Fresh tomatoes grown in the Olivewood Garden and Learning Center are on display during the benefit.
Small Talk

Mystery of mushy tomatoes

I am bereft. I am stricken. I am about to throw a red-hot pity party. Get me some experts from the FDA, the FFA or the California Tomato Growers Association in here fast. My tomatoes are mushy.

I was giddy as I picked a half-dozen of our first tomatoes of the season. There is no one who loves a vine-ripened tomato more that this girl. The disappointment of finding them mushy left me chewing angrily on a lettuce-only salad. This is unacceptable in the extreme. 

I looked up why tomatoes get mushy, and overwatering is the first suspect. My dilemma then was how to ask my backyard-farmer husband to hold back on the sprinklers. It’s not just the telling that’s a problem. It’s getting him to take my word for it. My hubby is the amateur botanist around here, so any advice I might hand out in that arena is taken with high suspicion.

But we are talking about my favorite food item, just below chocolate. I determined it was worth the risk, and broached the subject. Of course, he hadn’t found them to be mushy, but the man is not nearly fussy enough. He pointed out that each of the eight tomato bushes in our backyard is a different variety, so perhaps one may be less perfect than another. He went right out and picked one. I tasted it. It was not the firm, juicy creature I was looking for, but by then I had lost my nerve. We agreed to wait and see.

Until last summer, I had lived in tomato poverty for too long. Waiting around for someone with a garden to feel generous is misery. At last, I had access to fresh tomatoes all day long, eaten any way I could dream up — sandwiches, salads, in salsa, on grilled cheese, in omelets, as a side dish, with brie atop a baguette or all by itself atop a baguette. I couldn’t bear to cook them into tomato sauce, but this year that may be in everyone’s Christmas stocking.

If less water doesn’t work, I have visions of myself on my knees testing the soil for nitrogen, potassium or calcium, but nobody wants to see that. I could break a nail.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer staring at nothing but green. Contact her at jean@coastnewsgroup.com.

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