Outside our kitchen window is a self sown tomato plant from last season's crop. It is struggling to survive the winter, a bedraggled reminder of a more glorious summer past.
Adding to its misery are the predation marks of a caterpillar but it has luck on its side. This winter has been mild by all accounts and thus far there have been no frosts to kill it off.
I have an empathy with this tomato plant as I too look somewhat bedraggled after being cooped up in the house for three solid days as the winter rains battered Auckland.
Dishevelled might be a better term, as I have not had a haircut since leaving Singapore in a vain attempt (pun intended) to have my hair longer during the winter months.
It is also interesting how hair behaves differently in tropical climates. In my own case while we were in Singapore it sat well and grew with alacrity. Here in New Zealand it does just the opposite, sticking out in all directions and proving almost unmanageable by brush. This I think is largely to do with the dryness of the atmosphere.
One thing about tomatoes is that they are good for you. This wasn't always realised as they are a member of the deadly nightshade family and were originally considered toxic, causing many conditions like appendicitis, “brain fever” and cancer.
According to a web source, tomatoes were not even eaten in the US until the early 1800s, when an eccentric New Jersey gentleman Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson brought them back from a trip overseas. Always one to take advantage of a dramatic opportunity, he announced an amazing display of courage would take place on September 26, 1820. He shocked his hometown of Salem by consuming and entire basket of tomatoes in front of a crowd of spectators, expecting him to keel over any second.
Maybe the longevity of the Japanese is due to a diet rich in tomatoes? Mind you, the supposed long life of the Japanese is now proving to be more myth than reality. Local authorities there are currently searching for the centenarians in their records as no one seems where they are?
The search was triggered when authorities in Tokyo went to visit a man they believed to be Tokyo's oldest at 111 years old, only to find he had been dead over 30 years. He is now listed as Tokyo's youngest mummy.