killer

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?

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5 Responses to “killer”

  1. What a wonderful story about your grandmother! And I believe she would be proud of the woman you have turned out to be. Dealing with life’s little surprises with calmness and good humor – we could all take a lesson from that.

  2. I love how memories emerge like that – fully intact and rich and ripe with details. My mother always says, “We all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die.” The common sense approach to life is much less stressful…but I have to confess I would have been looking for the gnat 🙂

    • Oh, Talon, that made me laugh 🙂 I sometimes think being a farmer’s wife makes you much less stressed out by the “peck of dirt” in life. (And your mother is right. One of the reasons for our mineral deficiencies nowadays may be that we don’t eat any produce with dirt residue, because it’s so essential to wash it to be safe of food contaminants. Eating a little dirt may be good for us — although the thought of it makes me shudder.)

  3. “feed me, seymour, feed me!”

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