Like the Chili Peppers say: "Give it Away Now." - Plotting Tomatoes
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Like the Chili Peppers say: “Give it Away Now.”

This afternoon, I found myself in my kitchen loading up another white paper bag for a friend with freshly harvested tomatoes and zucchini. As I placed each in the bag, I felt a mixture of happiness, pride and regret. Happiness, because I love being able to share something good with a friend that I’ve grown myself. Pride—well, I love a good tomato, and this year I think I’ve grown some of my best. As the Green Berkeley Tie Dye tomatoes slowly ripen with their crazy colors and amazing taste, and the Hawaiian Pineapple tomato continues to put out larger and tastier sweet fruit, it is hard not to share names, origins and harvest information to everyone within earshot. And believe me, I know they don’t want to know and I tell them anyway. Thank you for being polite, everyone.

Come on, amazing, right?

And where does that feeling of regret come from? It is a selfish feeling inside whispering that I should hoard ALL my tomatoes. Oh sure, I’ll give away zucchini and cucumbers and Early Girl tomatoes, but when it comes to some of the more fun, heirloom varieties, I have a hard time parting with them. I tell myself, “NO, I am not selfish— I am the little Red Hen in my old story book who announces to her friends when her bread is finally done that she will “eat it” herself.”

The only problem with this characterization is that this story is about hard work, not selfishness, which seems to be my problem. I’m not sure I can put myself in the same category as Ms. Hen, who clearly has good boundaries with friends and a decidedly American culture work ethic.

This hen is pulling herself up by her own bootstraps, no matter how “The Man” (or rather, animals) tries to bring her down.

This was beginning to bother me. Am I a hoarding, selfish cranky gardening lady?
Is this a thing? Are all gardeners—deep, down—selfish?
I thought we were supposed to wear large hats and putter around in garden gloves muttering like Mrs. Doubtfire, but I may be mistaken.

Yes. Exactly like that.

When I was in high school, I liked nothing better than to fully illustrate little character paintings or drawings for friends, mostly unsolicited. I think I actually labored harder and longer on those pieces than I did on my own personal work because I loved seeing their reaction when they saw the painting for the first time. They probably never knew how much time it took to actually create them (and this is still a problem in my graphic design career, but that is a discussion for another blog), but that reaction—that burst of happiness—was why I created the painting in the first place. I liked making people happy.

yes, back in the 90s, bunnies apparently made everyone happy

I wondered: How could I get back to that point of generosity?

And then I pulled out a few old sketches…and it came rushing back:
Yes, I did love giving those paintings away, but I also did have that feeling of happiness/pride/regret—the same feeling—that I have with my produce. I was sad when I gave them away, but also happy at the same time.

So what is that? A feeling? A neurosis? Something I probably should be keeping to myself?

Well, from my Sunday School lesson days, the concept practically smacked me on the back of the head: Sacrifice.

Anything precious worth giving to an esteemed colleague or friend—a true gift—usually involves some sacrifice. It can be time (to find that special thing), or money, or deprivation of that own special thing from yourself. The pleasure comes from the sacrifice of something valuable. If it was easy to give away, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice, and the giving wouldn’t be so rewarding.

And I think what makes the sacrifice worthwhile is knowing that whomever receives the esteemed object—in my ridiculous case, Purple Cherokee and Berkeley Tie Dye Tomatoes—will similarly recognize its value. This week I had an overflow harvest of really good tomatoes, and I decided to send a ‘care’ package full of tomatoes and zucchini over to garden/foodie friends of mine. Because they really enjoy good home-grown produce, I made sure to pack up some of my best varieties (all the while feeling a little selfish about it).

But seriously people, this is what I received in a text from those friends later in the day:

Yes, they shot this. It is not a Food and Wine Magazine cover. I may need to invite myself over soon.

And seeing that—to see someone just as ‘into’ the harvest as I am, to celebrate it in such a beautiful way, makes me really happy, because I know they are happy too.

And there’s no regret there at all.

Do you have too many tomatoes, and need new ways to eat (hoard) them all? Here’s a few awesome, quick recipes I’ve been into lately:

Flank Steak Panzanella Salad

This is the salad I made last week. it was absolutely delicious.

Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce
If I have a lot of tomatoes, making this and freezing it is the way to go!

Pan-Seared Salmon With Fresh Tomato-Basil Relish
I love tomato salsa on anything, but this is great with the cumin salmon. And serving it with orzo pasta drizzled with olive oil and cracked pepper is really good.






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