 3 or 4? With those filled I headed to the fields to check on the rows of lasagna (and if you don't remember - it's the field with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions, basil, zucchini and herbs - that go into my Katchkie Farm Lasagna.) I was delighted to discover that the field tomatoes were ripening. Yes, I picked some. More accurately, I picked a lot. I was curious about their flavor, wondering if they are not destined for the 2010 batch of Katchkie Ketchup. Oddly shaped and ripening unevenly, I rescued them (from what, I don't know!) Again, a few detours - and I picked some perfect looking squash blossoms (both male and female) and some parsley. And some young squash. And some petit cucumbers (my dad loves those). I had more than I needed. It was time to head back to the barn and pack the car.

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Almost time to pack the car. I got distracted. I needed more tomatoes. I continued in the greenhouses and filled another 2 trays of perfect, luscious, outrageously beautiful tomatoes. All my favorites - especially the ones that remind me of Shar-Pei dogs with their beautiful wrinkles. Or the ones that ripen oddly from one side to the other. Or the ones with the yellow starburst at the top. At this point, I was hoping nobody would see me - especially not you. How would I explain myself? Who needs so many tomatoes? But you know me - it is all about the tomatoes. Every inch of our farm could be filled with tomatoes and it would still never be enough.

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I packed the car - tomatoes and all. And I headed south. What would happen with all that cargo? Well - as I write the 6 trays have dwindled down to 2.5 and I have only eaten 1 large tomato. Here is an accounting:

  1. Dad got a big drop off, especially the cherry tomatoes. And some local corn, peaches and those little cucumbers. I think they add a few years to his life.
  2. I gave a tray to the guys who work in my building; after all, they facilitate my schlepping this produce in all summer long. I am delighted to share the bounty and they love it.
  3. 3 shopping bags are packed for tomorrow - one for my dear friend and gardener Judy (who yesterday, gave me a giant bag of greens from her community garden plot), one for Brent who is expecting me for a workout Monday at 8 AM (will he go easy on me?) and one for Pete downstairs who loves the tomatoes as much as I do.
  4. The dehydrator is totally filled and stacked with the giant cherry tomatoes (or small regular tomatoes) and by tomorrow morning, I will have dried tomatoes for the winter.
  5. The field tomatoes are in a pot and will be part of a vegetable soup, which will include our garlic, onions, carrots, zucchini, broccoli and herbs. That is tomorrow night's project.
  6. And, my dear friend Rob, who lives a few miles from the farm, invited me to stop by, got some, too. A pot of delicious cooked cabbage and fingerling potatoes awaited me. I was hungry (after all that hard work) and the meal was perfect. I rewarded him with tomatoes.

The rest will find their way into salads, or be eaten by my kids like apples, or will be gifted to friends I will see in the next few days. I know every recipient and that makes me happy. I know they are going to good homes where they will be savored. I know it is a little nuts, but obsessions are just that: a mania, fascination, fixation, passion. Enthrallment, absorption, allure, and attraction - those are some of the words that describe my relationship with tomatoes grown at the farm in season.

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I am satisfied to possess them and then give them away. I am done collecting them for the moment and will repeat the process again in 7 days. I will drive 2 hours each way in one day without complaining, as long as my quest is successful.

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So Bob, if you go to the greenhouse tomorrow morning, and notice fewer tomatoes, know that it was I who was the tomato thief. Thank you for raising such a perfect crop this year. I have never met a Katchkie Farm tomato I did not love.

Have a great day - and thank you!


Liz

Some of our varieties:

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