Of peppers, tomatoes, and people.

(Note:  I believe I have, in earlier blog entries, warned readers that, at times, I will go beyond music and address other things that affect the whole person, of which music is a part.  This is one of those posts.)

“Golden Treasure” mild banana peppers

As I spent time in the garden this morning, I got to my banana peppers and Wisconsin 55 tomatoes, and realized how their journey of growth is both a learning curve as well as a metaphor for my own life for me.  To explain this adequately to others, I need to go back a few years when I first decided to grow the peppers.  I planted them indoors when I thought I should based on basic pepper knowledge, transplanted them, and, two years in a row, got close to nothing.  I finally read up on them more and found that they only have a *chance* of bearing peppers eighty days after transplant.  EIGHTY.  That is a lot, in Wisconsin gardening terms. So I dealt with this issue in two ways, this year:  I started the seeds a few weeks earlier, indoors, and then I transplanted them as early as I could in May.  And it worked.  It took a few years to figure them out, but the failures of years past created informative lessons that showed me how I might be able to successfully grow this particular variety of pepper.

Wisconsin 55 tomato

Wisconsin 55 tomato

The tomatoes in our garden have had problems in past years, but this year has been particularly tough, likely because of a fungus that’s got them down. We planted four varieties.   This allows us to cultivate  different-tasting varieties of tomatoes, as well as to have a backup variety or two, in the event that something goes very wrong with some of them.

The sweetest and most colorful variety is the Gold Medal, which looks like a sunset:  beautiful vibrant yellow at the stem end that darkens to an orange at its middle, and red at its blossom end. The plants develop a few large fruits and they almost always go on sandwiches or in salads for fresh eating.  The Hillbilly Potato Leaf variety is similar to the Gold Medal, with the flavor not being as pronounced, the fruits not as large in size, but the plants producing bumper crops.

Every year we experiment with various red tomato varieties.  This year, we tried the Italian Heirloom, which produced huge oxheart fruits early in the season in such great number that it broke the plants. (Guess if we get that variety again next year, we’ll pinch off a few of those flowers.)  But, from the beginning, upon the advice of a long-time gardener, we have grown Wisconsin 55s.  This year, I have recognized a cycle that I perpetuate, and, really, I’m writing this as my reminder for next year.

This is how it usually goes:

1. We plant the seeds indoors.  All of the other varieties of tomatoes take off. The WI 55s are no shows.

2. I threaten to throw them out. They begin growing measly seedlings, in stark contrast to the other stalky seedlings. (And, yes, I realize they would grow at that time whether I threaten them or not.)

3. We transplant everything outside, covering them with bottomless pails, so they all get sun and rain but not too much wind.  Some plants croak, some look just fine, others look like they’re hanging on, but barely.  The WI 55s belong to that last group.

4. Because they look weak and had no fruits on them when everything else was taking off, I start to say, as I do every year with them, “I don’t know WHY I bother with this variety. The others are bigger, tastier, prettier, and they don’t dawdle like this.”

And then, every year, the Wisconsin 55 variety produces a modest crop of medium-sized tomatoes that are in fairly good condition.   Every year, this is the variety that is our rock. This year, it is the only variety that produced consistently healthy fruits.

When I realized this, I couldn’t help but realize that these tomatoes are like different kinds of people. They grow and develop much differently, and they set fruits on at different times. It doesn’t make one variety better or worse than another one, just different.  We are also like this. We have times in our lives when we seem almost dormant, times when we want to give up, or times when we don’t know what we are doing.  It’s okay.  All of those times are helping us learn more, gather more information, and develop a way to take the steps forward for growth into a new phase of our lives.  We need to have more trust in that and work on it so we get there in our own time, not some predetermined time that has been dropped on us. Keep growing, nurture the growth, and enjoy the journey!

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