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The $64 Tomato
Synopses & Reviews
William Alexander had a simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard in his backyard. It was a dream that would lead to life-and-death battles with groundhogs, webworms, and weeds; midnight expeditions in the dead of winter to dig up fresh thyme; skirmishes with neighbors who feed the vermin (i.e., deer); the near electrocution of the tree man; and the pity of his wife and children.
When Alexander decided to run a cost-benefit analysis, adding up everything from the Havahart animal trap ($60) to the Velcro tomato wraps ($5) to the steel edging ($1,200), then amortizing it over the life of his garden, it came as quite a shock to learn that it cost him a staggering $64 to grow each tomato.
A gardener with an existential bent, Alexander gives excellent advice about everything from peaches to leeks, while tackling such questions as What do our gardens tell us about ourselves? Do we get the gardens we deserve? And why does the groundhog have to take one bite from half a dozen tomatoes when any gardener would gladly grant him six bites of just one?
"Indeed, the book is one long horticultural midlife crisis, or else Genesis: The Sequel — what would have happened had God decided to employ Adam as a gardener and transmuted Eve's lust into a predilection for bottling fruit. At one point Alexander wonders, 'Am I becoming my garden, or is my garden becoming me?' It is a question that will resonate with many gardeners." Tim Richardson, The Washington Post
"An amusing compilation of do's and don'ts for aspiring gardeners afflicted with hubris." Kirkus Reviews
Bill Alexander had no idea that his simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard in his backyard would lead him into life-and-death battles with groundhogs, webworms, weeds, and weather; midnight expeditions in the dead of winter to dig up fresh thyme; and skirmishes with neighbors who feed the vermin (i.e., deer). Not to mention the vacations that had to be planned around the harvest, the near electrocution of the tree man, the limitations of his own middle-aged body, and the pity of his wife and kids. When Alexander runs (just for fun!) a costbenefit analysis, adding up everything from the live animal trap to the Velcro tomato wraps and then amortizing it over the life of his garden, it comes as quite a shock to learn that it cost him a staggering $64 to grow each one of his beloved Brandywine tomatoes. But as any gardener will tell you, you can't put a price on the unparalleled pleasures of providing fresh food for your family.
Who knew that Bill Alexander's simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard would lead him into life-and-death battles with webworms, weeds, and a groundhog named Superchuck? Over the course of his hilarious adventures, Alexander puzzles over why a six-thousand-volt wire doesn't deter deer but nearly kills his tree surgeon; encounters a gardener who bears an eerie resemblance to Christopher Walken; and stumbles across the aphrodisiac effects of pollen when he plays bumble bee to his apple blossoms.
When he decides (just for fun) to calculate how much it cost to grow one of his beloved Brandywine tomatoes, he comes up with a staggering $64. But as any gardener knows, you can't put a price tag on the rewards of homegrown produce, or on the lessons learned along the way.
About the Author
William Alexander, the author of two critically acclaimed books, lives in New York's Hudson Valley. By day the IT director at a research institute, he made his professional writing debut at the age of fifty-three with a national bestseller about gardening, The $64 Tomato. His second book, 52 Loaves, chronicled his quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread, a journey that took him to such far-flung places as a communal oven in Morocco and an abbey in France, as well as into his own backyard to grow, thresh, and winnow wheat. The Boston Globe called Alexander "wildly entertaining," the New York Times raved that "his timing and his delivery are flawless," and the Minneapolis Star Tribune observed that "the world would be a less interesting place without the William Alexanders who walk among us." A 2006 Quill Book Awards finalist, Alexander won a Bert Greene Award from the IACP for his article on bread, published in Saveur magazine. A passion bordering on obsession unifies all his writing. He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition and at the National Book Festival in Washington DC and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times op-ed pages, where he has opined on such issues as the Christmas tree threatening to ignite his living room and the difficulties of being organic. Now, in Flirting with French, he turns his considerable writing talents to his perhaps less considerable skills: becoming fluent in the beautiful but maddeningly illogical French language.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Gentleman Farmer 1
Whore in the Bedroom, Horticulturist in the Garden 3
We Know Where You Live 21
One Mans Weed Is Jean-Georgess Salad 47
No Such Thing as Organic Apples 75
You May Be Smarter, But Hes Got More Time 96
Nature Abhors a Meadow (But Loves a Good Fire) 131
Shell-Shocked: A Return to the Front (Burner) 146
Christopher Walken, Gardener 162
Cereal Killer 186
Statuary Rape 208
Harvest Jam 220
The Existentialist in the Garden 238
The $64 Tomato 247
Childbirth. Da Vinci. Potatoes. 256
Suggested Reading 269
Recipes for the Paperback Edition 271
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