End of the season sadness

Susan Manzke
Susan getting ready to eat a tiny pear tomato from her garden.

I didn’t have much of a garden this year. My zucchini and pumpkins were okay, but my tomatoes were wonderful.

I didn’t plant many tomatoes. It wasn’t my plan to can quarts like I had in the past. Mostly I wanted to be able to walk outside and pick off one to eat fresh.

The tiny cherry and yellow pear tomatoes were the best for an instant mouthful of sweetness. My other tomatoes could be sliced for BLT sandwiches or chunked for salads.

If my supply ran to the tiny fruit, I could still make a BLT. That kind of sandwich tasted good, even if bits of tomato kept falling out from between the slices of toast.

Another time, I made a simple spaghetti sauce to put over noodles. Some of my homegrown tomatoes went into the sauce, along with a leftover Sloppy Joe mixture. When it came time to put the hot sauce over the noodles, I decided to top it with pieces of fresh tomatoes. The mixture of hot and cool was perfect—as I was writing this, I noticed it was noon and I was hungry. I warmed up my spaghetti leftovers and topped it again with some of the last tomatoes from my garden. It was even better on the second day.

My few tomato seedlings had been planted into pots this past spring. The usual spots for them had developed a blight and that place wouldn’t work for tomato plants. Also, having them nearer to the house meant I could water a little easier—this kind of garden could have been on a patio.

The fruit of my plants couldn’t come fast enough for me. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I’d buy a tomato in the produce section of the grocery store. That tomato did not have the taste for which I hungered. It wasn’t until mid-August that my tomatoes started to ripen. Of course, it was the tiny cherry tomatoes that came first.

Most of last summer's tomatoes have ripened after Susan rescued them from the garden.

When freezing temperatures were in the forecast. I went out to my plants to check for the last of my tomatoes. There were a few still hanging on. Of course, none were ripe. Only green ones remained.

I picked everything I could find. Forgetting a bucket, I put the unripened fruit in my pockets.

When I got back to the house, I emptied my pockets. All I had went into a plastic pail. I covered them with a small plastic bag and set everything on my kitchen counter—not too hot, not too cold. There they rested—other times I would have put them in a brown paper bag. That’s the most recommended receptacle for ripening.

I crossed my fingers that the green would turn to red. It took a week before I found a couple of small tomatoes had ripened. Those went right into my mouth.

Time has passed. Many of my once-green tomatoes are red. One of them went over my spaghetti today.

I know that my fresh tomatoes will soon be gone, eaten by me. I’m not especially fond of winter, but not having a homegrown tomato makes the dark days feel even darker and colder.

As a substitute for fresh, I use canned stewed tomatoes. To make soup, I blend a can, add some sour cream, heat, and eat. It doesn’t beat my fresh vegetables, but it is pretty good, better than Campbells—which I grew up eating. When I make this almost instant soup, I feel like I’m making a meal from scratch.

Susan’s lunch with homegrown tomatoes topping her spaghetti sauce.

Right now, I’m mourning the disappearing growing season and anticipating the 2023 vegetable season.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;