The Scent of Tomato

Friday, September 08, 2006

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking just about this subject today as I tended my tomato garden.

Beautiful photos.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Loretta said...

I looooooooove the smell of tomato foliage. So divine! I think there are some candles wit this scent- Votivo makes one, I think?

4:19 PM  
Blogger David (Snappy) said...

I love the musky smell of Tomato plants, brushed past.Lavender for me evokes summer.The smell of freshly cut grass in spring childhood.I have grown to like geranium leafs which smelt like cats wee before but is more pungent now!How do we remember smells after sixty days?

6:26 PM  
Blogger ~~ Melissa said...

I've always used the word 'spicey' to describe the scent of tomatoes. I think they come with built in instructions about how they'd best be cooked!

8:02 AM  
Blogger Carol Michel said...

I love the smell of tomatoes, and that 1st hint of it in early spring when I'm thinning out the tomato seedlings.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos, Christa, and I'm totally with you on the scent of tomato leaves. Thanks for this post -- it's a good pick-me-up on a rainy evening.

The Inadvertent Gardener

9:46 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

You are so right, Even my non-gardening 20-something son says he loves the smell of tomato leaves - for him, they bring back memories of being a kid on summer vacation.


1:25 AM  
Blogger Gattina Cheung said...

is it only me? I find the smell very very spicy. My brain always run on the practical side... so not many bugs like to munch on them.
Christa, you have eye for details, all these photos you took just marvelous!

7:01 AM  
Blogger ScottE. said...

I love the smell of tomato foilage. And the funny part of it...when I was a kid, I hated the smell. Probably associated it more with the 'chore' of gardening than I do know, when I actually get enjoyment out of it. Williams Sonoma had a hand lotion with the scent of 'heirloom tomatoes.' It smelled amazingly like the green foilage.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a perfume lover all of my life. I am 47 years old.

Well, among my collecting perfumes as a hobby, I am also a gardener.

The other day while composting and adding another layer of soil to the garden, I remember thinking how incredibly gorgeous is the smell of tomato stalks and leaves are. I said a prayer aloud "What a beautiful scent, Lord, thank you for tomatoes!"

Later that evening, on the Internet, I found a company that actually recreates the scent, using tomato leaves as a prominent note, and I couldn't believe it. An organic composition as well. It is called Eau de Campagne by the famous French perfumeur, Sisley. I immediately bought on online and cannot wait.

I am not sure whether man can do this scent justice in a bottle, but I will soon find out!

3:07 PM  

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