Sweet Recognition

This past summer my eight tomato plants yielded eight tomatoes. Not eight on each plant. Eight total. Temperatures reached the mid-90s by mid-June and passed 100 before the month ended. There they stayed, between those two extremes, until Labor Day. It never rained. I stayed inside. My plants withered.

It’s the first time I’ve ever given up on my tomatoes. They’ve always been my greatest summer treat, thanks in part to my Tomato Friend at Family Tree Nursery.

If you only buy tomatoes at the grocery store, you might not realize that they come in way more colors than red and way more flavors than sawdust. They don’t even have to be round. When you decide to grow your own, you can grow pink, yellow, orange, purple and striped varieties. They can be tart, sweet, acidic and mild; oval, pear-shaped, pointed and squatty; as small as marbles and as big as dessert plates; juicy for eating fresh and meaty for using in sauces. And they can mature early, late and any time in between. For a decision-challenged person like me (my life motto is “It depends”), the choices are paralyzing.

So I was grateful one spring to be alone in the tomato rows of Family Tree Nursery with an employee watering seedlings. “What’s the difference between Sweet Million and Sweet 100?” I asked. “I’ve heard about these Husky Gold tomatoes. What do you think of them?” She patiently answered my questions and at least a dozen more as I wandered the aisles and returned for more help.

I eventually left with five types of tomatoes, along with various peppers she sold me on. Except during a brief stop I made for herbs a few weeks later, I didn’t see her anymore that season.

I returned the following spring, ready to wade through the rows of tough decision making. At least this year I had my plant tags from the previous year and knew where to get started. I spied my Tomato Friend, as she was about to be dubbed, again watering seedlings. “Oh, hi,” she said, as I walked by. “I was wondering if I would see you this year. We got in a new orange-colored cherry tomato that everyone’s excited about. It’s super sweet. I put one aside for you if you’d like to try it.”

I looked over my shoulder, sure she was talking to someone else. But I was the only one there. How had she remembered me and our brief conversation about cherry tomatoes 52 weeks earlier?

Of course I tried the new variety. And of course the Sun Gold she saved for me was my favorite tomato that summer. Come to think of it, it’s still the sweetest variety I’ve ever eaten.


  1. Your life motto of “it depends” tells of your openness to new varieties of tomatoes AND life! I love the levels of experience you create in one post, from practical and applicable to perceptive and lingering. Like the taste of that tomato.

  2. Sweet piece…enjoying the partnership with you and Craig…Your blog partnered with this sketch exudes such hope and anticipation for next year’s encounter with your Tomato Friend, the beauty in bounty and anticipation in savoring tasty, delicious recipes!!

  3. We’re in Santa Fe. If you want to get tomatoes go by our house in the back yard. We had a bumper crop. I roasted and froze about 20 jars and we brought down 2 flats with us here.