On the very last day of October, I pull up the zucchini and tomato plants from my summer garden. The zucchini has been going strong for months – I’ve long since run out of new recipes and have resorted to stockpiling zucchini muffins in the freezer – but the season has shifted, as seasons do, and the once mighty leaves have finally given in to the inevitable fade of the sun’s light.
I yank on the thick stalk, expecting a fight, but the roots give up the earth easily, as if knowing they have done all they could. I understand now why people talk to plants. I want to say thank you for feeding us so well for so long.
The tomatoes are still growing, though their leaves are wilting too. There are a dozen or more green ones still on the vine; if this were August they’d be ripe next week. But it is the end of October, and the nighttime temps will fall into the 20s in the next few days. Their time has come as well.
Someone told me recently that when he was growing up, his mother would wrap the last of the green tomatoes in newspaper at the end of the season. She’d store them under her bed until the week before Thanksgiving and then let them ripen on the windowsill. That was fifty years ago, he said with a shrug, as if it might not work anymore.
But tomatoes haven’t changed all that much in fifty years, even if we have, and so I save as many as I can when I pull them up from the ground. (These roots come up easily as well; I am the one who isn’t ready.) I tuck them away in a box lined with newspaper, and hope for the best.