Friday, July 8, 2011

On Flowering Tomatoes and Daughters

My indoor gardening idea was a 'get tomatoes quick' scheme at best. I have invested about $100 so far, and I guess that you could say that I didn't buy a pair of shoes (or two) this summer to offset the costs, so I am not crying over the loss of $100. But still, $100 is nothing to sniff at and I really want some tomatoes for some return on investment.

Since I started the great indoor gardening project I have watched these plants quadruple in size, bend upward toward the sun and put out several flowers. The red fruited 'Abe Lincoln' has put out a couple dozen flowers so far, with only 7 or 8 actually growing big enough to open. The yellow fruited 'Yellow Oxheart' has also put out a couple dozen flowers too, but they have all stayed small and tight. I think that my little yellow dear may not be getting enough sun since it is further in the corner. I moved the rack to a sunnier patch to oblige the plant.

With all this fertility and flowering I can't help but think of these plants as being female. I like to refer to them as a couple of 'shes' and they remind me of the irregular young girl in the first year of getting her menstrual cycle. Their little plant bodies are struggling to make babies and only producing dying flowers. And since I have no daughters who will one day grow up and need my loving guidance as they become women, maybe I am acting out through these plants a great void in my heart to help a young girl grow up. Remember when Rudy Huxtable got her period on the Cosby Show? I always imagined having a daughter. And when her time came I would keep her out of school for the first day after and we would go have lunch somewhere fancy in midtown, get manicures and go shopping at Sak's to celebrate her crossing over into womanhood. Now all I have to fulfill those dreams is a couple of irregular tomato plants that can't quite make tomatoes.

An astute reader commented in the first post about my indoor gardening that perhaps the plants needed bees? I foolishly believed that I could just BE the BEE. I could tap the flowers and polinate them. I mean, have you SEEN a flower? The stamen sticks out and all these dusty pods float in the breeze just begging to knock the plant up. I had it all worked out in my head. Then the first little flowers opened and I realized the trouble. A tomato flower comes in two parts, the outer flower that looks like a regular flower and then this, rather surprising to me, inner flower that covers the stamen and all the pollen bits.

I looked at the flower and thought, 'Ok, what the hell do I do now?' Before I left on vacation I had 3-4 flowers that were open. I had planned on gently tapping them to pollinate them, but clearly I was going to have to be more...invasive. I pinched them, but I didn't see any pollen fall out. I tapped the flowers from the back. I didn't know what to expect. I left on vacation hoping to come home to little green knobs.

What did I come home to? 4 new flowers and a couple dead flowers on the floor. Boo. So I looked online and found this website on how to pollinate indoor tomatoes. This website recommends getting an electric toothbrush and gently massaging the nearby support stems. Apparently the frequency of the vibrations loosens the pollen in the inner flower helping it to fall down and pollinate. An electric toothbrush? For real? I am starting to feel like I have crossed the line with this project into 'ridiculous territory'. I don't want to spend one more dime, but on the other hand if I don't see it all the way through then my entite initial investment is down the drain. What a conundrum! I decided to gently massage my plants with my fingers. I am making sure to ever so carefully tap the support stems on which the flowers are. I am trying to imitate the movement that the toothbrush would provide. And I am sure that I have now completely lost it.

I guess in a couple days I will know if I have ruined another batch of flowers and I need to buy an electric toothbrush. But I must see this through to the end. After all, I am the only mommy that my little girls have got.

Now don't get me wrong, having boys is awesome. Awesomer than I could have ever imagined. And rather than helping them become women (obviously), I am teaching them what to expect from women and how to have proper inter-gender relationships. I feel that it is my responsibility even at their young age to teach them to develop a healthy marriage by building great external friendships. But we want what we want. I remember the day the ultrasound clinician told me that Thing 2 was a boy. I was laying flat on my back and I truly believed that if I adjusted my head properly my two fat tears might roll back into my tears ducts from where they'd sprung. Since then I have reconciled my feelings. My desire for a daughter does not reflect upon my love for my boys at all. One has nothing to do with the other. And I don't feel guilty at all about my want of a daughter. But a Thing 3 is not looking so likely. So until we hit the lottery or I sell a book idea, I think that I will focus my attention on my tomato plants.

Read the first post here: The Hanging Gardens of Washington Heights

Read the next post here: And Just Like That We Have A Tomato

This post is shared with Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays and Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays


  1. This helps me understand the suggestions I've read where people say "Grandma taught me that if your tomato plant is bad (not fruiting), you should whack it with a broom."

  2. Haha Allison...maybe! I haven't heard that one. But then again, I haven't done so much gardening!