For the love of a tomato

flowersOn Saturday mornings, I don’t like to wake up early. I prefer to sleep as late as my cat will let me, which isn’t much past thirty minutes than I usually wake up. Then I meander into the living room, curl up in a chair while waiting for the coffee to be ready. Return to the chair with a cup of coffee, read, write, think. Eventually I start moving through the weekend with breakfast, cleaning house, laundry and all of those other chores that get put off.

But that doesn’t happen during the summer.

Oh, I still want to sleep in, but I know that I will miss out if I do. You have to get there early to the farmer’s market. This week after sleeping in a bit, lounging a bit, breakfasting with a friend a bit, we arrived to the thrumming Fort Smith Farmer’s Market. And I missed out on the peaches, which just came into season. The farmer was loading box after empty box into a car. Next week, I’ll be there early.

There’s something about a market where you can get ground bison, honey, jewelry, kettle corn, armloads of flowers, plus tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, bread, pie, kale, strawberries and so much more. I can’t raid my parents’ garden and hen house on a weekly basis because they live four hours away so I make my way to the local market. There I fill my bag with fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness and then spend my next week eating through them so they don’t spoil. Sure I may pay a bit more for a tomato than at the grocery store, but one flavorful bite and it’s worth it because it tastes real, like the sun and the earth and summer. And I don’t have to fight the squirrels and the birds to claim my share.

It is my summer ritual.

Last summer I trained with a group to walk a half marathon. During the week we checked off our shorter distances on our own. On Saturdays we met at 7 a.m. – the same time the market opened – as a group and set out. I’m in the slow category, but at first it didn’t matter. I had time to go to the market before it closed at noon. I’d stop by the market all hot, sweaty and tired. But toward the end of the training as the distances stretched to 10 miles and more, I’d miss our farmer’s market. I lamented that fact to a friend, who laughed at me.

As a farm-raised girl herself she should know the pleasures of a homegrown tomato.