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If It Weren’t For Volunteer Tomatoes

by Daisy


. . . I’d have no tomatoes at all.

Weird year for tomatoes.

We had plenty of spring rain and mild weather so the tomatoes I planted in the garden got off to a good start.

Unfortunately, by the time the first few tomatoes started to ripen, drought set in and the new blossoms started to fall off.

I watered for a while, but as the drought stretched on and on I gave up and the plants sat fruitlessly.

Meanwhile, in several out-of-the-way, neglected nooks, volunteer tomatoes were sprouting:

At the foot of the muscadine.

Between the sweet potatoes and over the strawberry patch.

Under the apple espalier.

Up the plum tree.


WAY up the plum tree.

I let them go, figuring I might as well. They were all types; roma, black cherry, san marzano, cultivars of unknown lineage, throwbacks to hybrids’ parentage.

Thanks to a couple of welcome rains and some inadvertent water from nearby seedlings I was watering, they started to fruit.

They’re starting to ripen now. And due to the unseasonably warm weather this November, it looks like I might get tomatoes this year after all.

I’ve cancelled my Bad Tomato Year Gloom, Despair & Agony Pity Party and am trying to decide on how to put up this unexpected late-season crop.

I’ll probably have quite a few green tomatoes to rescue before the first frost, which I can wrap in newspapers and store in boxes, unwrapping as they ripen.

Or, I could make these classic, southern Green Tomato Pickles. They’re tangy-sweet, spicy with cloves and cinnamon, and very crispy.

Hopefully I’ll have enough to do both.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mattie November 7, 2016 at 5:35 am

According to Farmers Almanac, we are due for a warm winter. Good news for crops. However, its just another reminder of climate change and how the earth is heating up. A/C bills are going to be horrible in the future years. And with heat comes drought.

Leslie November 7, 2016 at 6:26 am

My grandparents did provide for themselves with a garden. Their little acre produced enough for their families (all 20 of us) to eat and put up. Grandfather either sold or gave away the rest. I remember eating my weight in perfectly ripe tomatoes all summer long. Grandfather was also a firm believer in lots of manure and liberal watering, luckily they had a well. But – their house was very tiny and they spent most of their time outside. I think A/C makes it harder for our generation to stay outside during the summer.

Jenny November 7, 2016 at 7:23 am

This summer I decided to start a garden after reading so many articles on the dangers of pesticides, etc. I was overwhelmed. I have had quite a journey these last few months trying to keep anything alive in the Arizona desert, but your post on “volunteer tomatoes” caught my eye. I planted a small patch of carrots (just to see if I could grow them)and anxiously waited for sprouts. I read that it could take up to 2 weeks to see sprouts. Anyway the plants got taller and taller and I kept thinking they did not look like the leafy part of carrots, but I kept thinning them to ‘2 inches apart’ like the package said. Every once in a while a little sprout would emerge that I figured was a weed and I would pull it out. Well, two weekends ago one of my carrots had a yellow blossom on it! I recognized it and called my husband out to see it. He said “baby, those are tomatoes”. But I didn’t plant tomatoes! I looked at my seeds that I had left over – not tomato seeds. They must have made a mistake and put some tomato seeds in the package by mistake – I was so confused – but happy to have more than 70 tomato plants growing in a small area – it was a round 2×2 spot -WHERE I HAD COMPOSTED IN THE EARLY SUMMER! Yep. I realized that the little sprouts I was pulling out were the actual carrots. This I figured because I found one last survivor and tasted the sprout – carrot! Well, I planted and potted 34 tomato plants and had to sacrifice some only because I ran out of pots and places to plant. I gave some away. I hope that I will get some tomatoes out of these plants. Meanwhile; I planted carrots somewhere else. I remember I may have read that it is not a good idea to compost something – it must have been tomatoes because the seed did not compost. Happy ending – I never even thought about growing tomato from seed since I consider myself a beginner gardener (I had a garden about 25 years ago and have not had one since). Thank you for the wonderful posts you put on your website; they are so ‘homey’ and I enjoy them very much.

Daisy November 7, 2016 at 9:05 am

Jenny–That is hilarious and awesome. The little carrots are thinking, “What did I do?” and the tomatoes are trying their best to look like carrots. I love it.

Daisy November 7, 2016 at 9:06 am

Leslie–What amazing and underappreciated skill that must have taken. I love stories like this.

Daisy November 7, 2016 at 9:07 am

Mattie–Yes, I’m enjoying the warm weather, but I do fear what it portends.

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