Rebecca Finkel is spending a month on The Farm at St. Joe’s as part of her dietetic internship at the U of M’s School of Public Health. She regularly blogs about food culture and nutrition policy at www.thisamericanlocovore.blogspot.com. Born and raised in New York City, Rebecca is a greenhorn in the greenhouse.
I remember the first time I tasted a Sun Gold tomato. It was the first season I’d signed up for a CSA share and one week these magical little orange orbs appeared at the pickup site. They reminded me of cherry tomatoes, which didn’t care much for, so I momentarily considered swapping them for something else. Perhaps an extra bunch of rainbow chard, with its brilliant colors that always caught my eye. Or maybe an extra bunch of beets, that appeared to be dark and dull but stained everything they touched with a shocking magenta hue. Instead, I decided to sample one of the little tomatoes I was allotted.
That pint of Sun Golds never made it home. By the time I reached my house I’d eaten them all, leaving only the occasional little green stem to which a tomato had so tightly clung. I’d carelessly and mindlessly consumed my entire treasure.
I could never find these beauties in the stores. They made appearances at the farmer’s markets at exorbitant prices and I sometimes allowed my student self the splurge. Still, they never made it home.
When I arrived on the Farm at St. Joe’s, I was thrilled to see Hoophouse #2 filled with different varieties of tomatoes, including my beloved Sun Golds. When Dan asked Tiffany and I to harvest them I could barely contain myself. But as I entered the rows to pick them, I realized how sensitive and delicate they are. How few were actually perfectly ripe and how easily they split, rendering them unfit for market. I collected the imperfect ones and ate them throughout the day. Each time I popped one in my mouth I was treated to a surprisingly sweet burst of flavor.
At the end of the day there were still plenty to take home, and once home, I found myself not wanting to eat them. Each time I looked at the Sun Gold I thought about the time, the energy, the care that went in to picking them and I couldn’t carelessly pop them in mouth the way I had before. I had to slow down and ration them, respect them, give each one time to be savored and appreciated. I felt a new degree of connectedness with my food.
This first week on the Farm has been full of new lessons for me and over the course of the next month I look forward to sharing more of my experiences. Until then I will be enjoying the bounty. Slowly.