Back when I lived in New Mexico, I had large vegetable gardens and shared a lot of posts about the wisdom I learned while gardening. Tomatoes showed up in those posts because they are a prolific favorite, and because an abundance of tomatoes sometimes left me with stories to tell, such as remembering when Henry’s Aunt Ada picked all the green cherry tomatoes (which I had planned to leave behind) just before we moved from one home to another, and we enjoyed slowly ripening tomatoes for weeks afterward.
I’ve not focused nearly as much writing attention on my garden here in southern Arizona. Some of that has to do with the ratio of time I’ve spent in it. Back in Silver, I watered everything by hand, so I was out in the garden on a daily basis, especially in the hot weather. Here in Tucson, we have a drip system and a much smaller vegetable plot, which makes my life much easier, but also means I can go for days without getting out into the garden.
The growing season is also a lot longer here. I planted vegetable seeds on February 4 last year and planted a new batch of Swiss chard seeds just this week. In fact, I can grow many types of greens year-round (I’ve got thriving beets, cabbage, lettuce, and cilantro at the moment). I’m still getting used to the idea of not having an off-season for gardening; I think I appreciated the chance to let it all go for a while once the snow arrived.
Even tomatoes, which are considered annuals elsewhere, can survive here, if they’re properly protected when we have a frost. In fact, some of the tomato plants in my garden this year seemed to catch a second wind as the weather cooled this fall, doubling and tripling their summer sizes. One cherry tomato plant just kept growing and growing, producing hundreds of cherry tomatoes—most of them still green when frost finally arrived with the new year.
The first frosty night, I covered some of the tomato plants with old moving blankets from our garage. However, the weather experts warned of an upcoming severe frost—perhaps as low as 25 degrees—accompanied by rain, and I knew that I didn’t have the materials and energy to protect those plants that well. So, I spent two afternoons picking tomatoes. I picked all the red ones first, then went back the next day for the pink and green ones, thinking of Aunt Ada as I brought batch after batch into the house. When I was finished—though I knew I hadn’t managed to get them all—I weighed them: over ten pounds of tomatoes.
So far, in addition to eating them straight from the boxes, I have experimented with green tomato chutney (which didn’t thicken, but tastes pretty good) and roasted red cherry tomatoes. We shall see what else I figure out to do with this abundance of late-season produce.
So how does all this connect with the spiritual life? I think it reinforces the idea of abundance, and surprise. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I would expect to be harvesting tomatoes in January, I would not have believed it. God gives us so much more than we can ever ask or imagine. Take a few moments to really look at your life over the past year. Where has God gifted you with unexpected abundance?
When we were traveling in Cypress, my Bible readings had to do with the abundance of God. Below our apartment was an orchard of oranges… Abundant indeed, with many oranges going to waste on the ground. I asked my spiritual director how to reconcile that abundance with all the hunger and pain we know of in the world, and she said “God is abundant. Man has a problem with distribution.”
Ah, Barbara, I appreciate that wisdom. Every year here in Tucson I see so much citrus on the ground. It’s a distribution problem, also an issue with becoming so accustomed to things that we don’t really see them…and also, I understand, that if citrus falls “early” it could be discarded by the tree because it’s not well-formed…so some of it is our perspective…. Thank you for connecting with my post and sharing your thoughts….