For a moment, filling green quart containers with the first cherry tomatoes, everything is familiar. By August, our plants are a jumble, growing into one another and overhead. Vines shoot across the pathway, hold tight to stakes and tangle together.
They lean hard on the tomato stakes, set fruit behind tightly tied strings and under leafy vines. Our hands and arms get covered with the powdery green from the vines, and our containers are light for a moment and then quickly heavy with fruit.
It is already tomato season, and for farmers and farmers market shoppers, tomatoes quickly take center stage. At market, customers make a beeline toward the tomatoes, each with a different recipe in mind. The bright red tomatoes self-advertise and can be enough to pull passing cars over to stop.
Customers tell me they will slice them on bread and eat them with mayonnaise, devour them immediately upon returning home; they plan a salad with basil, or their grandkids are visiting, the grill is set and burgers are on the menu. They choose carefully—one for now, one for tomorrow, some for snacking and some for real meals. They even pack them up as gifts.
In the tomato rows, my view can be small—just the plant in front of me, my eyes scanning for reds and yellows, hands sometimes reaching blindly behind vines to pick ripe fruit by feel. It is not until the container is full and I stand to load the tractor that I see all that is changed. We are planting vegetables again this year—many familiar varieties, but nearly all else is new.
Back in January, at the very start of 2018, we picked up our family and moved from our Maryland farm to a new farm in Vermont. So vegetable varieties aside, almost everything else is new for us. New landscape, new neighbors, new friends, new school, new synagogue, new snow sports, new challenges—an exhilarating and exhausting litany of newness.
And occasionally, in the midst our year of enormous change, we find ourselves surrounded and comforted by familiar experiences. In our early wintry days here, we had the Shabbat candles out while surrounded by boxes. And now picking tomatoes with the familiar jumble of vines, green paper quarts and the abundant fruit, we start to find our way home again.