Xitomatl “plump thing with a navel”

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It’s difficult to articulate the amount of joy and satisfaction I get from growing my own vegetables. I think though, this photo of today’s tomato harvest explains it all.

If I ever acquired the power to enforce edicts and decrees, my first would be that all people living in Southern California would be required to grow tomato plants and avocado trees, which would be shared freely by all, naturally.

I used to live right next to the Hollywood Freeway before the soundwall was built. Previous to the soundwall (yeah, it makes the sounds louder!) was a small jungle of tall eucalyptus, antique roses my grandfather planted, passion fruit vines (must’ve been grandpa), ivy and all matter of greenery which nicely muffled the sounds of the speeding cars. Once when some kids visited from some far off rural place, they asked if the rushing roar they heard was a river. Me being such a city girl, I thought it was such a crazy question that I answered, yeah why not? But the idea of a river completely changed my perception of the freeway and I often imagined it was water I heard as I laid in bed trying to fall asleep instead of the stream of never ending cars.

One year they knocked down all the tall trees and vegetation that previously muffled the freeway roar, only to build a stupid cinder block wall, leaving a large bare expanse of dead earth. This new concrete monstrosity completely destroyed the ambience of our neighborhood and never let us forget we were boxed in by asphalt. In anger, my friends and I drunkenly cursed the wall one night by throwing a box of rotting tomatoes at it. Don’t ask where we got the box or how we thought throwing a box of over ripe tomatoes would change anything–we were young, angry and poor (insert 7 Seconds song here). Later on that year, much to our surprise, the once vacant piece of dirt was covered in tomato plants, tons and tons of them. There were so many tomatoes, huge, ripe red tomatoes, enough to feed the whole block. When Caltrans came around to clean up the inevitable graffitied wall, they kindly left the plants undisturbed. The tomato plants growing so abundantly in such an unlikely place was like a universal “fuck you” to the concrete and the bureaucracy that imposed this ugly wall on us. Hence, my respect for the tomato plants began.

Growing tomatoes is one of the easiest vegetables to grow for novice gardeners. The plants are hardy and prolific. I’ve seen tomatoes growing and setting fruit in sidewalk cracks.

A few tips for growing tomatoes:

Don’t over water but when you do water, do it slowly and deeply to encourage a strong root system. Best solution is to get your waterhose, barely open the tap and leave the hose near the stem for a few hours. This encourages a deep root system which will make your plant hardier and more productive.

If you’re growing plants in pots, make sure to water and feed your plants frequently when tomatoes start setting.

Don’t despair, sometimes fruit doesn’t set due to the the temperature. Just wait a bit.

When transplanting, take off the bottom two set of leaves and bury the plant up to just below the next set of leaves. The plant will root from wherever the stem touches the soil.

If you don’t want your plant to grow too wild, pinch out the “suckers” the new shoots growing from in between the stalks. These “suckers” can be saved in a jar of water until roots develop and then replanted in soil as new plants.

The best reason to grow your own tomatoes and other vegetables is for the variety of types (many more than you’ll find in the supermarket) and most importantly, for the taste. Most vegetables in supermarkets have been hybridized for their superior shipping qualities (i.e. looking perfect after weeks of field-to-store transport) instead of for flavor. Growing your own vegetables gives you not only flavorful food but a sense of satisfaction that comes from producing your own organically grown food.

I’m happy to answer any vegetable gardening questions, ask away!

3 thoughts on “Xitomatl “plump thing with a navel”

  1. ally says:

    What an awesome entry. As a teenager I used to pretend the sound of the roaring 405 outside my window was the ocean.

    I hope someday we’ll have an allotment or something to grow vegetables here in London.

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