Fear & Loathing in the Garden Patch

Terrorist tomatoes

I hate fresh fruits and vegetables. What I hate most about fresh vegetables are the deadlines: use me now or I will turn to gelatinous goo in your refrigerator. I’m a freelance editor. I have enough deadlines in my life. I like stuff that keeps: grains, beans, cheese, nuts.

What I hate most about fresh fruits is biting into one that promised everything but turns out to be mealy and unsweet. Sure, you can pick from the designer bins where every apple, pear, and peach carries its own bar code, but that grates.

I hate fresh fruits and vegetables, so every morning when I brought another bowlful of cherry tomatoes into the apartment I would get anxious: What am I going to do with you little buggers? Last summer, I discovered that cherry tomatoes halved and baked in a 200 F oven for 2 hours or so are a culinary wonder. This summer I’ve learned that they’re even better with a dot of mozzarella. Don’t tell Travvy that I’m using his string cheese for the mozzarella.

Tomatoes go great with string cheese. Don't tell.

Using up cherry tomatoes is no longer an issue, but when the full-size tomatoes began to ripen in earnest a week ago, the anxiety returned: OMG, they’re big! How many of them can I eat before they turn to gelatinous goo?

I marshalled several other ingredients and made gazpacho. Awesome. For good measure I also made zucchini purée (think cream of zuke soup) with someone else’s zucchini. (I know Marge Piercy’s poem “Attack of the Squash People” so you will never, ever catch me planting zucchini in my garden.) It’s almost time to make another batch of pesto, my third of the season.

Now I have to worry about overabundance going bad in my refrigerator before I can get to it, but mold doesn’t gross me out like celery that’s morphosed into a multi-tentacled slug in my salad crisper. Besides, I don’t think it’ll be around long enough to mold.

Successfully meeting the challenge of the fecund tomatoes has noticeably reduced my anxiety. Now they’re — almost — just another deadline. I can do deadlines. I can even do deadlines when they involve cooking. Now it’s time for lunch.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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12 Responses to Fear & Loathing in the Garden Patch

  1. Hal Davis says:

    I read one of your sentences as “Besides, I don’t think I’ll be around long enough to mold.”

    And I had mixed thoughts about that.


    • Not to worry — on Martha’s Vineyard mold comes to most things sooner rather than later. This morning my friend Tom Hodgson posted to Facebook a photo of a belt that had been in the closet all summer. Looked like he was trying to discover penicillin.


  2. Jan Pogue says:

    Good turn of thought. And I’m going to try those slow-cooked cherries. If I can stop eating them long enough.


  3. Terry Spencer says:

    Thank you! A veggie support group. Now I don’t feel so guilty playing chicken with that giant tomato in the fridge.


    • I just brought in five tomatoes, three large and two medium. Already had two mediums on the counter. I see sauce or soup in my very near future. Do your tomatoes do OK with in the fridge? Have been told that this affects texture and taste so I’ve never dared do it.

      Last night I found a half-dozen mini carrots in a bowl that had worked its way to the back of the fridge. They were totally desiccated. Sorta sad, but nowhere near as gross as what happens to celery when you forget about it.


  4. susan robinson says:

    I too hate fresh fruits and especially vegetables for the same reason, but you’re the first person I’ve ever heard say it. Nice not to be the only.


  5. Marie-Lynn says:

    Ooh, as another editor growing some veggies, I can SO relate! The answer is the freezer: batches of tomato sauce and pesto cubes will be a delight to defrost come bleak and chilly January.


    • I am going to be well supplied with pesto cubes this winter! I haven’t made my own tomato sauce in years, mainly because I didn’t like it any better than good store-bought stuff, but with all these ripening tomatoes out there I may have to rethink that, or get a new recipe.


  6. Or learn how to can…


    • That’s too involved for me. 🙂 One of my first years here I made strawberry jam and beach plum jelly. Enjoyed doing it, but it was too much of a production. Plus I’m not a big jelly or jam eater. When I need jam, I’ll go buy Linda Alley’s.


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