Tomato vs Tomato


When I was 5 years old, I used to pull a stool up to the stove at my grandma’s house, open a package of bacon, start the stove, and begin frying the bacon.  I was always in trouble because using the stove without my parent’s supervision was not allowed.  I think my parents and grandma were more surprised that I knew exactly what to do.  I could hardly tie my shoe but I knew what to do with bacon.

The sizzling sounds and smells of cooking make me happy. It is my favorite thing to do, especially with fresh ingredients.  My grandma taught me how to cook, but I wanted to know more so my parents signed me up for a summer cooking camp for kids! We learned all about growing and using fresh ingredients and vegetables for meals.

At camp we learned the differences between store bought and home grown tomatoes.  Sometimes you can’t tell the difference because they sort of look the same.  The only difference might be the little sticker on the store bought ones that point out it’s from Florida.

For my first camp project, I wanted to grow tomatoes. Dad helped me find a good spot with plenty of sunlight to have a garden. We tested the soil to make sure that it was healthy for food to grow. At camp, I learned that rotting kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and worms make great natural compost, which is the fertilizer the tomatoes need to grow.  I didn’t use store bought chemical fertilizer because I wanted to grow them naturally.   We built a raised bed and watered the plants daily.  It took almost 7 weeks for them to grow! They weren’t super bright red or big. Some had streaks of purple.  Most didn’t look as nice as the store bought ones.

Then, I noticed a difference one night while making the spaghetti sauce for dinner and using our tomatoes. Cutting into it, I noticed it was fleshier and juicier. When tasting the sauce, it was sweeter and it brought out the flavor of the spices that we added too. This never happened when making sauce with the store bought tomato.  It usually tastes more watery and mild.

Growing your own food is hard work but it is fun.  My dad was happy too because he saved money by growing them instead of buying them! Carrots are next.

Fourth-grader Naima attends a Montessori school in Chicago’s northwest side. She enjoys cooking experiments and is visiting Rick Bayless’s garden in the summer.

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