The best experiment

It has been a long winter, but spring is finally here. It’s a beautiful day, starting from breakfast on the deck, watching the birds over the lake.


And it’s time for someone who hasn’t done an experiment in a dozen years (at least with his own hands) to pick up–not a pipette–a garden trowel.

For years now I have been the fortunate recipient of delicious summer vegetables from colleagues who have second careers as backyard farmers. Now, finally with a little backyard space of my own, it’s time for this nearly-flunked and unwilling student of botany to throw in his trowel. And so I did!


I purchased 7 tomato plants: 3 “Park’s Whoppers” (recommended and approved by an experienced colleague), a Nebraskan Cornhusker cherry tomato plant, a grape tomato plant, a “heirloom tomato” plant and one other larger tomato species.

The fun thing about this “experiment” is that I can make it as subjective as I like! I can “quantify” how much I like each type of tomato, balanced by the hardiness and time for each plant to come to fruition, coupled with a factor for the yield from each plant–and come up with a mathematical equation for what to plant next season. Or not. Perhaps I will just decide subjectively whatever tastes the best.

For now, all I can do is wait it out. In the time it takes for a submitted grant to be reviewed, I will (hopefully) be able to indulge in delicious ripe tomatoes.


About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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One Response to The best experiment

  1. Jake Bryan says:

    Looks like a good selection of tomatoes, if perhaps planted a bit too cozy. Do enjoy eating them all fresh.

    At the end of the season (just before first frost) you will probably have quite a few green cherry and grape tomatoes still on the vine. Here’s what to do with them:
    Also try doing some with dill seed instead of the coriander.


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