Indoor Tomatoes, or The Tomato Within

The last of the summer’s tomatoes are long gone by now, and December’s fresh tomato soup is a but a fading memory. Of course, there are always the tomatoes inside, but somehow I doubt they’re going to produce enough fruit to make soup.

When I look up from my computer I see a tomato plant in a six-inch pot. It’s maybe a couple of feet high, and while its upper reaches are green, all the lower leaves are yellowing. Three ripe cherry-tomatoes hang from it, two together, one alone.

I am looking at a plant that might make it till spring, but even if it does, is it just going to infect the rest of my young seedlings with whatever is making its leaves curl inwards?

You’d think I’d know better by now…

Two years ago I brought in a number of outside plants including massive things containing tomatoes, hanging pots with strawberry plants, and a range of assorted others. My husband and sons greeted this influx of outdoor greenery with only the occasional muttered aside; "Want to make the house look like a jungle?" from the sons, or a cautiously worded suggestion from my husband: "I’m not sure the strawberries will do that well inside." This after I’d virtually obscured our livingroom windows behind a combination of hanging plants and potted ones whose greenery fitted together as neatly and tightly as puzzle pieces.

I never precisely conceded that he was right, but I did eventually retire the hanging strawberry plants to the garage for the duration of the cold season.

The tomatoes, however, I refused to reliquish, and one made it all the way through winter and all the way through the following summer, which it spent on our patio, doing its tomato thing, which resulted in a modicum of tomatoes. It was more a curiosity than a vegetable, a conversation piece I used to startle fellow gardeners, including the visiting plant experts from Mali: "That tomato is over a year old," I’d say, but in an easy, offhand manner, as if this were nothing special, at least in my garden.

Only I remembered the slow train of dead and dying plants that I’d escorted out of the house through that late winter and early spring.  The tomato I bragged on was the only one that had survived.

So you’d think I’d have learned, wouldn’t you.

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