First tastes

Consider the tomato.

It's been a long time coming, and I've written a hell of a lot about them.

From planting and keeping the first seedlings alive in freezing nights of February to grafting baby Big Beefs onto rootstock plants in March, running out of room for them and marveling at how quickly their scars healed in April to pruning and trellising the quick-growing plants in May, it's been a long time coming.  There's a story behind every variety, every planting, every person who drops a seed in soil while sharing their lives with us.  

Just last weekend, we made way in the fields for the final tomatoes, the field tomatoes, late and hardy and soon to be sprawling over neat rows of black plastic mulch.  After all the anticipation and love- not to mention seeding, watering, keeping warm, potting up, hardening off- I didn't plant a single one.  Like so many crops on this farm, the abundance of the tomatoes has gotten away from me.  Even their biggest fan can't keep up.

But while the new crop is settling in to the field and waiting to be staked up, trellised, watered and weeded in the coming weeks, I'm already back in the greenhouses.  Watching, at a quick clip as I walk from field to tool shed, glancing down for signs of color.  Kiya and Phela found the first ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes last weekend.  Pop!  Sweet. 

First cherry tomato.

First cherry tomato.

So it begins.

And I, on a whim coming back from the field with a fistful of lettuce and spinach for lunch today, swung a detour into the high tunnel, looking for red.  Perfectly soft, deep red, heavy in my palm.  My first taste of the season, just strong enough to jolt me to attention for a second-- just a second-- and offer up the remaining half to my companions at the picnic tables.  I was surprised by the intensity of its flavor, this early in the year, and equally surprised by how instantly I let that feeling of anticipation, built upon for months and months, flutter away in a few chomps. 

The first ripe slicer tomato.

The first ripe slicer tomato.

I wonder if this is what it feels like to have children.  So much work, so much growth, so many milestones that when they finally make the impossible possible-- the first smile, first food, first word, first step, a first for everything-- you forget to be truly there until it's already past and you're harvesting bucketfuls of juicy red tomatoes every week, thinking back fondly on that first one as if it had changed your life. 

Who knows.  Maybe firsts are overrated.  Maybe it's actually in the remembering and recreating those steps and smiles and tastes, more than in the moments themselves, that our lives are ceaselessly changing.