Tornadoes and Tomatoes

May 3, 2021

One of the things that makes Oklahomans uniquely different is our life experience with tornadoes. For those who live outside of “Tornado Alley,” they can be an unfamiliar and frightening weather phenomenon, but to those of us who have grown up with them and experienced their devastation, we understand firsthand that tornadoes are no joking matter.

We have a healthy respect for them. They are serious, and many of us have suffered extreme loss due to tornadoes. One is hard-pressed to meet a true Oklahoman who does not have an interesting or life-changing tornado story.

Despite this, there are many things that we do enjoy about our tornado culture. We have a fascination—almost obsession—with chasing them and watching them, and we are able to speak “Tornadoese.” This is a language comprised of local words that have been added to, mixed and blended with weather terminology. If you’ve lived here long enough, you don’t even really have to turn on a weather report because you can tell from just stepping outside if the atmosphere “feels right” for something bad to happen. There’s energy in the air.


It’s an unfortunate matter of timing, but tornado season occurs at the same time as tomato season. Of all the garden vegetables that Oklahomans enjoy growing, I think tomatoes are at the top of the list! After a long winter of eating store-bought tomatoes, everyone is excited to get theirs planted, so they can get an early jump on the much-anticipated fruit. Plenty of thought and effort goes into determining the last frost date, selecting the perfect varieties, preparing the planting area and other factors.

Some people like to start their tomato seeds early on a seed-starting shelf. If that’s you, here are some of the places that I enjoy looking for tomato seeds:

Others prefer to buy transplants. In the Oklahoma City metro area there are several reputable nurseries, but these are some that I like:

Each year, as we layout our garden plan, we allow enough room to grow plenty of our favorite varieties, but we also include space to try a few new ones.  We grow hybrids, heirlooms, dwarfs and even some micro tomatoes. It’s always exciting and wonderful when the plants begin bloom and set fruit! Life is good.

Even though we plan and take plenty of precautions, I cannot tell you how many times over the years we have planted our tomatoes only to have them destroyed by the wind and hail that oftentimes accompanies tornadoes. It’s strange—the season that ushers in a time of delicious, fresh tomatoes (all the goodness) is the same one that brings destruction and death. But isn’t that how life goes?  Along with all of the good we must understand and accept, the fact is bad things happen, too.

James says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Over the seasons of our lives, each of us is going to experience plenty of good times, but storms will come. Plans will change. Timelines will shift, and sometimes we have to start over. When this happens, our loving Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to quit but rather to persevere and to consider these situations as joyful opportunities to grow in our faith and to come out stronger.

He wants us to trust Him. Replant the tomatoes. More fruit will be produced. More blessings are on the way. Storms bring frustration but they produce endurance and righteousness and when handled correctly they make us stronger people.

Dear friend, please don’t be the person who chooses to never plant tomatoes because of the possibility or threat of severe weather. Vine-ripened tomatoes are worth the risk and so is living a Christ-centered life that is full of both joys and trials.