12 APR 2018: One of the things I love about our profession is the people we meet and the stories they tell. Take my clients Jean and Chris, who are from South Africa, and who have a home on a game ranch. (“game” as in lions and giraffes and antelope, not “game” as in Candy Crush)

I had met them for lunch one day for a “debrief” on a trip they had taken. At the end of that trip they had driven cross-continent from LA to Toronto. Jean and Chris enjoy those cross-continent drives: Chris is a geologist by trade, and he’s always pointing out different features on the route, and how they came to be.

Jean commented on some of the small towns in which they had stopped. Towns where everything is deep-fried, and when she asked for an heirloom tomato salad they looked at her as though she had fallen on her head.

“And you can’t even get heirloom tomatoes in Toronto,” she complained.

Well, actually you can.

“I grow them” I said

Chris perked up, “Wherever can I get seeds?” he asked

“From me.” I said

(Stick with me on this – this is travel-related, believe it or not!)

Several years ago my ever-loving and I visited San Francisco. While we were there we took a stroll through the Old Ferry Building, now converted to a wonderful farmer’s market, and in one of the stalls we bought heirloom tomatoes. Big knobbly purple and yellow and orange and green ones that smelled as a tomato should (not like the rubber bullets we see in the local supermarkets). We took them to a table overlooking the Bay, and ate them like apples, saving the seeds in paper napkins.

When we returned to Toronto we dried the seeds out and planted them in our garden.

And they sprouted and grew and we had to construct a chicken-wire cage in order to keep the racoons out of the tomato bed. It was that eternal battle of wits, man against raccoon.

Well, when Chris and Jean flew back to South Africa (I told you this was travel-related!), they had heirloom seeds in a baggie (different people carry different things in a baggy – they carried heirloom tomato seeds).

Back on the ranch Chris found a suitable place and he and his gardener prepared a bed for the tomatoes.

Being a geologist, he worked to get the pH of the soil right, and they aerated the soil and fertilized it, and planted the seeds, spacing them carefully so the roots would have space to develop.

They watered the plants and watched them grow.

They nipped the buds to promote strength in the plants

They put tomato cages around them to support them.

And the plants grew and prospered under the African sun, Californian expats (via Canada, of course) in a new continent.

Then they began to flower, and the flowers eventually wilted, and the tomatoes formed and swelled and took shape and colour.

And eventually one day Chris came inside and pronounced that they would be able to harvest some tomatoes the next day.

The next day they went out to find that the tomato patch had been invaded by animals. The plants had been pulled up and trampled and all the tomatoes had been eaten.

By elephants!

Elephants!

I swear I will never again complain about raccoons.

I told you we meet interesting people in our trade!

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Derrick Bloch

A regular contributer to Travel Industry Today, Derrick has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 80 travel agents in North America. 

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