The Rear End

THE REAR END: It’s Raining Veg

the not-so-subtle art of declining your neighbor’s tomatoes

Mike Paulus

I appreciate the offer, but I do not need your extra tomatoes.

I don’t care how free they are. I don’t care how good they are this year. The homegrown-i-ness of your tomatoes will not sway me. We have enough. My wife purchased one tomato plant late last spring and it has produced fruit well beyond our mater-based needs and desires. Each morning, new bunches appear. They’re spilling onto the ground. I keep throwing them at my son for fun. He thinks it’s hilarious.

Please don’t be disappointed. I just don’t need any more vegetables in my life.

Keep your zucchini to yourself. You’re very kind, but if I wanted a zucchini (or 12) I’d just drive through town with my windows rolled down. People on every corner just chuck them into your moving car like cocky high school quarterbacks. This city drowns in zucchini. In every backyard, at every roadside farm stand, in every farmers market. Mountains of zucchini loom tall, casting the relentless shadow of nutrition.

Yes, Judy, I know how to make zucchini noodles. Everyone does. Say the word “zoodles” one more time, Judy. I dare you.

You grew your own hot peppers? Amazing. Here’s an award for Extra Special Achievement in Basic Gardening, now please sit down.

Yes, Judy, I know how to make zucchini noodles. Everyone does. Say the word “zoodles” one more time, Judy. I dare you.

mike paulus


You got some gorgeous string beans over there? Oh, yay! Buckets and buckets of carrots? Unbelievable! Let’s fill up a wading pool like a ball pit and let the neighbor kids go buck wild.

Hold up. You know how, in the autumn times, orchards and pumpkin patches have too many apples and pumpkins, so they build contraptions to blast or catapult their excess produce off into a field, and we pay them for a chance to do it? Let’s do that. Let’s a build a Gatling gun type thing … but for cucumbers.

We can charge people $10 for 10 seconds at the Cuke Cannon (Cumber-cast? Cuke-clear Warhead?) and just point it into the sky over downtown Eau Claire. If we ever have Summerfest again, this would take it to a whole new level.  Carnival at 10am, parade at 1pm, cucumber downpour at 2pm. And then, finally, our homegrown summer harvest would be fun.

Or maybe there’s a good place to donate extra food. If not, maybe we could make one. If it doesn’t violate too many ordinances.

Listen, growing your own food is great. I get it. And if you’re proud of your veggies, if you take pride in the literal fruits of your labor, don’t listen to me. Just go ahead and be proud. It takes time, attention, and effort. But also, I don’t need your tomatoes.

It kind of seems like backyard gardens are the next evolution in pandemic hobbies. Sure, vegetable tending was already a big(ish) thing, but a few months back, when we were still locked down, people dove into their yards with the same gusto they had last year when making sourdough bread and learning a second language. And bing-bang-boom, here we are in August with piles of vegetables.

I guess that’s good. As COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise, and things are getting pandemicy all over again, maybe canning can be the next trendy diversion. You can pickle just about anything. You can make and jar salsa using everything growing out back. You can brew up and freeze tomato sauce all day long. Maybe those gardens were a good investment in your future mental health, not to mention your, you know … health-health.

That said, I’m still good over here on the vegetable front. You can make your own zoodles. But thanks for your generous offer all the same.

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