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'$64 Tomato': A Quest for the Perfect Garden

May 1, 2006 (Morning Edition)

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Like many aspiring gardeners, William Alexander wondered what it would be like to be able to wander out into the yard, smell the flowers and perhaps pluck a ripe, juicy tomato from the vine anytime he wanted. In a new book, The $64 Tomato, he explores the true costs — and joys — of working one's own soil.

The book's title comes from the sum Alexander figured it cost him to produce each one of his heirloom tomatoes. (The subtitle is "How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden.")

But for Alexander, "it's not about what it actually costs to eat this piece of fruit. It's really about lifestyle. And the garden really for us was a kind of family member, for better or for worse."

"I still love to garden," he says. "On a good day, with the sun shining and the soil warmer than the air, knowing that that the best BLT in the world is a couple of weeks or months away, it seems like every dollar, every fight with a contractor and a deer was worth it."

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