Tomato time… almost

Tomato season is almost upon us! I keep checking and rechecking the tomatoes to see if any of them have begun to turn the slightest bit red. So far, none have. I’m so eager for fresh tomatoes I’m considering harvesting them green and making chicken tortilla soup. But there will be plenty of time for green tomatoes later in the year – I can make myself wait another week or two.

Amish Paste – or are they San Marzano? I’ll have to check my seed packets again – waiting to blush.

I planted the tomatoes in two winding rows with a path in between; since the Florida Weave system compresses them into a more or less flattened wall and they are about 5′ tall now, we’ve christened the area Tomato Alley. I waited til it was really too dark to get a picture, sorry! So it looks rather unimpressive. But I promise it’s cool to walk between two verdant, living, tomato-smelling walls as tall as I am.

The Florida Weave system I’ve been using seems to be doing a good job keeping the tomatoes in check and off the ground. It does seem to sort of compress them into a denser mass, though, so I’m not sure how well the bees will find the flowers hidden among all that foliage. Though I guess they’ve done all right so far.

I’ve been fairly good about keeping up with tying the supporting twine, but I’ve completely forgotten to fertilize the tomatoes at all. So much for keeping up with a schedule of spraying fish emulsion every two weeks throughout the growing season! I think I may force myself to do it tomorrow despite the projected 100*+ heat index… I’ll just have to remember that the tomatoes will be worth it.

Cherokee Purple, with baby hands for scale.

If you’ve never had a garden-ripe tomato, still warm from the sun and just dripping with juice, you might not understand why I’d go through all the trouble I do for these beasts. Well, for me flavor is king. I have not bought a supermarket tomato in… I don’t know how long… because they taste like paste with a texture to match. There’s a reason they’re so uninspiring – did you know that if you’ve only ever eaten supermarket tomatoes, you have never actually eaten a ripe tomato?

An industrial Florida tomato is harvested when it is still hard and green and then taken to a packinghouse, where it is gassed with ethylene until it artificially acquires the appearance of ripeness. […] It’s not that the Florida growers can’t pack fully ripe tomatoes. They have done it in the past. But doing so requires frequent harvesting over a long period of time, which is costly. It is more profitable for them and their large fast food and supermarket customers to handle and sell tomatoes that are harvested in two or three passes when they are green, indestructibly hard, and impeccably smooth skinned and have a couple of weeks of shelf life ahead of them. Taste does not enter the equation. “No consumer tastes a tomato in the grocery store before buying it. I have not lost one sale due to taste,” one grower said. “People just want something red to put in their salad.” From Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook.

I don’t know about you, but that type of condescension gets my hackles up. I’m not looking for something red. I’m looking for food that tastes good. If I have to grow it myself to get it, so be it.

And oh, yeah. I also don’t want my food to be poisonous.

U.S. Department of Agriculture studies found traces of thirty-five pesticides on conventionally grown fresh tomatoes: endosulfan, azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, methamidophos, permethrin trans, permethrin cis, fenpropathrin, trifloxystrobin, o-phenylphenol, pieronyl butoxide, acetamprid, pyrimethanil, boscalid, bifenthrin, dicofol p., thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos, dicloran, flonicamid, pyriproxyfen, omethoate, pyraclostrobin, famoxadone, clothianidin, cypermethrin, clothianidin, cypermethrin, fenhexamid, oxamyl, diazinon, buprofezin, cyazofamid, deltamethrin, acephate, and folpet. It is important to note that residues of these chemicals were below levels considered to be harmful to humans, but in high enough concentrations, three are known or probable carcinogens, six are neurotoxins, fourteen are endocrine disruptors, and three cause reproductive problems and birth defects. From Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook.

Is that as terrifying to anyone else as it is to me? I may have to wait all year long to get my tomatoes, but at least I can pick them straight off the vine at the peak of ripeness and eat them right there in the garden with no fear of pesticides or contaminants. Just sun on my shoulders and juice on my chin.

I count at least 5 green tomatoes in this pic. And oh, now you can see the nasturtiums blooming! I planted nasturtiums all along both rows of tomatoes. They’re the first I’ve been able to grow on the farm. The soil is slowly improving, bit by bit! Now if only I’d remembered to sow lettuce so we could have some salads to put them in (Sofía was not a fan though – she spat it out and said it was a little bit spicy.)

Maybe if I sow lettuce tomorrow we might have some baby greens a couple weeks from now. I’ll supplement them with the last of the spring spinach, beet greens, borage flowers and nasturtium blossoms. Then I’ll throw in a tomato or two… you know, just for something red.

5 Responses to “Tomato time… almost”

  1. Ayse Says:

    There’s another thing: people always thing of tomatoes as being a “common” kind of produce. But if you wait until they are ripe to harvest and don’t eat those horrid supermarket tomatoes, they turn back into a magical, wonderful thing. You stop taking them for granted. You waited all year for them and here they are.

  2. Erin Says:

    I agree, I too have not bought a super market tomato in probably a decade. I know you have deer issues but I’m surprised you have no red ones yet! I made a huge patch of salsa last weekend and am over flowing so much I will definitely be canning this weekend. I can trade some plum or cherry tom (only have 2 branywines ready) for eggs if you want:)

  3. Diane Says:

    Preach it, sister! :mrgreen:

  4. Darcy Says:

    Diana, is it the fertilizer you use or the type of tomato that makes them grow so high? Mine hardly ever reach 3 ft. :sad:

  5. diana Says:

    Darcy, it might be the deep compost I apply and the soil’s constant state of moistness (I plant my tomatoes in the area that’s a swamp in winter). Where you live there are problems getting enough sunshine and heat to grow huge tomatoes – they don’t like cold fog!

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