My Black Thumb
Whenever I teach a cooking class I always tell my students to read the whole recipe through from start to finish, before they begin to cook. That way they can avoid that unfortunate moment when the guests are seated and waiting at the dining room table and they come across the part of the recipe that says to “chill overnight.”
I usually follow my own good advice when making a new recipe, particularly one that is out of the realm of my comfort level, a recipe from a cuisine I am not so familiar with like Thai, Mexican or Indian. You would think that would carry over to other parts of my life, say to reading instructions for the assembly and running of new pieces of kitchen equipment or electronics. But no, I hate the hassle and time involved in such an endeavor so I try to just guess how to put it together or better yet, find someone else, say a young person like my son, to do it. Heaven forbid I should sit down and actually watch the DVD with a step by step, paint by number, set of instructions.
My sister and brother in law gave me an Aero Garden last Christmas and I was delighted. I live in the belly of New York City and don’t get much chance to garden although I think I am a secret gardener at heart. They sent a basic herb kit to go with my Aero Garden and I did actually follow the instructions – they were simple. I was rewarded with many more herbs than I had the time to find a recipe for. I felt a little like I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory episode. But even though I kept harvesting and harvesting and rarely used most of them, I felt very accomplished and talented. It was time to move up to something bigger.
I poured through the Aero Grow catalog and settled on cherry tomatoes. I just love cherry tomatoes and nothing tastes better than the ones you grow yourself. I know this because my family grows all kinds of tomatoes at our family farm in Massachusetts. So I ordered my seed pods and “planted” the cherry tomatoes just before we left for our big vacation at the farm in August, thinking how nice it would be to continue to taste wonderful home grown tomatoes when I got back from the country. Little did I know we would have a surfeit of tomatoes for the ten days we were at the farm and I would be sick to death of them by the time I returned.
When we got back the tomato plants were coming along nicely. They were growing bigger day by day but I didn’t see any signs of progression towards the actual fruit, aka, the tomato. All I saw was greens. Apparently this process was going to take a lot longer than growing herbs. Finally I noticed flowers and I thought aha! Flowers turn into tomatoes, hooray!!! Many days passed – there were more flowers and more flowers but nothing else. Finally I broke down and read the cherry tomato plant instructions. What were missing from my little garden under the artificial lights in my New York City apartment were the bugs that flit from flower to flower. That is how the flowers get pollinated. Duh!! And I won the science prize in 12th grade.
The instructions told me to brush my hand over the tops of the flowers from one plant to another. Apparently I was supposed to play the role of pollinator or sex transmitter (!!!). I did what I was told and waited and finally, many days later, a little green orb appeared and then another. For awhile I thought they were never going to turn red and I contemplated making fried green cherry tomatoes.
It is many weeks later and I finally have oh, maybe 8 cherry tomatoes slowly turning red on my happy little plant. Meanwhile the husband thinks this is all very funny. What he doesn’t understand is that we would have had a much larger crop if I had just read the instructions. Reading instructions is not his forte either.
When I come back from this last trip I hope the tomatoes will be deep red and ready for harvesting. They had better taste extraordinary.