Our CSA is hitting its stride now, and so we are delighting in the delicious fruit of summer: tomatoes.
A couple of weeks back on our trip to the farm, were invited to visited the vines and grab a few of the first fruits. I’m sure that watching The Girlie toddle around in the bugs and dirt helped my nostalgia as I got lost in the moment, reflexively pulling green weeds and walking through the rows and breathing the humid pungency of the vines and leaves. Of course, twisting the tiny tomatoes off of the vines and tasting them was a powerful trigger, bringing me back to the hot summer days in the big garden behind my family’s house at 3162 Cavendish Drive. What was it that was so distinctive? The tender skins gave way to an explosion of juice and seeds that coated every bit of my mouth and tongue, but that wasn’t it. The meat of the tomatoes was fat and sweet, followed by a tangy aftertaste, but that wasn’t it. They were still warm from the sun, but that wasn’t it. And unlike tomatoes from the store, the full sensation of each bite stayed in my mouth for a full minute, but that wasn’t it either.
Finally, I realized what was so alluring: the dirt. As I put each fruit in my mouth, I’d feel that grit and taste that ancient earthy twinge, and it would remain even after I swallowed the bite. Dirt seems bad, like something I should wash away. But dirt gives life to our food, and flavors each bite, if we let it. I want to keep my food antiseptic; I want to keep my life uncomplicated by what is earthy and unclean. I want to avoid pain, and deny disappointment. But dirt is a part of life. So this year, I’m not washing any of my tomatoes. I want to taste the dirt.