I SUPPOSE IT DEPENDS on your point of view, but I believe that Kris’ tomato crop this season is impressive. Already she has dozens of tomatoes arranged on either side of the kitchen sink according to species, enough so that I made the mistake of presenting a couple of samples to our gardener as celebration of her efforts — which did not meet with Kris’ approval when I announced my generosity. Out of four varieties, only two plants have croaked, while the rest have produced impressive-looking results with dozens of tomatoes still in the growing stage.
But hardly good enough. Sometime during our east coast trip — we’re guessing — a characterless green tomato worm who had been jealously surveying Kris’ fine work made his way into the garden and (gasp) ate three of the ripest, reddest tomatoes. Now at first, we were ready to lay the blame at the clawed and furry feet of a particularly facile racoon who we already knew had a taste for our limited supply of oranges that grow down by the gate. But no, Kris has insisted, that there is the work of a green tomato worm (officially known as a Manduca quinquemaculata), kin to one of the same ruthless gang who gave up his life to me last year, me with my handy clippers.
Well, of course I smiled in acknowledgment, recalling that the disgusting creature bled an equally disgusting green. “Well,” she said, “tonight we’re gonna find and slay his miserable brother!” I meekly agreed to join in the hunt.
So this morning at 4:00 a.m., this to catch the marauder in the dark and in the act, we slipped out to the second terrace in the garden.
Some respect: Wearing only skivvies and a shirt, I thought it prudent to add a pair of loafers to protect my feet (prudence that was borne out when I hammered my right foot against a step out there in the darkness), and Kris chortled, saying that the worm, should he see me, would probably laugh himself to death. Great way to treat a team member.
Understand, I was taking Kris’ word that garden worms prefer to work in the dead or night, though I should add that my coup in last year’s fight was taken in the afternoon. Nevertheless, out we went, Kris with a flashlight and me with my trusty garden clippers (BTW, forget about photos of our adventure; you don’t want to know). As previously mentioned, I grievously stubbed my toe on the first step up the terrace while Kris plunged ahead, pushing through bushes and weeds (of the type approved and admired by our local horticulturists). There at the bottom of the first tomato plant lay the evidence: a brutalized red tomato with trails of half-eaten red tomato meat (for lack of a better word). But no culprit. Kris waved the flashlight beam up and down the plant, along with the one next to it, revealing no rampaging green worm, and she gave up the hunt then and there.
In a way, clippers in hand, I was a bit disappointed. There I was in my designer outfit and we were about to call it a day…or night. So we trudged back to the house, where we quite inadvertently managed to flush a hummingbird from a small tree. Kris invoked the names of a couple of deities as the confused small bird initially flew in her direction, crashed into a lighted window and then sailed off into the night.
Whar remains, we’re assuming, is that it’s a race against time: Does the illusive worm get the tomatoes or do we? How vigilant will we have to be to ensure a reasonable harvest? Will it be necessary to summarily go out there and collect everything prior to ripening? My vote is to do exactly that. Let’s starve the little bastard out!