2 min read

a garden in my memory

It was always sunny in my memory... and those tomatoes were the best tasting berries in the world.
Old Garden. Seattle, 2017. Photo by B&G
Old Garden. Seattle, 2017. Photo by B&G

I have a vivid memory of walking in the backyard garden of my grandfather's old house in a far away tropical island; of picking tomatoes the size of marbles, and popping those in my mouth. No one told me to wash them first, or to wash my hands first. I turned out all right! It was always sunny in my memory; the universe was perfect then, and those tomatoes were the best tasting berries in the world. I've been searching for that particular taste since I started gardening in 2014 without much luck.

I've been thinking on and off about this garden in my memory. What else were grown there? I remember there were long, slender, purple eggplants, but I could not remember what other crops were grown.  I tried to recall all the trees and shrubs that made up the large backyard. There was a pomegranate fruit tree by the main door, some sugar apple trees, a couple of old chico trees (sapodilla), some dwarf coconut trees; and a tamarind tree with a swing. There were several flowering pink oleander and jasmine bushes, some dwarf bambo clumps, and an old kalachuchi (frangipani) tree that is most fragrant at night. At the edge of the property next to the water were some mangrove trees that used to scare me silly because they were purported to be the homes of otherworldly creatures!

More recently, I ordered some heirloom tomatoes called Matt's Wild Cherry (via Johnny's). The tomatoes were described as small, deep-red, tender, smooth, and full-flavored. These tomatoes reportedly came from the state of Hidalgo in Eastern Mexico. Matt's Wild Cherry is an indeterminate type and can grow between 4-8ft. I have mine in a raised bed and it grew about three feet high and six feet wide. Matt's Wild Cherry when bright red is sweet. When eaten while still yellowish or orange in color, they were more tart than sweet. I was hoping this was the tomato from my childhood, but it wasn't. The fruits have the same look and feel, but the taste was different.

The search for that tomato from the old garden will be endless and undoubtedly futile. I know that no taste will ever be quite the same. Perhaps, there's no mystery here. That time and place are forever gone, there isn't even photographic proof that it once was a real place. That garden now exists only in one place. No taste can quite compare to that perfection in my memory.