Teeth.

The Tomato Chronicles, part 4.

Stump of a bitten off tomato seedling

Once there were three. That green line in the center of the picture is what's left of a seedling.

Horror stories are everywhere. The world full of dangers, especially if you can’t get away. Say, for example, that you’re a very young plant, with no way to perceive danger and no way to dodge anyhow.

As April drizzled on, New Jersey had occasional sunny, warm days – good weather for seedlings. I put the baby tomatoes outside whenever there was enough light and enough warmth. They kept on growing – I only lost two or three to “damping off”, a dread disease that causes seedlings to shrivel away to limp little threads.

But one afternoon, when I brought them back indoors, something was terribly wrong with several pots. Where there were strong, leafy plants in the morning, now there were only inch-long stems. Toothmarked stems.

I don’t know what was guilty. A squirrel? We have lots of those. A rabbit? I haven’t seen many this year, but there are always some. Maybe even a duck, wandering uphill from the lake? A predator, anyhow. Everything’s hungry. And normally I would side with the being who has a nervous system. But I meant to eat these plants, or at least their fruit.

Since then, the tomatoes have stayed in. When the weather’s warmish, I open the windows instead to let them experience unblocked sunlight and breezes. Am I overprotective? Maybe, but none of them have been chewed up lately. This horror story has a happy ending, so far.

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