Thinking About Tomatoes

I’m looking through seed catalogs a lot these days, thinking of the things I want to grow next year. With page after page of interesting and enticing tomato offerings, I can easily imagine a big beautiful tomato garden, yielding hundreds of pounds of mouth-watering tomatoes every day.

Our intern Ariana with one of our 2012 beauties

Our intern Ariana with one of our 2012 beauties

But the sad reality is that blight has destroyed our crops each of the last two years.  In 2012 we harvested lots of tomatoes before the end came, but last year we had to plant later and the garden was a near total loss.

Only our “late garden,” which included two long rows of tomatoes enabled us to have any.  Well, that and the cherry tomatoes that popped up as volunteers all over our farm—prolific, delicious, naturally blight-resistant heirlooms spread around by our chickens and our compost.  Matt’s Wild Cherry (which evidently has long grown wild in Mexico before doing so here) will definitely be part of our tomato garden this year.

Cherry tomatoes are great of course, but I want big, fat, juicy heirloom slicers too.  I want German Johnsons.  I want Brandywines.   I want Mortgage Lifters and Cherokee Purples.

Seed companies and ag schools are working to develop blight-resistant hybrids.  There are some available, but I’ve read that they don’t taste very good.  The only naturally blight-resistant tomato I’m aware of is Matt’s Wild Cherry.

We’ll try again this year.  Maybe the early summer won’t be as wet as it was last year.  Maybe some of the other things we’re doing (like mulching) will help.  We’ll see.

I won’t easily give up my big ugly tomatoes.

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12 comments on “Thinking About Tomatoes

  1. shoreacres says:

    It was hard finding a good tomato around here last year, too. I had about two weeks of BLT and tomato sandwiches,though, so it wasn’t a total loss. I’m not much of a bacon eater, but that wonderful home-grown bacon and a garden tomato? Yum!

    • Bill says:

      Tomato sandwiches are an essential taste of summer, in my humble opinion. I feel like I could eat my weight in them. But this year they were scarce. You just can’t make a sandwich with cherry tomatoes (but I did have a few made with Romas).

  2. DM says:

    that looks like a Brandywine? I don’t know my tomatoes, but my sister introduced me to that variety a few years ago, and it has done with for us ever since. I too had a type of blight 2 yrs ago with them…think it was due to the amount of moisture we had. I planted them in a different section this year and didn’t see anything.

    • Bill says:

      That’s right, it’s a Brandywine. My favorite.

      Hopefully the blight situation will improve this year. It was widespread last year. Rodale News published a story titled “The End of the Organic Tomato?” I seem to recall something similar in the NYT, questioning whether organic tomatoes are doomed. Some are saying we’ll need to go to grafting. I had a friend who experimented with it last year. We’ll see.

  3. It does seem to be true: those big ugly tomatoes are the tastiest.

  4. Bill, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog that was about collecting leaves around the neighborhood for mulch. The deep mulch method taken from Ruth Stout’s book has really helped with a natural way to control weeds. My tomatoes for 2013 harvest were prolific but because of the cold wet Spring didn’t come into harvest for almost three weeks later than usual. Most of my produce gets given away. I do preserve some but I don’t really try to be totally self sufficient. I’m trying to move more toward storing things that don’t need allot of processing like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, pumpkins, squash, etc.

    I hope that next year your garden will be better than this year. Have a great day planning the 2014 garden. The first garden seed catalog arrive two days ago. Yea!

    • Bill says:

      Deep mulching is also helpful in preventing blight on tomatoes. We mulched our late tomatoes and they fared much better. Going to try to be better about it this year. We want to move to a system where we plant tomatoes directly into winter-killed cover crops.

  5. And here I was thinking I had a black thumb! Tomatoes have sucked in my little patch too- now I don’t take it so personally. Like you, I won’t give up – even though the damn groundhog eats what the blights don’t get. I keep hoping because that’s what gardeners do. (and maybe – build better fences?)

  6. We had very little blight around this past season – I didn’t grow many tomatoes, but my neighbour did, and had a bumper crop. Because we usually have a damp fall, we often get blossom end rot, but not this year. And my neighbour has become very wily with shelters and coverings to do an end run in that regard as well.

    • Bill says:

      We expect the first wave of tomatoes to have blossom end rot and that expectation is usually met. We’re still able to eat a lot of them and the pigs and chickens enjoy the rest. After a week or so the blossom end rot goes away and we usually find ourselves buried in tomatoes. This year was brutal and we’re hoping it was an aberration.

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