Tag Archives: tomato

taste your food

'tomato' by erin dunigan

The first time I noticed it, it happened to be in the form of a tomato. It was fresh from the garden, homegrown, just off the vine and I was slicing it up to eat for dinner.

“This is so good!” I couldn’t help exclaiming as I took my first bite. It was, in no uncertain terms, delicious.

“Wow, what a difference it makes to eat your tomato fresh from the vine, vs. fresh from the produce aisle at the supermarket,” I thought to myself. Even the ‘vine ripened’ tomatoes in the market didn’t even come close to the flavor of the home grown version. So, for the past five years since, I’ve made sure each spring to plant tomatoes. “They should have a different name for the ones that they sell in the supermarket,” I remember thinking. Because the tasteless bland bit of mush is really nothing like the real thing. I seemed to be turning into something of a tomato snob. Not just a snob, but a real tomato evangelist as well. “Here, try one of these, you’ll love it,” I offered to friends and neighbors, when the plants’ yields were more than I could keep up with. “It is so much better than the store bought variety–try it!” I’d push. Not quite a megaphone and placards preaching impending doom on the street corner, but close.

This behavior continued over the past five years, fairly consistent. In the intervening time I read books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy and  Michael Polan’s In Defense of Food. I started paying attention to where my food came from–meaning, how far away (do I really need out of season berries from Argentina?) as well as how it was grown (do I really want to eat beef from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) with all of the potential for disease, not to mention the ecological ramifications such mass produced farming efforts leave in their wake.

But then one day a few weeks ago something else happened.

Spending more of my time in Baja California, I’ve been trying to get as much of what I need locally, rather than picking it up when I happen to be in the US. Amazingly, even though it is a small town, a new ‘produce market’ opened up locally, with all kinds of fruits and vegetables, most of them locally grown. On this particular day, along with my other items, I picked up a cucumber and a few carrots. That night as I was peeling the cucumber and slicing it to put in a salad, I sampled a bit.

“This has so much flavor!” I couldn’t help but exclaim. I was amazed. I didn’t realize that cucumbers could be so flavorful–so much that I could even smell the cucumber as I was slicing it.

That was when I realized–maybe the same thing that is true for the tomato, is true for the cucumber as well?! Is it possible that cucumbers, real ones, grown locally and picked when they are actually ripe and ready to be eaten, is it possible that they are actually much more flavorful than their store bought counterparts, just like tomatoes? It seemed so obvious, now that I saw it, but still somehow I was stunned.

The next day it happened again. I was hungry and wanted a snack. I spotted the carrot and decided I’d peel it and have a healthier snack than the chips and salsa I was eying. So, you guessed it. I peeled and sliced the carrot and as I bit into it, again was taken aback. “You mean carrots are flavorful too?!”

So, it made me wonder. How much else of what we have been accustomed to eating and drinking is actually a shadow of the real thing? And perhaps more importantly, why in the world have we allowed this to be so?

Sqaush updates, preaching to the choir and other news…

Greetings from the garden,

I have to say I got many funny responses to my email about ‘manually’ pollinating the squash…

After all that effort with the Q-tip I found out from a community college herbs and vegetables class (definitely an email in its own right) that the problem was likely either too much water or not enough carbohydrates. Though I contemplated pouring some spaghetti in the pot, I tried the ‘less water’ approach first and it seems to have worked like a charm!  My mom did comment that this seemed like a lot more work than simply going to Trader Joe’s…

I’ve also been doing some gardening with Tommy (he’s 7) in his grandparents’ (Martha and Jack) backyard.  So far we’ve got an herb garden, some undocumented succulents (yes, there’s a story there), cherry tomatoes, peppers and even a pumpkin patch! Martha makes the best pumpkin pie in the world, so Tommy figured we should grow her some pumpkins to make it from.  He also wanted to put in a fountain and a fish pond, but I told him that might be out of the scope of our initial gardening phase. In the experimental section of the garden we’ve planted an avocado pit. I think we might have some guacamole in about four years, if we’re lucky.

When I can fit it in amongst all of the gardening I am actually doing quite a bit of freelance work these days…writing, photography, and websites as well as preaching two weeks in a row. The first week I preached to the choir—literally!  I think there were about 8 people in the choir and about 7 in the pews… It was actually wonderful getting to know the 15 of them!  The following week I preached to more of a traditional congregation, size-wise. There was one funny moment when the offering had been collected, the ushers were standing in the back, the organist was playing, and playing, and playing…and all of a sudden I realized that I was supposed to stand up and call the ushers back to the front for the prayer. I wonder how long we would have sat there? If you are interested in the sermon I preached, it is posted (in text form for now) and called “It’s a Crazy Story.” Honestly, it really is a crazy story.

Finally, I am getting ready to head to Ecuador tomorrow for my third “Adopta Una Familia” trip with Erica (seminary roommate) and a team of about 70 gringos. We will all be staying with Ecuadorian families and while they will all be doing hard manual labor (mostly construction) my job will be to photograph them sweating!  Actually, this year I will also be teaching a photography class to 10 teenagers from the barrio. It should be fun, and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you! It is a mini version of something called photopiece that I have been helping my friend Leanna to teach in downtown LA last fall and this summer.

Stay tuned for (hopefully, internet connection willing) photos and updates from Ecuador…

The Birds and the Bees and the Squash…

In the past my updates have consisted of reporting on the weather, intramural sports teams named after diseases,  my travels, or the ongoing saga of my ‘call process’ (does the phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination” come to mind?).

Just when I thought I would have to move to somewhere with ‘weather’ or begin a phd program as a method toward more intramural eligibility,  or, horror of horrors, get a ‘real job’ again, so that I would have something to report on, hope arrived…

Lately I’ve been doing some gardening.  Let’s just say, my thumb really wants to be green, but at times it appears a bit more, well, chartreuse…

At the moment I’ve got eight tomato plants (partly because I love home-grown tomatoes, partly because I am not convinced all eight are going to make it), seven green bean stalks—with more on the way, bell peppers, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, strawberries (thanks to Wendy and Marty!) and even blueberries this year, a new item in the repertoire. And then there’s the squash. (And I know you aren’t supposed to start sentences with ‘and’ but I have decided that sometimes it is quite helpful.)

Last year I tried to plant squash, not because I love eating it so much as because there are a limited number of vegetables to choose from at the nursery and it was one of them.  My squash last year had beautiful, plentiful flowers…but then nothing. No fruit. Nada.

Not to be dissuaded, this year I once again added squash to the mix. Once again, I have had beautiful, plentiful flowers. But they keep falling off. Worse yet, there is nothing to show for them. No fruit. Not even a hint.

Yesterday, while buying compost at the local nursery (you’d never know I live in the heart of suburbia with a comment like that, now would you?!) I remembered the squash, and presented my issue to the woman ringing up my compost.

“Do you have any moths?” she asked.

Seems like kind of a personal question.  I explained to her that I have bees, hummingbirds, and an occasional butterfly, but as far as I know, no moths.

“You might have to pollinate it yourself,” she responded. Talk about too personal!

I was afraid to ask, but she must have seen the question on my face.
“Just take a Q-tip,” she continued, “and touch the male flower first, then the female, and that should do the trick.”

That’s when I thought that maybe I should just stick with the tomatoes…