Monday, July 27, 2009


Several years ago, a tiny grape-sprout came up behind a big hosta at the corner of the garage. I pampered it, watered it, trellised it, thinking of the lovely swag it might make. A little Rose of Sharon also began to grow in the same space, circumscribed into maybe a 3x3 space by the sidewalk corner. In the ensuing years, I marvelled that the dried, snapping twigs could come back from all the below-zero temperatures, to spring back out, and grow longer and lusher each year.

A wine-store tossed a big bunch-of-grapes-shaped metal winerack on their dumpster---we retrieved it and trellised the grapevine at the corner, and it happily climbed and gamboled all up and down those rusting metal grapes. Now the trellis is absolutely obscured, and the entire thing has made for the ground on the other side of a side-door to the garage.

Though the weather has been oddly mild all through June and July, all the plants in our yard and garden have taken a turn for the gigantic, with the garage grapevine threatening to cover the entire three rooftops like frenzied kudzu.

The long seeking arms grown-past-tendrils are making their way out across the phone wires toward the tomato plants, which are tall enough to latch onto when they get in grabbing distance.

The vine is also creeping madly out toward the back garden, and I expect it to reach the arbor shade before Summer’s out.

I love to watch the tentative, inexorable flow of the vines, those tiny green fingers feeling their blind way along toward support; I marvel at the way they touch, seize, circle, with a single-minded purpose: to get somewhere---anywhere. Sometimes I think I can almost see the movement of the seeking tendrils as they reach out into the unseen space for the next huggable thing.
One of its kin so encompassed the big ole rough pooldeck several years ago that I had to do some chopping every Spring to get the lawn chairs up there. And the original appletree which leaned ever closer to earth because of a steadily-hollowing core, was at last supported only by the fierce grip of the grapevines which we hacked away as we eased her down on her last day.

The "tomato hedge" grows ever taller, and the bounty has begun. These are called “Pineapple,” though no resemblance either in taste or shape is to be discerned. They do, however, have what I think of as “Mammaw Tomato” marks---grooved rolls at the top which stand out at the dip where the stem connects, like a fat fall pumpkin chubbing up in folds around the top.

Cherokee purples and other heirlooms have that telltale shape which says this is gonna be a flavorful tomato, dripping with rich juices, and with the authentic tang of a vine-ripe. Our meals have spoken Summer, at least. Despite all this concrete and city streets and miles of interstate and asphalt, we’ve tasted the fresh and the just-from-the field:

A bowl of Silver Queen corn, bought, cut and cooked within an hour of the stalk. The crisp little silks were a fresh pale green as they fell away with the brush. It was a creamy, rich, beautiful thick-soup bowl, with just the right amount of butter and salt. I had just fried the requisite seven chicken wings to accompany (I fry, and while I get the ice in the glasses, he separates drummy from the radius/ulna pocket of tender little muscles with a quick wrench, putting the fat drummy onto my plate, and the second pieces onto his 0wn. And because his sacred recipe for creamed corn requires a tiny bit of the oil and all the lovely brown crispy scrapings from the bottom of the chicken skillet). They are the "secret ingredient" in his Heavenly corn.

Our supper trays held but two bowls, spoons, napkins. The second bowl was of tomato chunks and seasalt.

A spoon into the corn; savor the creamy rich smoothness with little crisp pings of kernel to punctuate the bite. Then spoon into tomato, relish that taste--alternating the deep buttery sweetness with the lusty zest of homegrown tomato, warm from the garden, until both bowls were empty and Summer's finest supper combination had been enjoyed once again.

Then back outside with a last glass of iced tea, to take the cool of the evenin’ and make the day complete.


Keetha said...

Look at that! That vine is something. I enjoyed the photos - I feel like we've been visiting in your backyard.

racheld said...

Please do, anytime---I've been absolutely blown away by the JULY we've had---seventies every day, and sunny and then a slow Summer rain for sleeping, sometimes.

This is the most glorious Summer I've ever lived, in terms of weather and enjoying, really enjoying, the outdoors.

A big ole pitcher of that lovely Vanilla Tea is waiting for you---lots of ice.

Southern Lady said...

Your pictures are as lovely as your writing, Rachel. Your backyard looks exactly the way I always pictured it when you wrote about it ... so peaceful and lush and "homey."

Kouign Aman said...

She's got pix! Congratulations!

racheld said...

That's the way it is---though the plants hesitate a bit before tiptoeing out in Spring, sometimes til late May, they burst forth with a vengeance once they sense that the snows are past.

And I love them as they spread and spraddle and loll about, slathering themselves all up the walls and overgrowing fences. The LUSH of it, though I DO overuse that word, says Deep South, and that's the effect I'm used to, and the one I love.

It's homey, all right---if you enlarge the pictures, you'll see a treeface way on the left, a big ole Bubba face, and in the bottom of one pic, the lid of one of the ever-present grills. There are toys and bright little chairs all over the patio and yard, and just out of frame, always, are garden supplies, hoses, and Kingsford bags.

Homey may not be QUITE the right word, after all. I expect one of those little routered-wood signs---you know, the ones that say "The Smith's live Here"---to appear tacked to a tree any day, as vengeance by the patient neighbors.

Only ours will read "Snopes."

Anonymous said...

Incredible tomatoes. Reminds me of your mom and dads yard with all the lush growth. I was always amazed at the size of things your dad grew.

Angel kisses

Veronica said...

What a great read. Your tomatoes are amazing. Everything looks so green. What's your secret, please? My tomatoes, not so bushy. Do you get grapes on those vines? Thanks for the enjoyment. What a pleasure.

racheld said...

This is Chris, Racheld's tomato grower. I use a 54 quart flower pot with about 4 inches of brick chips in the bottom to hold moisture and keep the roots from drowning. I mix potting soil and regular earth to fill the pot to the edge. I plant two plants of the same variety to the pot. I use Miricle Grow tomato mix once a week and keep the plants watered well. They require water twice a day after they put on tomatoes. The roots have a difficult time supporting such large plants and fruit. I also have to use tall support poles to keep ahead of the growth and do new ties frequently to support the heavy fruit. By using pots I can move the plants around to catch more sun as the season changes. With five pots we eat all we want and share with friends and neighbors.

racheld said...

How lovely to hear from you, Veronica!!

I told Chris as he passed through the room that a nice lady asked about his tomatoes, and would he tell you how he grows them. When I said to just sit down and play guest writer, he happily obliged, as he does to everything.

We really started growing them in pots when we discovered the big walnut tree out back by the garden was killing them off from the roots up every year.

Thank you so much for commenting and saying such nice things---I hope you'll drop in often.