Guest commentary: La Jolla neighbors and tomato plants bring joy in troubled times

A tomato plant grown by one of four neighbors on Inverness Drive in La Jolla who competed in a friendly contest.
(Courtesy of Maria Bauz)

For four neighbors living on Inverness Drive in La Jolla, quarantine did not hinder their ability to seek avenues of creativity. Inverness Drive has an array of culture, longtime residents and a deep spirit of community — spirit that could not be broken by quarantine or low supplies of toilet paper.

It is a time for creativity, friendship, optimism and growing cherry tomato plants! Yes, you read it correctly. Growing cherry tomatoes.

How does the story begin and where did these beautiful plants come from? A few weeks back, one neighbor received a tomato plant from a dear friend. She planted her tomato plant in her front yard with sunshine and optimism as her guide. Another neighbor had grown three starter plants from seeds that came from a single tomato from last year’s harvest. She gave two neighbors a plant each, keeping one for herself. Now all four neighbors had starter plants.

Bound and determined to grow the best and most delicious cherry tomatoes in San Diego County, a race was started among the four neighbors on Inverness Drive.

The plants were all the same size, but the neighbors were not quite sure if they were the same species of tomato plant. That really did not matter to any of them. All that mattered was that the excitement of a race was taking place out in the sunshine, occasional breeze, maybe some misty weather and the camaraderie that the anticipation of a harvest was approaching.

There were some ground rules: All the tomato plants had to be planted in the front yard so that each participant could easily verify the competitors’ harvests. They all used the same fertilizer, no bug spray and no professional gardeners. The race began, pictures were taken, texts were sent and families bragged about who they thought would prevail.

The plants look great, and cherry tomatoes are rapidly filling the vines! Some have ripened and proved to be very sweet.

As for the winner, does it really matter? The joy continues through the summer months, with many texts, photos, virtual cocktail hours seated next to one’s plant and a hope that this will be the symbol of healthier years to come.

Today, what started as a simple race aimed at taking our minds off the uncertainties that life has presented has possibly evolved into an annual tradition, reminding us that life continues to move forward no matter what the circumstances.

To my neighbors, thank you for the joy you bring to my life.

Maria Bauz is a La Jolla resident and executive director of Bauz IP Law.