The Spirituality of Canning Tomatoes

I’ve been canning tomatoes. It’s something I do every year around this time. I ended up with 28 pints of stewed tomatoes and 14 quarts of spaghetti sauce, which is about what I usually shoot for. This should be enough to last until next June or so, when the fresh tomatoes will be available once again.


I began as I always do, with a trip to the farmers market to find canning tomatoes. Different farmers will have them available by the bushel, and I usually get two. What’s the difference between a canning tomato and another kind of tomato? Canning tomatoes are the ugly ones. They have blemishes. Maybe a little hole where a bug or a bird took a bite. They’re imperfect tomatoes, the kind that people don’t want to buy. And they are a fraction of the cost. I got my two bushels for less than half the price of unblemished tomatoes.


In America we waste a lot of food. A couple weeks ago I cleaned out my refrigerator and was horrified by all the food that I had let go to waste in there. What is worse than letting good food spoil, at least in my mind, is throwing away food that is simply blemished. Each week grocery stores across the country throw away tons of produce that just isn’t pretty enough. Thankfully many volunteers have stepped in to transport blemished produce to soup kitchens and food pantries where it can feed hungry people.


I reflected on this while canning tomatoes. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that is food rich. Yet down the road from my comfortable neighborhood are food deserts, neighborhoods that do not have easy access to healthy foods. Obesity and all the health problems related to it are at an all-time high, not because people are constantly overeating, but because of what we are eating. Children are being sent off to school with bellies filled by junk food simply because there is no other food available. At the same time, we are throwing out tomatoes because they have a dark spot, tossing away spinach because of a little wilting, and discarding zucchini that’s been scratched.


We do not have a food shortage problem. We have a food distribution problem.


I do not believe that God wants anyone to go hungry. Nor do I believe in a God who cannot provide enough for his children. I reject outright any theology that proclaims scarcity, because I believe fully in God’s never-ending abundance.


That’s why I garden, both in my backyard and at the church. That’s why I give away produce. I believe that God has provided this today, and God will provide more tomorrow.


At the same time, I can tomatoes because I know that in a couple months there will not be any fresh ones around here. Oh, sure, I can go to the grocery store and buy some, but have you actually tasted those? No thanks! No, I believe that God has given me enough today to last me the rest of the year if I put in the effort to make them last. It takes a little work, a few hours of time, some equipment, a little know-how, and perhaps most importantly of all a willingness to do it.


I believe the same can be said about ending hunger. See, I do believe that is possible. Scripture describes the Lord as the one who makes rivers flow in deserts; why shouldn’t that apply to food deserts as well? It is a great injustice to force some to starve while others discard food.


God has provided enough to go around.


Now it is our job to make it go around. All of us. It will take a little work, hours of time, some equipment, some know-how, and most importantly of all a willingness to do it.


Are you willing to help God feed the hungry?


One thought on “The Spirituality of Canning Tomatoes

  1. I have too many zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers from my Garden so I’ve been donating them to the food bank down the street, as I would hate to see them go to waste and someone else needs them more than me.


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