Hang On Little Tomatoes
What a joy it is to return to ripening tomatoes. Thanks to watering by our house-sitter, the plants seem to have survived, albeit with some brown blossom end rot covering some tomato bottoms, due to my negligence about their calcium needs. Back in late June, I poured some whey and broke up some oyster shells around the plants to give them calcium but perhaps not enough. If they’ve already fruited, is it too late to prevent the green ones from getting this rot? At least the rot can be cut away and does not seem to really compromise the sweet taste of a ripe tomato.
Though we didn’t get home until 1 a.m. Saturday, I ran right out to the garden, fumbling around in the dark, feeling for those ready tomatoes. Nevermind that some were a tad overripe and less umami tart. I had to have a midnight snack of them with olive oil and basil, right away.
Fortunately, late tomato blight isn’t plaguing Oregon as it has the Northeast, where it’s decimated this year’s crop, particularly those coveted heirloom varieties. Dan Barber’s piece on the blight and how it stems from industrial agribusiness practices caught my attention in the New York Times today. Yes, this season’s surge in backyard gardening is good thing. But the poignant irony is that all those gardeners, buying contaminated starts at the Wal-Marts and Home Depots of the world, helped propel the fungal disease’s spread. It appears it’s not enough to just eschew factory farm foods trucked in from across the country. Your garden starts should come from local, sustainable sources, too. Given all the hype about heirloom tomatoes, it’s refreshing to see Barber make a moderated plea for polyculture sources, include less sexy, more resilient plants bred at your land grant universities, like here at OSU:)
Fairing even better than my OSU-bred Oregon Spring plant, though, is my massive potted Early Girl vine. Given the generally cool summer nights here, our tomatoes are slow to ripen here, shyly reading themselves for picking by late September. Next year, I’ll stick more to the trusty Early Girl. And speaking of which, she’s the namesake of a great cafe in Asheville, N.C., that serves up farm-fresh Southern fare.