friday feast: rhapsody in tomato

“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”  ~ Laurie Colwin

 “Ripe Tomatoes” by Robert Duncan, oil on canvas.

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes
There’s only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

I can’t get this Guy Clark song out of my head. And ain’t it the gosh darn truth?

There’s nothing that says summer like homegrown tomatoes. Sure wish we had some.

Oh, we had buckets of them when we lived at our old house. Len had a nice sized vegetable garden, and almost every weekend during the summer, he’d go out and pick a few ruby red beefsteak beauties. He’d slice into one of those sun-warm, smooth, shiny globes to reveal chambers harboring gelatinous seeds. Then he’d let me have first pick of the slices for my sandwich — sometimes just lightly toasted bread, mayo, a bed of thin cucumber and tomato slices, or if I was feeling the slightest bit frisky, I’d throw caution to the wind and grind on a BLT.

Ah, the rapture!

Now that we live in the woods, we don’t get enough sun for a garden. Though we buy from roadside stands or farm markets, it’s never quite the same as tomatoes freshly picked, minutes old, grown in your own patch of dirt. I don’t think there’s any other fruit? vegetable? fruit? whose taste and quality varies so greatly between the supermarket and homegrown versions.

A homegrown tomato, or as close as you can get to homegrown, is, dare I say it — pure poetry.

Just listen to these names — Purple Haze, Marmande, Juliet, San Marzano, Box Car Willie, Aunt Ruby’s German Green. There’s even Moneymaker and Mortgage Lifter.

Somewhere, almost everywhere in the world, there is a tomato for all seasons, sensibilities, climates, and culinary uses, to satisfy the most discerning of palates. Without the tomato, there would be no salsa, no Bloody Marys, no barbecue sauce, no ketchup, no gazpacho, no sauce, paste, or puree for pasta. It would mean the demise of Italian cuisine (kill me, already)! Worst of all, I shudder to think, can barely dare to say it, there would be no tomato soup (voted as the writer’s favorite in my highly scientific poll).

*Cue in gratuitious gasping and weeping*

Oh, where, on God’s green earth, would I float my alphabets?

Precious pomodoro, forgive us our barbaric finger-pointing, and accept this small yet luminous token of our undying adoration. He is a poet from Chile, born on the continent of your origin.


by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.

(Rest is here.)

If you wish to make amends and share your tomato love, check out the East Nashville Art Fest. They are sponsoring a Tomato Haiku Competition (deadline is Monday, August 4th). You are allowed to enter up to 5 haiku, so sip some sauce this weekend and start slicing up those metaphors.

See the world’s largest tomato here.

Beautiful examples of tomato art here from the Carmel TomatoFest (scroll down).

To hear the song, “Homegrown Tomatoes,” performed by two uber homegrown guitar pickin’ scruffy singers, click here.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Well Read Child.


 “The tomato: a uniter, not a divider — bringing together
fruits and vegetables.”

19 thoughts on “friday feast: rhapsody in tomato

  1. YES! I was in heaven yesterday eating them right off the vine next to my kitchen door – with tuna at lunch and another one in salad at dinner. I wrote a villanelle to tomatoes this week. And did you notice Aug. 1 is the cross quarter day, exactly half way through summer?
    “at the midpoint
    of summer,
    the tomato,
    star of earth”


  2. NO, I didn’t realize Aug 1 is the midpoint of summer. Wow – thanks for telling me. I guess the great tomato in the sky inspired me to do this post :)!


  3. Oh my, what a scrumptious post. Tomatoes are one of the few things my very picky girl will eat — that is good for her, that is. And, yes, I concur that a good, homegrown one is, indeed, poetry of a sort.


  4. Tomatoes
    Elaine M.
    I love homegrown tomatoes in summer! Last night, my husband and I went to our favorite restaurant–and we both ordered the heirloom tomato & mozzarella salad that was on the “specials of the day” menu. A true rhapsody of flavors with basil, olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
    That BLT sandwich looks delicious!
    Great poem choice. I love poetry–and I love food–and I love poetry about food!


  5. My mouth is watering, thanks to you and Pablo and that inviting BLT in the photo. Yum!
    I’ve never heard the song before. Oh, for someone to serenade me while I work in my garden…


  6. The John Denver version of Homegrown Tomatoes is my favorite. Pablo Neruda obviously knows of whence he speaks/writes! And I’m with you: if there were no tomatoes…well, I can’t even bear to think of a world without them…


  7. Ok, I’m officially hungry! I don’t have a garden either, alas (boo to apartment living) but look forward to someday growing my own tomatoes. Until then, the farmer’s market and memories of tomatoes from my mother’s garden. In the winter there was nothing better than coming home from school to homegrown tomato sauce bubbling away on the stove, the smell seeping out of the window!


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