Throwing tomatoes
Wednesday August 18th 2010, 9:03 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

We had one time, years ago, when we were driving through California’s Central Valley around harvest season and found ourselves behind a semi.  It was loaded past the top with grocery-store-ripe (as in, not) tomatoes.  We couldn’t see any wooden crates dividing them into layers, although there may have been; from our vantage point, it was simply one giant  mounded-over pile and one could only imagine the weight on the ones at the bottom. Had to be for canning, right?

We kept our car back a little bit after the first time that truck hit a bump. We didn’t want those fresh round rocks in an argument with our windshield.

This is the second year in a long while that I’ve planted my own and I’m hoping it becomes a habit.

And so I was so looking forward to that first really good, sweet, homegrown tomato on my (yes just) one little plant.  That biggest one was a goodly bright orange and getting brighter, not quite red yet; it didn’t have that intense tomato essence yet, but give it time.  I tried not to examine it too closely too many times a day.  Getting there…

And then the water that I always have set out for the critters got pulled over by one of them and emptied out and I didn’t notice immediately.  I found out when I looked out the window and discovered my so-anticipated veggie out in the yard: when I stepped out to see, hoping that maybe just maybe I could simply retrieve it (good luck with that), I found that one of the squirrels had stripped the side open, sucked it out, and left the hard outer carcass lying there in reproach.  It didn’t even eat the piece it had torn off.  It didn’t even pull it to the trees for a proper burial in hopes it would sprout more like the one squirrel had done with the whipped cream cup.

It didn’t like grocery-store-hard tomatoes.


Chucked that one. Okay, then. Four more to go and lots of tomato flowers.

Since then, no more fruit has set and the plant has just barely been hanging in there. I’m thinking I got a determinate variety, which sets all at once and then dies, good for someone doing canning, rather than an indeterminate, which keeps producing merrily till frost like I’d hoped for.

The plant is in a pot and I keep threatening to bring it inside out of the squirrels’ reach, but it’s pretty leggy and windy and viney, y’know?  Those four tomatoes, hanging on. It’s been a slow, cold season this year.

I noted a black squirrel rubbing its face vigorously today–I’d shaken some very hot pepper flakes around those four after the theft. Busted!

Meantime, a few days ago I thought part of the problem with losing our water supply out there is these plastic disposable cups I’ve been using (because I don’t care what happens to them) –they’re old, they’re thin, they crack easily.  I ought to put something sturdier and steadier out there.

And so I braced an old Tupperware cup in the usual spot and filled it up.

It didn’t stay put long at all!  It disappeared, and I had to go looking.

Dang, that must have been one hard tomato.  But someone kept on trucking–I found the plastic slivers.  And this time it *was* over by the tree trunks.  That squirrel kept on chewing, sure the juice and seeds must be in there somewhere: Come ON! GIVE it to me!

I don’t think Tupperware’s lifetime warranty quite covers that.

12 Comments so far
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Well, our tomatoes haven’t been ripening very fast either. Here it is, mid-August, and we’ve gotten a grand total of 3 ripe ones so far. Usually, we’re inundated by this point. Our squirrels have shown a preference for the persimmons.

Comment by Kathy in San Jose 08.18.10 @ 9:59 pm

I had to laugh at your description of the tomato truck — they’re a much-discussed feature of every fall road trip in California I’ve ever taken; my east coast parents were always in awe of the sheer bulk of tomatoes moving up and down the state.

Comment by Jocelyn 08.19.10 @ 7:15 am

Interesting. We’re having tomatoes rot on the vines before they ripen here, because while we’re in a drought, the rain has come too hard at just the wrong times. Interestingly though, those who are having a decent harvest have some big, TASTY ‘maters!

Comment by Channon 08.19.10 @ 7:24 am

We’re getting peppers, but our tomatos aren’t doing so well either. At first glance, your squirril photo looked like a gila monster. I thought it was going to be some strange creature you met on your drive through the Central Valley. Then I looked more closely and it turned into a squirril.

Comment by LauraN 08.19.10 @ 7:29 am

Just maybe you should try Tupper on that lifetime guarantee, just to see what they’d say.

I’d guess that this cool August has something to do with the slow ripening tomatoes.

Note to Kathy in San Jose: my persimmons are the Chinese kind — hard, like an apple. If your squirrels are interested, I’m in Mountain View.

Comment by Don Meyer 08.19.10 @ 9:02 am

We have a giant camphor tree in our front yard, and we are lucky we have crabgrass — nothing grows near camphor, or so it seems. We did try some broccoli in containers, once. The aphids had a field day. Having a black thumb, I get my tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Sigh.

Comment by Patricia Day 08.19.10 @ 10:07 am

Here in Wisconsin we have had the right type of weather for vegetable production,only crop not doing to well I hear is the Pumpkin , Our local Piggly Wiggly has a notice that “due to a small harvest, pumpkin pie filling won’t be in till October.”

Comment by Kris 08.19.10 @ 10:12 am

We have had one ripe tomato so far AND I got it! Now there is another one that is orange and starting to look like it might get red. We will see who gets to it first–the squirrel here doesn’t come this close to the house so it is probably safe for the human type critters. The green peppers have done much better than the tomatoes this year.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 08.19.10 @ 10:12 am

This is what you get for taking care of the critters – they think everything is for them! Food – must be mine! glass of water – must be to eat. You should quit feeding them now. Then you can grow food for yourself! g

Comment by gMarie 08.19.10 @ 1:49 pm

No, I don’t think Tupperware’s gurantee will cover. You should have used a cup in some color which is not food! like blue, maybe? You would think the smell would do it, plastic-not-edible, wouldn’t you? Maybe the youngish ones were teething? “If I can’t reach to the bottom, there must be something yummy there, right, right?” Sorry you lost a cup, sorrier you lost the tomato.

Comment by Marian 08.19.10 @ 4:07 pm

Hey everyone, thanks for the shout outs! I grew up in Palo Alto, went to school in Mountain View, and now live in the Central Valley!! All of my home stomping grounds got mentioned here.

Comment by Mary 08.20.10 @ 1:10 pm

Squirrels love tomatoes. My solution: grow little ones. They leave ’em alone. (Or go for my neighbor’s bigger ones, I’m not sure which.) I’m hoping the buggers leave me my two apples that are on my dwarf apple tree. I’m hoping I get to eat them instead of the wildlife.

Comment by Karen L 08.20.10 @ 9:05 pm

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