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Wednesday, 11 July 2007 00:00

Tomatoes really can save the world

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I am a firm believer that the world would be a much better place if everyone just grew tomatoes.

This thought came to me the other night; I was making pizza for the family and wished I had some fresh tomatoes to slice for the topping. Earlier that day I was working in the garden admiring my tomato plants, the small green fruits were no larger than golf balls, and I was already anticipating the harvest of my first juicy, red ripe tomato.

Imagine the health savings if people just spent more time cultivating tomatoes. Stress and anxiety would flow down your neck and shoulders and right out your finger tips as you worked ... sorry, bad word ... as you caressed your plants after a hard day of dealing with cranky kids, annoying co-workers, or just plain too many demanding people.

Your blood pressure would be like that of a marathoner. Sleep aids, won’t need them anymore — sweet dreams of tomato sandwiches will fill your head. And gentlemen, for your information the tomato was once referred to as “the love apple,” a fruit with such aphrodisiacal powers that it would ... well, lets just say with names like Big Boy, Whopper and Big Beef ... I think you get the picture.

If parents could coax their children away from the virtual babysitter — the Xbox, the PS3, or the Wii — and show them where ketchup comes from, the world would be a better place. If dust collects on a video game that’s not a sign of poor housekeeping, but a sign of good parenting.

Growing tomatoes may not make us smarter, but they can teach us patience, and with patience comes wisdom. For that reason alone they should be planted outside every courthouse in Western North Carolina. Then the next time one of the county commissioners feels the urge to say, or do, something foolish, they could go outside and tend to the tomato plants until the urge passes.

If someone starts to argue slope ordinance you could counter with your praise of Pink Brandywine. Disgust of traffic circles and barriers becomes discussions on the virtues of growing Better Boys. The building moratorium transforms into building momentum for the classic red yellow Mr. Stripy. The Cherokee casino comes up lemons to heirloom favorite Cherokee Purple, the Road to Nowhere stops at the mention of Roma, Early Girl, and Beefsteak.

Gas prices would plummet and traffic backups at I-40 and I-26 would vanish, people would be driving less all the while staying home to care for their tomatoes. Merchants in downtown Waynesville and Sylva would feel the crunch; Wal-Mart stock would drop and Dick Cheney would come clean and disclose that he grows German Johnson pinks in the White House Rose Garden.

Just think, if all of the troubled spots in the world would lay down their weapons, put aside their bombs and pick up a tomato plant the world would be a better place.

No more conflict, fighting or wars, fresh and canned tomatoes would cure disease, end world hunger and create hope in impoverished nations. The streets of Ghost Town would be peaceful once again as gunslingers would share bites of ‘mater sandwiches.

But what if growing tomatoes wasn’t the answer to a better world? What if the plastic-culture, synthetic-fertilizing, petroleum-dependent commercial tomato growers started to mock and ridicule the heirloom-growing, seaweed-composting, beneficial-insect spreading organic tomato growers?

What if out of state land developers — who don’t understand or care about our mountain heritage and culture — came in and bought up, subdivided and built gated communities on our vanishing agricultural farm land, replacing our tomatoes with crepe myrtles, pampas grass and expensive homes?

What if the Food and Drug Administration reported that the claims of tomatoes as an aphrodisiac were false and misleading? Could middle-aged men ever set foot in the garden again without feeling betrayed?

Friends, don’t get discouraged. Don’t “what if” yourself into growing cabbage or onions — there’s no peace in that — tomatoes are still the answer. Life is full of challenges; think positive. It’s hard work making the world a better place, but together, with the right tomato and the proper soil, I think we are up to the task.

I will do my part, will you?

(When David Curtis isn’t tending to his tomatoes he teaches middle school biotechnology in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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