"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A father notes the process of building and growing his ideal garden.

The idea of how delicious a $64 tomato would taste makes me swoon a little in anticipation, so of course I had to read this book.

It’s quite funny. I found myself laughing in almost every chapter, as Alexander shares the joys, triumphs and frustrations of establishing a home garden.

Having grown up gardening and growing my own (award-winning) food as a child, I now find gardening books about as interesting as a book on dental work. Been there, done that and now will you please shut up about it since I had the sense to stop and you didn’t? I know how obsessive people get about their gardens, but hearing people talk about their gardens is, for me, like hearing old people talk about their ailments. They find it interesting but don’t know when to stop.
“People – all people, including me – have no objectivity when it comes to their driving, their cooking, or their gardens.”
Yet, despite their obliviousness, there is something special about a garden.

Alexander calls it correctly when he says,
“It seemed to say, “Come, bring me your seeds and water, and I will reward you.” And it would. And also humble me, and teach me, and become a place of solace, a battleground, a source of pride, a source of frustration, a time sink, a respite.”
Alexander chronicles his struggles with growing apples:
“Not only was I still trying to live up to the exemplar of my father’s organic apple orchard, but I am a natural-fibers, NPR-supporting, recycling, compost-making, left-of-center environmentalist, and I put my money where my mouth is, supporting local groups like Scenic Hudson to clean our rivers and curb development. Yet I was an environmentalist with a problem: I wanted to grow apples.
So when the serpent offered me the pesticide-sprayed apple,… I accepted it.”
Roses, herbs, his battles with a groundhog he calls Superchuck (think Caddyshack) and his beautiful $64 Brandywine tomatoes.

Way better than Coop but not as good as Animal Vegetable Miracle, this book is a nice companion for people who still wistfully look over the Burpee seed catalog, but sigh and instead head to the co-op or their CSA pick-up.

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