Easily Amused


The bottoms of all of the ‘Purple Calabash’ tomatoes are so bumpy and misshapen that they are morphing into cartoonish grumpy old man faces as they ripen and mature. Today a friend remarked that we are so programmed to accept perfectly smooth-shaped produce that people often refer to lumpy heirloom tomato varieties as “ugly.” We both agreed that it is their irregularity that makes them so beautiful much in the way that I can study the portrait of a grumpy old man’s face for hours because there is so much to see in every crease, bump, and scar.

Maybe tomatoes are not the best produce to illustrate my point because when push comes to shove I like most tomatoes, smooth, bumpy, pink, purple, or otherwise. I suppose it’s just that within a sea of uniformity unusual shapes and colors are fascinating. They taste better too! And maybe I grew up with enough of a certain kind of pop culture influencing my sense of taste that I just can’t resist the charm of anthropomorphic produce.

Today I traded some garlic and tomatoes from my garden for two tomatoes: a ‘Paul Robeson’ and an ‘Aunt Ginny’s.’ Another round of tomato testing is in order.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

9 thoughts on “Easily Amused

  1. For me, it isn’t the aesthetic of bumpyness, but the fear that someone or something might be living in one of the beautiful crevasses. I still grow them and eat them, but thats my story.

  2. Really the worst thing you would get in your tomatos is a wormy catappila thing- and at least u know if thsre is things living in it it hasnt been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. My nonno alwasy has giant deformed tomatos from his garden, they might look wierd but they make the best salad!

  3. Mmm, Paul Robeson is one of my favourites, I have four plants in my garden. Did you like it?

    I grew purple calabash last summer and was, indeed, very bumpy, not at all friendly for peeling and canning.

  4. I find things living in my produce quite regularly… It comes with the territory when gardening organically but those little caterpillars (and one time a teeny, tiny spider) are no big deal and can’t hurt anyone. Gardening here in Canada has got to be the safest place to garden in the world. There are no poisonous spiders and most insects are harmless. The worst thing would be for people who are allergic to bee stings.

    Amy: I haven’t tried the new tomatoes yet. We have more than I can keep up with right now. We just need to sit down and taste test without any pretense of using them in specific meals.

  5. I love the Paul Robeson tomatoes! They are the most reliable germinators, too. (I gave away about five plants this year because every seed germinated!)

  6. I’m growing purple calabash right now and love the ruffles. I have a few with the crazy bumps and almost drip looking parts on the bottom and while I find them adorable I was worried I was doing something wrong. I guess not! Now I can just enjoy how goofy they are.

  7. I always eat the bumps! Growing up we would laugh at how funny some of the tomatoes grew.

    That brought back a good memory.

  8. I always dunk these mishapen ones in a bowl of water and wait for an earwig to pop out. It’s the only insect that I am squeamish about.

  9. That is so true! My husband got 3 pounds of tomatoes for a dollar from a local roadside stand because no one wanted to buy the ‘ugly’ tomatoes. I idon’t get it, they taste as great as the ‘perfect’ ones.

Comments are closed.