5 Lessons Learned from My Volunteer Tomato Plant

For me, 2015 was a year for ignoring things I didn’t know how to handle. I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen into this pattern, but if you have, you know how dangerous it can be. If you ignore the kind of soft looking pumpkin on the counter, for instance, you wind up with a rotten, oozy pumpkin that’s dripping onto the carpet. If you ignore the slowly draining water in your bathroom, you wind up with a clogged sink.

But occasionally, you also wind up with a bumper crop of tomatoes.

I had a plant appear in my flower bed last spring. I wasn’t sure what it was. I knew I hadn’t planted anything, but it didn’t look like a weed. Rather than research the leaves or pull it up, I just ignored it.

Then it started to look like a tomato plant. And I thought, hey! I should water this thing and maybe I’ll get some tomatoes. But I kind of forgot about the plant. Then one day in mid- to late summer, it flowered. Yep, yellow flowers, just like a tomato plant. I was right! It wasn’t a weed!

It took awhile, but then it started to grow tomatoes in early fall. I waited with interest to see how big they would get. They stayed cherry sized, and green for a long time before some of them started to get red. I picked a few here and there, but kept waiting for there to be a larger number to pick at once.

And I can’t say when it happened, but this plant kind of took over the flower bed. It got taller than the rose bushes and draped itself over them, intertwining its arms. And in my stressful, overwhelmed life, I let it do its thing. Big surprise there.

But there came a weekend in October when I was having guests and I knew I needed to get rid of the plant. It was heavy with tomatoes by this point, most of them green, but I knew frosts were approaching and that the mess the plant was making wasn’t very welcoming. So I dismantled the huge monster and harvested tomatoes at the same time. I froze 25 bags of tomatoes and lost a great many more because I couldn’t get to them all before they went bad on my counter.

I’d never seen anything like it! Such a proliferation of fruit all from one plant! But I did learn quite a bit from my monster tomato plant that day, and in reflecting on it since, I hope these lessons will shape me in the coming year.

  1. Things don’t simply go away because you ignore them – Obvious, right? But when I get stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to avoid dealing with things and pretend like they’ll just get better if left alone. Very seldom does this approach actually work, and usually things just get worse. I pray I’ll be better this year at facing my problems head on.
  2. Adversity can make you stronger (given the right circumstances). Through a hot, dry summer, this tomato plant had to try and survive without help from me, without extra water, without extra nutrients in the soil. The nursery plants I had nurtured in pots all died. But the plant just got stronger. The central stalk was around the size of a dime (or more!) in diameter and it yielded much fruit. I pray that I will let God grow me stronger in the hard times, rather than withering away and dying, so that I may bear much fruit in Him.
  3. Waiting until something is “perfect” isn’t necessary. I wanted to wait until there was a whole plant full of ripe fruit. But the more I waited, the more green tomatoes cropped up. I ended up harvesting a lot of green tomatoes. This didn’t fit my perfect plan, but it’s been amazing because I’ve been savoring the zingy, sharp taste of green tomatoes in the many good recipes I’ve found. May I stop trying to be perfect, and instead let God use what I am now, imperfections and all.
  4. Starting a job is not finishing a job. Just because I hacked the plant to pieces and got every single tomato inside didn’t mean my job was done. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, but didn’t follow through on cooking them soon enough, so that I lost a good many to rot. May I follow through on the jobs I start in the coming year.
  5. Free stuff is awesome. Ok, lots less spiritual, but every time I pull a bag of tomatoes from my freezer, I get to enjoy having a free gift that just grew up without my having to work for it. And I guess that’s actually the most spiritual of all because it’s a reminder that God’s gifts of grace and salvation are always completely free. I can’t do anything to earn them or make them grow more. They are already the biggest and best they can be. All I can do is open the door and allow them to come in.

Have you ever learned an important lesson from a totally unexpected place?

5 Lessons Learned from My Volunteer Tomato Plants

Bethany is a contributing writer for Whole Intentions. She's new to the adventure of whole eating. Originally a skeptic, one day whole food clicked for her. She takes a common sense approach to whole eating; essentially, if God made it that way, why mess with it? Though she'd love to raise a family, bees, and goats on a homestead somewhere, Bethany is single and lives in a tiny condo on the edge of Nashville where she's just starting to work on this thing called adulthood, and what a "whole life" built around God actually looks like. She's learned though that whole living and eating are possible even in the big city and loves to share how it's possible. Bethany blogs about her journey with whole living, eating, faith, and singleness at bethanyrossbrown.com.

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