Thursday, April 24, 2008

The $64 Tomato

The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

In this hilarious gardening memoir, we learn the perils of deer, groundhogs, grubs, weeds, and those ever present squirrels to the garden. Alexander began his gardening hobby in his late 20s when wanting some fresh produce not available to the locale off the coast of Florida where he lived at the time.

This began his lifelong obsession with gardening including all things vegetable, floral, and fruit. His Hudson Valley home in New York possessed an expansive back yard which he and his wife had visions of turning into a delightful kitchen garden. As they engage various contractors to complete the work, they learn some of the perils of the hired contractor market such as shoddy work, over pricing, and late arrivals or not arriving at all to perform work.

Eventually they have a workable garden and are able to proceed with planting large quantities of vegetables including many herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, potatoes, corn, apple trees, and flowers among others. They quickly learn that not only does the soil produce and nurture the desired vegetables but also a vast array of weeds which require lots and lots of repeated work to remove. The vegetables provide tasty accompaniments to their meals and allow them the ability to add ingredients to recipes within minutes of coming out of the garden.

He faces other creatures who like the vegetables such as deer and groundhogs and resorts to putting up electric fencing to help keep them out. He also has some interesting adventures in his quest to remain organic and still keep out the bugs and resourceful squirrels from his apple orchard. Eventually he breaks down and begins using pepper spray as well as netting which encompasses the entire tree. One especially funny episode occurs when a groundhog he names Superchuck takes up residence and is able to get past the electric fence and munch on the tasty Brandywine tomatoes at his leisure. Alexander resorts to numerous measures to trap or prevent Superchuck from having repeated meals in his garden. Check out an excerpt of the adventures at

The name of the book comes from a cost analysis he performs to determine how much they've spent over the years to support the gardening habit. With Brandywine tomatoes being a favorite from the garden, he decides to itemize the cost for each tomato for a particular year and comes up with $64 per tomato.

Whether you're an enthusiastic gardener, full time farmer, or just enjoy a good humorous read, you're sure to enjoy The $64 Tomato.

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