Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Losing The Harvest' or 'My $150 Half Green Moldy Tomato'

I was cherrily mix and straining my kefir one morning when I heard Thing 2 reapeating 'Oh No! Domo!! Oh No! Domo!!' over and over again. There is really nothing funnier than a baby saying the phrase 'Oh no!' because usually it is over something trivial and it is rather sweet to see them be concerned over something so small. I thought he was just playing. Perhaps he was having trouble getting his toy trains to stay hooked. But then I saw him sitting on top of the radiator, right next the to our lone tomato that I had recently supported with a quick fix bungee cord trellis. I stopped what I was doing after I heard him continue to repeat 'Oh No! Domo!' a few more times.

I had noticed a few days eariler that the tomato, the only child of our indoor heirloom Abe Lincoln plant was not fully attached to the plant. Though it was not broken off either. I constructed a trellis using some bungee cords to support the fruit lest the weight of it snap the branch. Then I secured the thin branches of the plant to the cords and hung the tiny tomato over the side to keep it safe and supported. It had been 2-3 weeks since we had first discovered the fruit. It had about tripled in size. But it was clear to me that it was not done and it may double in size again before it began to turn red on the vine. I walked over to Thing 2 but I already knew what I was going to see. My once and future tomato was lying on my floor, green and hard.

Thing 2 looked at me with a very sad face. I knew he hadn't picked it, per se. But I suppose the tomato had just been hanging on by a thread. He probably just tapped it and it fell on the floor. I was really disappointed, but how can you be upset with cheeks as chubby as his? I sighed, picked up the tomato and placed it in the bowl alongside our farmer's market and CSA tomatoes on our countertop. I thought, 'At least we'll get to eat this one even if it is small.'

I don't know alot about gardening, either indoor or outdoor. So I don't know the optimal time to pick a tomato. Should one allow it to ripen on the vine? And if so, how ripe should it be? Should one pick a tomato when it begins to turn from green? Either way, I was pretty sure that picking a tomato when it was very underripe was a bad idea. I knew the tomato would turn red if left on the countertop, but I wasn't sure if it would be fit to eat. Or if it was fit to eat, I wasn't sure if it would be delicious.

Since I began the great O'Brien tomato fiasco of 2011, we have had dozens of flowers and all of them have died and shriveled up and fallen off the vine. This was the only tomato that was born between the two plants. I believe that I have 3 or 4 more tomatoes on the way, but boy oh boy they have been slow growing. I don't have alot of faith that any delicious tomatoes will materialize. Overall I have grown a little tired of this grand experiment. It has been alot of work, daily watering, about $150 of investment and a fair amount of feeling foolish as I take an electric toothbush to the flowers to attempt to pollinate them. There has been little, well really no payoff. And now that my only tomato had been tragically growth restricted, I was feeling over the whole thing. I am going to hang in there and keep watering the plant in the hopes that those 3-4 tomatoes do grow. And I am going to try and pollinate the remaining flowers in a different way. And I am thinking of pruning both plants to encourage new shoots. Right now the only new flowers are coming from new shoots. And there is no more room for new shoots to grow. We'll see if this can continue into the off season.

After all my malaise I was even more disappointed to awake one morning and find this...

As my tomato began to turn blushingly red one half stubbornly remained green and proceeded to mold. I weighed two heavy questions, do I eat the red part? Or let this one go? I decided that since this could very well be my only tomato of the season, I had to try it. I couldn't throw the only tomato in the garbage and say I had never tried it!

I cut off the still good red part. Only about a teaspoon of tomato was still good. I cut it in two pieces and..gulp..took a bite. It was pretty good. The mold certainly hadn't affected the whole tomato. The taste was very summery and had the grassy taste of an heirloom variety. But it did have an awfully thick skin. I am guessing that is because it was young and underripe. Overall, not a winner.

Tomorrow I will still water the tomato plants. But, I am kind of counting down the days until winter.

To read the previous indoor gardening posts click here:

The Hanging Garden of Washington Heights

On Flowering Tomatoes and Daughters

And Just Like That We Have a Tomato!

This post is shared with Fight Back Fridays and Traditional Tuesdays


  1. Something that I usually do about this time of year is to prune off the upper shoots and extra flowers. This allows the plant to concentrate it's energy into maturing the fruit that is already forming.
    Sorry about your loss - Gardening is certainly a labor of love~

  2. We always pick them when they are just starting to change color. I then sit them on the window sill or on the patio table to ripen fully. This is mainly to keep the squirrels from getting them and it is what my grandfather always did. Sorry about your tomato loss, I had lots of them with little hands eager to help pick the tomatoes a little too early.

  3. We had a disappointing garden this year as well. We managed to grab some tomatoes before the squirrels and let them ripen on the counter, but that was all we really got. Although, the carrots, beets, and potatoes could possibly make up for the other failures. It was a rough year with all this heat...