Aaah, tomato harvest time! It's a funny thing. Many of us who grow tomatoes take a little white seed and sow it in the spring. Others may buy seedlings. In either case, these small things, with soil, sun, water and lots of love, turn into big things, producing an abundance of fruit - sometimes what feels like - all at once. It's magic!
A friend of mine who doesn't garden is even aware of tomato season. She knows it's that time of year again when co-workers who do garden arrive at the office with baskets of tomatoes to offload.
Tomatoes are a special crop. I love tomato red, that orangey-red hue, as a colour. I also enjoy the visual delight of the rainbow selection of heirloom varieties: green, yellow, orange, white, purple, red and even black. Some are solid colours, others are striped and marbled, which reminds me of the decorative papers in our shop.
There's also the smell of tomato foliage that connects me to nature. It's familiar and reassuring. Then, of course, there's the taste. Anyone who's bitten into a still-warm-from-the-sun tomato fresh from the garden knows these treasures simply don't register as the same food that's grown in a greenhouse and sold chilled at the supermarket.
My Italian heritage also means that I grew up with fresh homemade pasta and sauce. Cooking with tomatoes is another great way to enjoy them.
Thinking about tomatoes reminds me of the other wonderful companion plants in the garden: basil, peppers, oregano, corn and other vegetables and herbs. And in Niagara, there's plenty of fruit coming into season, such as peaches, plums, and assorted berries.
In addition to inspiring many chefs, the imagery of these plants find their way onto stationery and gifts. At the shop, we carry tea towels decorated with images of vegetables. There are napkin designs devoted to the harvest season. Posters, journal covers, greeting cards and tableware. Decorative papers, too. So many brands look to nature for inspiration.
What aspects of vegetable (and fruit, and herb) gardening inspire you? Does it bring out the creative floral designer in you? I know someone who grows particular varieties of tomatoes not for eating, but to use for table arrangements. Others use some produce, like beets, for dyeing fabric and yarn. It's incredible to think of the number of creative uses for each plant.
A couple of art forms that lend themselves well to capturing the flourishing kitchen garden are watercolour and coloured pencil sketching. Both mediums are quite portable and quick. It's easy to take a seat in the garden along with a sketchbook and draw or paint for a minutes. Seeing fruits and vegetables in situ also mean that the beauty of their foliage is captured, like the curlicue tendrils from a sprawling cucumber vine.
We hope you have a chance this week to take part in nature's ongoing harvest: whether it's tending to your garden, experiencing the farmer's market, cooking local produce, or painting or sketching en plein air!