The Rush to Ripen


Over the holidays I shared a story with you about my grandfather’s Turkey Soup and the comfort that meal – and tradition – has afforded my family.

And over the past few weeks, as the weather has warmed, my thoughts have returned to my Papou and yet another epicurean ritual that proved to be about more than just food, this one involving his infamous garden of tomatoes.

I say garden, but as a child, these plants literally felt like a jungle, one that engulfed me with its aroma as I walked through. And walked through I did, because my grandfather’s tomatoes were meticulously planted in rows of 5-gallon buckets, placed on top of crates to keep out any critters tempted by the deliciousness they provided.

So the plants would literally tower over me when, twice a week, I visited my grandfather and was given the all-important task of helping him pick the tomatoes. Armed with a colander to act as a basket for my finds, I was taught the proper way to pluck them from their vines: not with a pull or a tug, but rather a twist that caused them to detach with the most minimal amount of effort.

Yet little did I know that one of the most important lessons I would learn in that garden would have nothing to do with tomatoes.

Because as my hands worked meticulously to fill my colander with my garden possessions, I’d be greeted at random with cautious orders from my grandfather:

Don’t touch that one.

It’s not ready.

Let it be.

Oh how frustrated this made me. Not only did I want to pile my colander high, assuming quantity mattered over quality, but the ones he always told me to let be were so close to being ready.

Patience, as a virtue, was certainly lost on me.

So when I returned on my next visit, the ones I was forced to leave behind were the first ones I’d seek out. Memorizing their location, some tucked deep in the vines, I’d investigate curiously to see how they had improved.

And sure enough, without fail, they were bigger. Redder. More aromatic. With just a few more days in the sun and left to rest, they had become an even better version of the beautiful fruit they were just days earlier.

I’m not sure why this experience has been so prominent in my mind’s eye lately, but it has me thinking about why we feel the need to rush a process that is meant to unfold naturally.

Why we don’t allow ourselves more rest, more sun, more patience to ripen.

Why we’re so tempted to pluck ourselves from one experience before it’s actually time.