The $64 Tomato

Published By: Algonquin Books

Book Category: Fiction,

Reviewed by Linda Lee

Subtitled: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden

His wife’s insistence on an old fixer-upper of a house means the author can have the garden, orchard, and even meadow he’s always dreamed. Once the house is livable—and everyone in town knows it has to be repaired to be livable—the owners start on the grounds. Landscape contractors, who are always late and leave their backhoe to winter in the author’s yard, promise a garden to be proud of—and then bring plans for some very ordinary rectangles.

Not to be daunted, Alexander picks heirloom plants to grow his produce. He is determined to have the same fruit and experiences he remembers from his father’s gardening. Organic gardening should be easy when he has only four trees and a small garden. He can pluck off the hungry worms and organically protect his crops from predators of all types.

After learning how much time is involved in using the organic bug sprays—first you find the caterpillar, then you spray him—how much it costs to put in something other than grass walkways, and that some animals are not deterred by six thousand volts, he gets down to serious gardening.

His wife and children begin to question his sanity. His plants don’t always grow the way he expected. Who knew growing roses would kill the corn? Sitting down to calculate the cost of his succulent heirloom tomatoes gives him a jolt he thought he’d only get from his electric fence. Did his dad really do it this way? Had he been hoodwinked about how much fun this all was? When did the hobby become a second job?

You needn’t be a gardener to enjoy the humor in this book. The history of tomatoes and potatoes, and insights on the Anasazi Indians thrown in with ridding the garden of Superchuck, the groundhog, is true fun for the reading. Cultivated entertainment.

Armchair Interview says: Humor and hoeing, planting and waiting, bugs and bug sprays flow together to give you an enjoyable read.

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