The Via Negativa of Storage Tomatoes


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Via negativa mystics tend to stand out among a crowd by the prominent halos that they wear!


Many sages and religious mystics, though their quest be union with Ultimate Reality, end up, even after a lifetime of searching, quite unable to describe the object of their desire.  They realize that the divine is so much greater than the human power to imagine it, and although that may seem like a frustrating way to end a life of effort, they do appear to have won at least one worthwhile prize from their strivings; they are usually able to say quite clearly what is not God.  This is what spirituality writers call the via negativa or the way of negation.  By negating what they know cannot be called the divine (either because it is too limited or too contradictory to what the divine has to be by its nature as Divinity), they propel themselves onward in their journey to truth.

One of the things I am questing after, besides blissful union with the divine, is a tomato that can outlast the first frost, and this year I tried a storage tomato offered by Territorial Seed Company called Golden Treasure.  I was lured on by the catalog’s promise: “One of the best storage tomatoes we’ve found, and worth keeping for its delicious flavor. When picked green the 2 1/4-2 1/2 inch fruit will be golden and ripe within 1-1 1/2 months, and then will store another 1 1/2-3 months longer!”

I salivated over the possibility of enjoying a tasty, home-grown tomato in December, perhaps even January.  That would indeed be a divine revelation!  Well, after one season’s try I am sorry to report that this tomato is nowhere near what I would consider Storage Tomato Ultimate Reality.  It wasn’t that it didn’t have merits.  I was impressed with the yield….astonishing, actually, and I was hard-pressed to find enough room to put all the tomatoes I had picked green (in early October).  Shortly thereafter, however, over half of those tomatoes began to show signs of late blight, and soon their blackened skin and smell were unpleasant if not downright sickening.  So I culled a goodly number of the fruit and lamented that much less crop.



Guess which is the blighted storage tomato…and to think that when I harvested these toms, they were both an innocent pale yellow.  It makes me wonder if the spots on the right-hand one are signs of more blight ready to destroy my built-up hope of a good-tasting January tomato.


When I first harvested the fruit, most of which I took not completely green but with a little yellow to the skin, I cut a few open to try.  I was amazed to find that the inside seemed completely flavorful and ripe, while the outer skin remained thick and crunchy.  I mused that as time went on, the outside would slowly soften until I had in my hand a golden, thin-skinned, perfectly ripe tomato.  Thus far my regular taste-tests have proved otherwise – the skin is still objectionably hard, not really showing any sign of moving toward tenderness.

So I think, in the tradition of the via negativa mystics, I am going to have to say that although I do not know how far one can go with storage tomatoes and whether or not they can truly match field-ripened ones, this cannot be what is meant by a good eating tomato.  Perhaps Golden Treasure is good for pickling and chutney, as green tomatoes in general are, and perhaps it is especially good for those uses.  I will try them that way if the skin doesn’t thin up any more by mid-December, but I am also prepared to move on and continue my search.  For although I do not yet know what is a good storage tomato, I do think I know what is bad.  As the via negativa mystics might say: not this, not this, not this.


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