THINKING OUT LOUD - Tomato crisis earns spa treatment for his four plants

This may be in fact, let's hope it is old news by the time you read it. But as I sit here composing this column, you cannot get a tomato on a fast food sandwich here in Norwalk, Ohio.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

This may be in fact, let's hope it is old news by the time you read it.

But as I sit here composing this column, you cannot get a tomato on a fast food sandwich here in Norwalk, Ohio.

That, my friend, is a problem.

Most sandwiches require a few tomato slices. It is Sandwich 101.

But, thanks to another one of those infected food scares last time spinach, this time tomatoes, next time perhaps mustard burgers and subs are lacking a key ingredient.

Salmonella in certain tomatoes from particular areas is the culprit. Small wonder they no longer use that name for children; it has some bad connotations.

But it does not take too many reported tummy aches, intestinal infections and threats of lawsuits to get a vegetable or, in this case, a fruit that is often thought to be a vegetable pulled off the shelves and out of the bun.

And I'm hurting.

That's because I eat lunch five or six days a week at the very places that are currently (as of my column deadline late last week) not serving tomatoes.

I had never thought about how much I might miss my little red friends.

In fact, I have frequently complained about the color, texture and lack of taste in the out-of-state, out-of-season commercial tomato. Dry and hard with greenish-white flesh in winter, the restaurant variety tomato does not actually add much positive flavor to a restaurant-prepared sandwich.

Or so I thought.

But now I have learned that out-of-season and out-of-state are no problem at all compared to out-of-tomatoes.

I saw in a newspaper story that "with tomatoes unavailable, some customers are doing things like adding more pickles."

Excuse me? Since when does a pickle substitute for a tomato? Try, for instance, to imagine the bacon, lettuce and pickle sandwich.

Remember that you read it here first: The BLP will never catch on.

But speaking of bacon sandwiches, I also heard on the radio honest that the price for pork futures dropped significantly on the commodities exchanges last week in anticipation of less bacon being sold because people cannot make that summertime classic, the BLT.

Really, I hope you are reading this and saying: "Too bad Jim couldn't know in advance that they would find the source of the bad tomatoes in Guatemala the day after he wrote that column. It would have saved him a lot of anguish. And about 600 words of complaining."

The positive thing is that the absence of commercial tomatoes has given me new respect and affection for my own little tomato patch.

I have four plants this year: two Sweet Million cherry tomatoes; an Early Girl that already has fruit OK, tiny fruit on it; and a Big Boy main cropper.

Perhaps I was a bit brusque around them in the past, but I am sweet talking them now. Always remarkably better than store bought tomatoes, they are infinitely better than no tomatoes.

So tonight and every evening, my four tomato plants are getting the equivalent of a spa visit.

I rearrange the mulch just so.

I allow no weed to share the same soil as these pampered little cultivars.

I water in plenty of time to prevent the dreaded blossom end rot.

They are gently tied or given open support in expansive cages.

At Happy Hour, Miracle Grow flows like wine.

And I will personally deal with any critter that dares encroach on that hallowed ground.

In return, I will have luscious, meaty, home grown tomatoes before August.

And if, at that time, there is some sort of bacon disease going around, I will simply shoot myself.