My husband is an avid gardener. He converted part of our basement* into a heated plant nursery, where he starts growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc., from seeds in February and then plants them when he thinks we won’t get another hard cold snap. Sometimes he bets wrong, but this year it worked out.
I love homegrown tomatoes, and each year I look forward to the first one, which I consume on white bread with a little mayo, salt and pepper. (Don’t judge.) This year’s crop was especially delish because we have an abundance of purple tomatoes, of which I am most fond.
But after a while, goddamn! The tomatoes just keep coming relentlessly, and after we’ve eaten fresh tomatoes in every configuration known to humankind and pressed bags of tomatoes on every family member, friend, acquaintance and passerby, I just don’t know what to do with the damned things.
Every year at Tomatogeddon time, my husband says he’ll plant fewer tomatoes next year. And each year, he plants more.
This year, I thought I’d try something new to deal with the influx: canning tomatoes. It did not go well, though I managed to salvage the thousands** of tomatoes used in the experiment by making a sauce and freezing portions of it. I did not enjoy the canning process and will probably never do it again, even though I figured out what went wrong and would probably have better results.
The thing is, there are plenty of fiddly tasks I enjoy, but gardening isn’t one of them. And it turns out, neither is canning.
I had a thought while canning that occurred to me many years prior when the mister tried to interest me in gardening by recruiting me to help plant string beans. That thought was this: one of the benefits of living in a non-agrarian society is that you can focus on remunerative tasks that you personally find more pleasant than growing or putting up food and obtain those necessaries by other means.
I’m going to lug around bags of cow shit and labor over a patch of dirt with a hoe — while being feasted upon by mosquitoes — when I can buy beans dirt cheap at Publix? I don’t fucking think so! Ditto canning tomatoes, not when 28-oz cans of peeled San Marzanos are available at the grocery store.
Homegrown stuff is better, and I am grateful to have a partner who enjoys gardening so I can get the fresh produce without dealing with the bugs, cow shit and the hassle. But I’ve learned some things about myself over the past decades, and one of those things is that I am not cut out for anything that remotely smacks of farm life, not even as a hobby.
*It’s the enclosed first floor of our stilt house. There are very few real basements in Florida (I’ve only personally seen one) because if you dig a hole, it fills up with water.
**Might be a slight exaggeration.