Every year I have a friendly (well, ok, not always so friendly) tomato-growing contest with my friend Branda.
The prize is a coveted crystal tomato, awarded to the grower of the most tomatoes. The loser gets the cheap plastic tomato consolation prize. It's no consolation.
If you come out on the short end, all through the long winter you have to stare at that crummy replica, your humiliation compounded with the growing piles of snow.
But not last year. Last year, after several seasons of defeat, I won back the prize. I also lost another contest in April 2011, but I don't recall what it was -- the crystal tomato was mine.
My team looks even stronger this season. I have a couple of plants that are producing like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun as if they were still batting three and four in the order for the Brewers. (I do have one plant that looks like John Axford -- if I can save just one out of five tomatoes grown by the other plants, that's the most I can hope for.)
The early hot, humid weather might be making people miserable, but it's making tomatoes very happy.
Like any good produce competitor, I like to keep my eye on the latest in tomato scholarship. Important new research may explain the tastelessness of the modern tomato. It turns out that breeding selecting to ripen industrial tomatoes all at once may have inadvertently turned off a taste gene.
But now those same brave researchers have found a way to turn the switch back on!
I'm not sure what all this means for my backyard Celebrities, Early Girls, Better Boys and Beef Masters. It wasn't clear to me from the article if the ghastly genetic mutation was bred into these varieties or just industrial types. My home-grown tomatoes planted in my own compost taste pretty darn good.
But the prospect that they might taste even better, and that the pallid reddish rock that arrives with your February salad might actually taste like something is reason to celebrate.
First the Supreme Court upholds health care. Then the meaning of the universe is discovered. Now this.