Love Apple

This essay aired on NPR affiliate WVPE in May 2008. I received quite a bit of feedback from my male friends on this one. One friend said that she was surprised that NPR would air something this racy.

A desirable pattern was emerging. Planting the Sungold or the aptly named Gardener’s Delight seeds became a sort of foreplay.

I am here today to strongly encourage you, dear listener, to grow at least one cherry tomato plant this summer. While everyone knows that garden-fresh tomatoes have a superior flavor that store-bought ones never achieve, this is not the reason I am encouraging you to grow your own. No, I have taken the time to write this essay and have come down to the WVPE studios to record it in order to confess to you the most delightful and compelling reason for growing your own garden-fresh cherry tomatoes.

Truly, it is not a difficult or expensive endeavor. All you need is a cheap, five-gallon bucket from the hardware store, a bag of organic potting soil to fill it, and one cherry tomato plant.

When you get all this home, punch about 5-10 small holes for drainage into the bottom of the bucket using a drill or a hammer and nail. Fill the bucket with the organic potting soil and then pour two or more pitchers of water into the soil to thoroughly moisten it.

When you plant your tomato, you actually want to bury most of it in the soil because new roots will grow out of the buried stem, making for a stronger and healthier plant. Remove all but the top two sets of leaves, dig a hole in the center of the bucket to accommodate the newly-denuded stem, place the plant into the hole with the leaves above it, and then fill the hole with the remaining soil, pressing gently as it fills.

Place the plot or your pot where it will receive at least six hours of sun each day. For the remainder of the summer you will only have three short tasks for this very desirable outcome:

  • Water your tomato plant. You may have to water it every day during hot spells, otherwise check it every other day.
  • Remove suckers. These branches, called suckers, will use water and nutrients without producing fruit. As your plant grows, you will notice new branches sprouting at the junction of the stem and a mature branch. Just pinch off those suckers with your fingers.
  • Remove any weeds. Weeds zap nutrients from the soil that would otherwise feed your plant.

By mid August you will have ripened fruit to enjoy.

I have been growing tomatoes in my yard every summer for the past eighteen of the twenty years I have been married. I planted my very first tomatoes when I was nine, too innocent at that age to detect the potent powers of what in colonial times was considered the love apple. That always seemed such a strange moniker for a vegetable. It wasn’t until we planted our first garden that I experienced the bewitching qualities of that lusty little fruit.

The tomatoes of our first garden ripened in mid August, on what is always in my mind one of those very warm and sultry summer days. That first experience set the scene for every year since: my husband arrives home on his bike after work around 5:23 and comes in the garden to kiss me hello, I hold up the second perfectly-ripe tomato of the season for him to see (for I have sampled the first to assure perfection), and lovingly place the fruit of our labor into his mouth. He bites into the tomato and a mixture of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction dance across his face.

I will confess, dear listener, to the delightful and compelling reason that I have grown cherry tomatoes each and every year since that first one eighteen years ago: feeding my husband the second perfectly-ripe tomato of the season that sultry August afternoon was an incredible turn-on. Believe me, no one was more surprised than me to find that gardening, of all things, could illicit such an intense response – and a response of that nature!

I forgot this phenomenon over the next twelve months, when it happened again the following August, and then again the succeeding August! A desirable pattern was emerging. Planting the Sungold or the aptly named Gardener’s Delight seeds became a sort of foreplay. Setting the plants into the garden in late May or early or even mid June awakened the anticipation of the pleasure that lie two and a half months ahead.

I finally confessed this phenomenon to my husband after five or so years of gardening delight. So now whenever he greets me in the sultry mid-August garden and I hold up the second perfectly-ripe cherry tomato of the season, I return the twinkle in his eye as I slowly push the fruit into his mouth and he bites down on that firm, juicy flesh and experiences the sweet, luscious explosion of the fruit of our labor. Love apple, indeed!

I must emphasize that this is my response. It is funny how two people can have such different reactions to the same event: while my husband is simply enjoying the second perfectly-ripe cherry tomato of the season, I am having an altogether different experience.

7 Responses to “Love Apple”

  1. hoffmakatie Says:

    Delicious:)

  2. Jennifer Says:

    I had to totally laugh at this b/c on the drive up to Cedar Rapids tonight to see a minor league baseball game, my friend Chris told the entire car about the concept of a love apple – an apple rubbed under one’s armpit (or other parts, I assume – there were kids in the car) to remind the receiver of the sender. I didn’t really believe it, but then here was the term in your post!

    Love images!

  3. Speaking of tomatoes « Paint Fumes Says:

    […] You should check out her informative and delightful essay, here. […]

  4. Gemma Lee Says:

    OH MY GOD!!!! I heard you guys talk about this NPR piece but never, EVER read it myself. I think I’m about to have a heart attack.

  5. Elizabeth Van Jacob Says:

    My dear Gemma, it is very difficult to think of one’s parents being intimate in this manner. This will be easier for you to read at 31 than it is at 13. xoxox

  6. Jennifer Delanty Says:

    What a precious piece! Thank you for sharing such a personal and altogether delightful intimacy. Beloved!

  7. Elizabeth Van Jacob Says:

    Shared my very last ripe cherry tomato with Scott a couple of days ago. Bittersweet and overwhelmingly sad as we left our garden together for the very last time.

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