Tomato Worms Stink

Today I’d like to tell you why I will likely never grow a tomato plant.

My parents are in the process of redesigning their garden.  It is in almost the same location the garden sat two remodels ago, when I was a wee lass.

In that day and age there were two ways for me to make money: 1. picking up straight pins off of the floor of my mom’s sewing room (5 cents a pin) and 2. picking tomato horn worms off of the tomato plants in the garden (5 cents a worm).

(It should be noted here my sister and I set the rates and then told my parents, who never actually agreed to pay us anything.  We did that a lot as kids.  Once we read an article about a kid whose parents paid him $100 to stop watching t.v. for a year.  So we decided to abstain from t.v. ourselves for a year and were confused when my parents admitted they hadn’t planned on paying us $100 each for our sacrifice.  Life… life is just tough sometimes.)

My sister and I were enterprising and we took advantage of these money-making activities.  The straight pins were easy to keep tally, we just picked them up, showed them to my mom, stuck them back in the pin cushion, and ran away.

The tomato worms… they were challenging.  We hemmed and hawed, thought and pondered, and finally decided to collect all of our tomato worms in a glass jar and get paid in one lump sum at the end of the summer.

The quick-witted reader may already guess where this is going.

We collected tomato worms all summer long in our glass jar.

Tomato worms don’t live in glass jars.  In fact, strangely, they tend to die in glass jars.

Summer is quite long.  Dead worms in glass jars in summertime sun have a tendency toward rot.


By the end of the summer we were both still eager to pluck tomato horn worms off the plants but violently arguing about who had to open the jar to throw the worms in.

(In a short detour into guilt I’d like to apologize to all the worms who were thrown into a jar of their rotting brethren to die themselves.  Had we no decency?!)

For years after our tomato worm enterprise I wasn’t able to look at a tomato without shuddering.  I’ve finally moved past that and can buy them from the store, but to this day I can’t touch a tomato stem or smell the growing plant smell of a tomato plant without feeling nauseous.  Get me near an actual tomato horn worm and I vomit in my mouth.

(Finding the photo for today’s post had me gagging – I’ve cleared my browser history and cache just to be sure I don’t inadvertently ever come across the images again.)

I don’t remember what we were paid for our worm-picking business that summer but I do remember trying to empty that jar of decomposing worms and count how many worms we had collected.

My mom came outside and caught us trying to count them.  When we told her we were trying to count worms for our payday she was not pleased.  (The memory of her exact comments have drowned underneath the overwhelming sensory aspect of fingering through rotting tomato horn worms.  She has always thought we were smarter than we are, though our actions often prove her wrong.)

Are there any garden vegetables that make you shudder?

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