In Seattle, we often wait quite a while for that first “real” tomato from the garden while our friends in California, Eastern Washington, and climes warmer have been enjoying fresh, homegrown tomatoes since early June. And cherry tomatoes really don’t count — try slicing cherry tomatoes for a sandwich ;) . This year’s first tomato was plucked from the garden on August 8th. Finally, we can have truly local tomatoes when they are the sweetest and far better than even the Eastern Washington tomatoes available so far at “local” farmers markets. We have enough plants to can the surplus fruit we cannot eat as quickly as it ripens. There is nothing like opening a jar of homegrown tomatoes in the doldrums of February to cook into a marvelously sweet pasta sauce.

This year’s exercise in growing tomatoes began at the Central Market in Shoreline, the weekend before Memorial Day where eight very large “starts” were purchased at four plants for ten dollars. There were even already a couple of small tomatoes already on the plants. Perhaps one year, I will grow my own starts from seed. I bought 2 each of Taxi, Early Girl, “Roma”, and “Black”. The Taxi plants are determinate, while the others are indeterminate cultivars. The plants did not move out to the garden for a week, as the evening temperatures were still less than fifty degrees. Upon planting in the garden we were treated to what must have been the coldest month of June on record. The bumblebees and honeybees crawled over the flowers extracting nectar and pollen hitch-hiking along in the “combs” of bristles on their legs. It wasn’t until a number of successive warm days in July that the plants succeeded in their march toward the top of their wire cages, and soon set much fruit.

As we tended and watered the plants, the green fruit elongated and widened, and we kept checking for the slightest blush of color in the green tomatoes. Our (im)patience was finally rewarded last weekend as one of the Taxi’s lost its deep green color, yielding a light blush of yellow (the Taxi cultivar produces taxi-cab yellow, smallish fruit of about 2 to 2-1/2 inches). A few days later the intensity of yellow color deepened, and the tomato was snatched to be admired on our kitchen window sill as it ripened a day or two, rather than consumed by a member of our local herd of marauding raccoons.

Our (im)patience continues to be rewarded. This morning a three inch Early Girl was noticed with decidedly pink coloring, and a few “Blacks” and “Romas” will no doubt follow suit.

Happy urban gardening!