By Kira Hamman
Canaan Valley, West Virginia
I have yet to meet anyone from West Virginia over the age of reason who does not know how to grow tomatoes.
Although this may be sampling error, since most of the people I know come from the same tiny, unincorporated town in which my family’s old homestead is located, I don’t think so.
I think it’s just part of the genetic code of West Virginians, who in spite of (or maybe because of) the national bigotry frequently directed at them are incredibly strong, self-reliant people. And what’s the point of self-reliance if you still have to buy your tomatoes at Kroger?
It’s not that everyone actually does grow their own tomatoes. It’s just that they could, and the fact that they could is unremarkable to them, like being able to comb your own hair or fold your own socks. Sure, you might get lazy and toss the socks into a drawer unfolded, but it’s not because you don’t know how to fold them.
You’re not overwhelmed by the task, or by the possible consequences of doing it wrong. You just don’t feel like it right now.
And this is cool, this no-big-deal attitude. In a time when entire books are written about a single aspect of growing food, it is frankly refreshing to talk to people who can prune, stake, fertilize and water with one hand while holding a cigarette in the other, supervising a toddler, and carrying on a conversation about the upcoming presidential election.
And I say this as someone whose first reaction to any new situation is to read a book about it. As someone who writes such things for a living, actually.
We could use a little more of this ho-hum attitude about gardening, in my opinion. Gardening as just another part of life. Gardening as no big deal. I’m not against the books, oh no. But let’s be honest: if growing tomatoes were akin to brain surgery, we would never have made it this far as a species.