Tags: Audrey II, Brunswick stew secret ingredient, gardening as a practice in gaining poise, gnat in the stew, passive carnivory, sympathy for print journalists, tomato foliage, tomato leaves are a killer, tomatoes as carnivores
So it turns out we’re looking at a deadly thing here. A tomato leaf, to be precise. I knew I photographed it for a reason this summer, and not just because (which is my usual reason for photographing anything in the garden). It’s because I somehow intuited that this little, green, innocent-looking bit on the end of a stem is an integral part of a killing machine.
Apparently, tomatoes are now being considered by some as carnivorous plants, although they practice passive carnivory as opposed to active carnivory, a method which more closely resembles that picture I have in my head of Audrey II (the blood-drinking, man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors) when I hear the words “carnivorous plant.”
Tomatoes are covered in little hairs, leaves and all. (You can see an example of hairs on the stems here.)
Those tiny hairs serve as a trap for small insects, whose dead bodies then eventually fall to the ground, slowly decomposing and thus “feeding” the plant with organic material.
I thought it was a bit of a stretch to headline an article about it “Tomatoes can ‘eat’ insects,” as the London Telegraph did. But I guess newspapers have to do a lot of stretching to stay in business at all these days. I went a step farther with the title of my blog post in solidarity with the desperate journalists of this world.
And maybe a bit of mockery, too. I do sometimes get tired of black & white, childish reasoning and writing aimed at readers who never went beyond a sixth-grade level. I suppose I’m not the only one. But I did a stint as a managing editor at the college newspaper, so sympathy for those who ended up on that career path tends to win the day.
When I stumbled across this fascinating information, I had a sudden flashback to my grandmother standing at the stove, stirring a pot of Brunswick stew that smelled heavenly.
The kitchen windows were wide open because it was summertime and hot as hell in there. I was sitting on a high, backless stool looking out at the brow of the hill as the sun started to dip behind it and color everything peach and gold. A gnat was buzzing around my grandmother, and she casually swiped at it, and wouldn’t you know, it went and landed in the pot. I remember feeling a moment of horror as I saw it land, a fleck of black in all that rusty red, just next to a kernel of white corn floating on the surface.
She looked startled for just a second, then, rather than fish desperately for it (it disappeared virtually instantly), just shrugged and continued to stir, saying calmly, “And there’s a little more stew.”
Her eyes were a little mischievous, a little conspiratorial as they met mine over the pot’s rim.
Oh, I long to have that kind of poise when dealing with life’s little surprises. Maybe I’ll get there yet. Gardening is surely good training; don’t you think?