The Scent of Tomato
How would you describe the scent of tomato leaves?
Anyone who has grown a tomato will know what I mean. When we brush against the leaves of a tomato plant, a distinct scent wafts through the air; it gets on our clothes and on our hands. It stirs in our minds the anticipation of that first, red-ripe bite of garden-grown goodness.
In my mind, the scent of tomato leaves evokes words such as "earthy," "green," "fresh," "warm," "herbal", and "savory." Unmistakably...tomato-y! The scent alone, early in the season, is enough to trigger visions of tomato sandwiches... dancing in my head.
So it was interesting to read "What the Nose Knows by Heart," an article in The Washington Post last month. In it, writer DeNeen L. Brown noted the ways in which summertime scents evoke certain memories from our lives. They might be good memories (the scent of watermelon, for example, reminding us of spitting seeds from the front porch), or they might be bad ones (like bug spray... and perhaps the terrible recollection of all those bites you got on a camping trip).
But how is it that we are able to recall these particular scents?
Here's an interesting quote from the article: "It has long baffled scientists who wonder how people remember smells despite the fact that 'each olfactory neuron in the epithelium' lives about 60 days."
Only 60 days?! So if the cells that enable us to remember certain scents die every 2 months, then how is it that we can recall our favorite scents?
I don't know how it all works, but I'm glad it does. On a blustery cold winter day, I'll be able to remember that warm, savory scent of tomato leaves. And with it, the pleasant memory of my summer garden.
Read the article: What the Nose Knows by Heart: Summertime Scents Make Memories -- Sweet or Not -- for a Lifetime, The Washington Post, August 17, 2006.