I think it was Monica I first heard refer to the tomato as a "gateway plant." "Gateway" is normally used to describe a drug, like alcohol or marijuana, which causes the user to be at an increased risk to abuse other, stronger substances. But there are a lot of us gardening geeks who bought and grew one particular plant so successfully that it led us into a fanatical gardening hobby. We peruse gardening magazines, other people's gardens and we shop at garden centers on this adrenalin high that we don't really talk about. But we gardeners all understand it. We have vastly different gardens both in scale and plant selection, but we all share in this plant addiction. And the tomato is at the center of this addiction for a lot of folks, including me.
There's a reason the tomato is so many people's gateway plant. The superior flavor of the homegrown tomato to a store bought one is widely known, even by folks who've never gardened. The tomato is a versatile food, so people buy, cook and eat lots of them. Plus, tomato plants are easy to get and easy to grow no matter where you live. They're relatively disease resistant. It's no wonder that new gardeners plant tomatoes then go on to expand their vegetable garden year after year, planting fancier and fancier stuff. The next thing you know you're growing asparagus and artichokes! Starting garden blogs! All manner of things!
That's what happened to me. My gardening hobby started with the desire to grow a few tomatoes. But once I saw that first little yellow tomato blossom, I was hooked. Growing those first tomatoes catapulted me into hardcore vegetable and flower gardening. I've basically landscaped our entire front and backyard, thanks to the tomato. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better food. And there's no better plant.
What was your gateway plant?