Thirty tomatoes ripen on the kitchen counter. Little red bottoms in the air, stem side down, they were picked when blushing, but not ready to slice. Now they deepen into that lovely rosy red of June gardens. A strainer full of cherry tomatoes drains in the sink.
A part of me wishes the tomato plants in my garden were as lovely as their offspring. Now, with our high temperatures, their yellowing leaves are hosts to masses of spider mites, a miniscule pest. Yes, we did spray the plants with fish emulsion—which is just what it sounds like—that is supposed to repel the insects. But we lost that battle.
And there’s the space issue. Or lack thereof. The unruly Sweet 100 Cherry tomato bush is about 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide and completely covers the well-behaved Celebrity tomato.
In the seed stage, tomatoes line up to be Determinate or Indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes agree to only grow to a certain height, have lots of large offspring, and bring them to graduation ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Indeterminate tomatoes are the embarrassing relatives of the straight and narrow determinates. They have their own time table and in mid- June look like they haven’t had a shave or decent haircut in months.
Indeterminates grow as tall and as wide as water and fertilizer will take them, have zillions of cherry tomatoes, and ripen WHENEVER THEY WANT TO.
If that’s confusing—a little botany goes a long way—look at it this way:
A determinate Celebrity tomato would vote for Mitt.
An indeterminate Sweet 100 Cherry tomato would support Barack.