V is for vegetable.
If you live on a farm, even live in the country, you've probably grown a few vegetables. And you understand that zucchinis are the most shared vegetable ever, green peas are the biggest bargain in the supermarket, carrots really grow funny if you live in rocky soil, and tomatoes are the most aggressive vegetable in the garden.
Ahh...memories of summer days. The list on the refrigerator door always included "Hoe a row in the garden." I won't fess up to what passed for hoeing a row, but if we'd had a lawn mower, it would have been tempting.
At some point, hoeing became futile. Yep. Impossible. The cucumbers and the beans and the tomatoes sprawled across the landscape, threatening to obliterate any view remaining of actual garden dirt. Now, that was a good thing, but that was a bad thing too.
Because when you're done hoeing for the year, it was because it was time to start picking for the year. It started early enough, and continued until the cows came home--or as was more often the case, until the frost came.
Tomatoes used to be like that, you know. They just grew and grew and grew, "indeterminate" space-raiders that they were. And the thing about tomatoes is that every so far along a tomato vine, it will set a whorl of leaves and stems AND blossoms--which turn into fruit. Starting at the oldest part of the plant (the bottom near the ground) and then it continues in this manner until it's autumnal demise.
So, if you planted a tomato, it would provide fresh, ripe tomatoes for a couple of months. Here is where necessity (by canneries) bred a whole new type of tomato plant. Canneries with farms had a very labor-intensive crop in their fields. They had workers picking a few tomatoes from the same plants day after day, weeeek after week...you get the idea.
But...what if they had a tomato plant that produced all of its tomatoes at the same time? And they all ripened at the same time? And then...drum roll...they would be efficient. You could harvest an entire field, turn it over and be done with it. You could apply treatments aimed at a specific stage of plant maturity--to a whole field and not worry about damaging a later crop on the same plants. Maybe...why stop with the tomato. How about pole beans and those sprawling cucumbers. Maybe---you could even utilize machinery to help you pick.
Thus the "determinate" "bush" tomato variety was born. And pole beans fell out of style, were relegated to the title of heirloom, and replaced by bush beans. Same with the cucumbers.
What the researchers and canneries won't tell you is that while in breeding out the propensity to sprawl--to grow endlessly, they also bred out a great deal of the flavor.
Those "heirloom" varieties are incredible. Try one if you get the chance.
And, those bush varieties promoted by the few, mega-conglomerates that own the major seed companies, are leading us toward an agricultural disaster. Diversity is key to survival.
It's getting awfully shallow in the seed gene pool. If you plant...grow an heirloom or two.