The two cherry tomato plants that have been growing in deck containers all summer are escaping their cages, the spicy boughs groaning under their own weight.
The ripening fruit, appearing now in gregarious clusters, is the putative point of planting, fertilizing and watering.
Still, the harvest always feels a little sad to me — and on one level, irrelevant. It is not the end but the means I cherish: These plants were blackened by frost in mid-May; their recovery seemed doubtful. And yet in the warming weeks that followed, they stretched upward and then laterally, presented delicate yellow blossoms and then tiny green orbs, which in recent weeks have fattened and softened with the sun’s heat. A perfect perseverance. And now their work — and my watching — is coming to an end.
The squirrels have begun sampling the fruit, encouraging me to do the same while I can, to forestall my melancholia and appreciate the moment. I do: Nothing reveals the pallid impoverishment of a store-bought tomato like one of these beauties, plucked warm from the vine, sprinkled with salt, exploding with flavor between the teeth.
My friend Pan is experiencing a similar satisfaction as her raised vegetable beds — kale, Swiss chard, onions, carrots, beets, herbs — come to fruition. We made breakfast of the bounty the other morning: a skillet saute of greens and onions, a side of steamed beets, eggs from my good hens.
Farmers speak of yield, and only now do I understand the full meaning of the word: the bounty of the harvest, the giving and then giving way, the offering and then ending.
But not yet. Not quite yet: