The Smell of Tomatoes

Originally posted at Kitchen Dancing on August 14th, 2007. View the original post here.

I may be going out on a limb here – but does anyone else know that incredible, unique, and lovely smell of tomatoes? Not just tomatoes, but more specifically, tomato stems freshly snapped from the vine. There is nothing like it.

Today, Erica and I arrived at the farm and the air was thick with late summer humidity. The overcast sky made it seem like it should be cool or even crisp out, but instead the steely gray of the clouds just seemed to weigh down on us, heavy like damp newspaper

The farm was stocked with the first melons of the season, which in and of itself was exciting. The interlocking mesh of the rind was stretched tight over hundreds of little cantaloupes in the big wooden bins. Even though I know that you test their ripeness by how tightly the mellon has grown into its crosshatched rind, I couldn’t help but tap lightly with the tips of my fingers and listen for the hollow knocking sound that someone once told me I am supposed to hear.

The tables are piled high with greens and corn, cucumbers and broccoli, fennel and carrots, and cabbage – always cabbage. While it is always nice to walk into the farm barn and see the heaps of vegetables, the friendly interns, and the neighbors and friends there, today the highlight was to be found on the “pick your own” board.

The first cherry tomatoes were available today! “They ripen from the bottom up, so look low,” the neat handwriting on the old chalkboard recommended. Erica and I rushed out of the barn and to the far field where the tomato plants were marked with orange flags tied on tall stakes. We walked down the long rows, amazed at how tall tomato plants grow before the weight of their fruit pulls them back down.

There were not many ready to be picked, but there were a few. We picked a pint, and then gathered a few for ourselves. I had actually forgotten about the smell of tomato stem until Erica lifted a small orange sun gold cherry tomato up to my face. I breathed in the rich sweet smell and it reminded me of sunlight hitting dry dirt. The scent, somewhere between musty and fresh, somewhere between strong and subtle, is as wild as the winding vines wrapped around wood stakes and long strings. It latches on to you fingers so that hours later you can still find it there, sweet dirty sunlight caught under your fingernails.

So lost in the smell of tomatoes, I forgot about the gray skies above me, and walked back to the car a little lighter, and a little more thankful for all that I have.


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