There is nothing to begin with quite like summer in Iowa. Verdant fields of soy beans, and rolling waves of tasseled corn blanket the Iowa horizons like beautiful emerald green quilts. Humidity hangs heavy on the air in sultry noon-time heat, while evenings cool down to a bearable tepid breeze. Iowa has the perfect scientific equation of heat and humidity to reign as the bread basket of the world in the summer time when all things combine to that ultimate perfection, and so far, in numerous ways this summer of 2013 has so been blessed.
For the last three summers, I’ve tried to raise tomato plants. I started with only four in 2011, and the deer got most of them. In 2012 I planted five, and harvested enough to use on our kitchen table from about the third week in July until frost. Moth balls dumped around them or black pepper sprinkled around them, either one discourages the deer a little bit, but last summer the drought took a serious toll on all growing things in Iowa including the tomatoes. This summer, the weather has been spectacular, however, and I planted seven tomato plants and have tomatoes to share. From Day 1 they flourished, growing over three feet tall, and finally causing the tomato cages to bend under the weight of their heavy, plentiful fruit.
When that first faint blush came on that first green tomato I almost drooled. Unless you’ve ever had a vine-ripened tomato you can’t really appreciate the level of anticipation that washed over me like a tsunami. I began dreaming of bread and butter-tomato and salt sandwiches, steak and tomato entrees, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, omelets with diced tomatoes and onions. I could hardly stand the wait.
When I picked those first four red tomatoes a week ago, I walked right into the kitchen and peeled one. The first bite of that sweet and sour, tangy, juicy tomato gave a zing of pleasure to my taste buds few things can really compare to. I just want to say, unless you’ve had a summery, vine-ripened tomato, you haven’t really ever had the real deal, and there’s simply nothing that compares. Those hydroponic, tasteless, hard things you buy at the grocery store are generically from another plane of existence than these luscious globes of fruit that remind you why they are actually a fruit.
Meanwhile, the peaches and cream sweet corn has filled out, and the cantaloupes, cucumbers, onions, are ripe and ready to eat. Planning supper is as easy as a trip to the garden, or if you don’t have one, a trip to the local farmer’s market. Here in Ottumwa we are breaking ground for a year round Farmer’s Market, and it’s exciting to know we will be able to buy organically grown fruits and vegetables there when it’s finished. Iowa peaches have been spectacular the last month, and any day now it will be time to pick apples.
An Iowa harvest is a reason to count my many blessings that all this bounty is in my back yard, or dad’s yard, or my neighbor’s yard, and we’ll be enjoying it all for a couple of months yet, and then I’ll go to the freezer, and enjoy it some more.