What Grows Up Must Come Down: Summer CSA ’11 – Week 18
Tomatoes have a commanding presence on the farm. We start them in the greenhouse in April. We plant them in potting trays that have 200 cells ” several seeds per cell. As they begin to produce true leaves and some roots, we then painstakingly pull apart each clump of plants and put one plant per cell, in seeding trays that have 40 cells per tray.
The tomatoes spend all the way until mid-late May in the greenhouse. They leaf out and build strong stems. Once the frost threat has vanished, we plant them out in the field. We planted thousands this year ” it’s all a blur really, except for the one afternoon Zea rode the transplanter with me and helped. The first tomatoes planted out in the field get covered with row cover. To give them enough room to grow, without the cover holding them back, we put steel wires, or hoops in the ground. Basically we make little high tunnels on the ground. This helps keep the tomatoes warm in the early part of the season.
Once the tomatoes have really taken to their new outdoor homes, we pull off the cover and begin the process of trellising the plants. As any backyard gardener knows, tomatoes will grow quite tall and then once the fruit begins to produce, the stem can’t hold its own weight. So we provide a trellis for the tomato to grow up into and keep upright. Topsy-turveys and tomato baskets won’t do at the production level. Here we use t-posts and baling twine. Every 10 feet or so, we pound in a t-post. This eventually becomes the support structure for the plants. As the plants grow, we come through with orange baling twine and basically weave the plants into a standing position. This is hard, often very mosquito-laden work. We trellis the plants until they are so tall that we can’t any longer.
Not long after the trellising phase is over, we begin harvesting. Twice a week for about 8 weeks. Harvest, sort, weigh, bag, distribute, repeat.
Frost signals the beginning of the end of tomato season. A couple of weeks ago we had our first hard frost. It killed most of the leaves, but some of the fruit continued to ripen. We were able to harvest some nice tomatoes the last couple of weeks. In anticipation of last weekends’ cold nights, we pulled every ripe and green tomato that we could find.
Sometimes it amazes me how quickly something can be destroyed or taken down. Our tomato field, aka field P2, was a farming masterpiece. Hundreds of people hours and months of sunshine were the inputs. And in just one day, the entire field is virtually gone. All morning, our crew worked to cut down the trellis. In the afternoon, Mike came through with the flail chooper (aka an enormous mower) and mowed down the plants. The air smelled like old tomato soup. Today at lunch, the view out to P2 was noticeably different than it has been for the last couple of months. The tomatoes are gone. I suppose what grows up, must come down.
What’s left of P2 are some of the fruits, mostly green. We will be giving you some green tomatoes in your box this week. You can either eat them green (like a fried green tomato ” yum!) or you can let them ripen. The best way to let them ripen is in a warm spot (like a window or top of fridge) in a paper bag. Place either a ripe tomato, an apple or banana in the bag along with the green tomatoes, as the ethylene from the ripe fruit will help them ripen. This is what the big California/Mexico growers do. They harvest the tomatoes green and then use ethylene gas to ripen them. Just as grocery store tomatoes lack a little umph, you’ll notice these tomatoes will have less flavor too. Nothing is as flavorful as a true vine-ripened tomato. But hey, it’s the last of them. Thanks and enjoy! Mike, Cassie and Zea
In the Box:
- Acorn Squash – REGs
- Brussels Sprouts
- Delicata Squash – EOs
- Lettuce, Red Summercrisp ” EOs
- Onion, Yellow
- Pepper, Mixed Bell
- Pepper, Mixed Carmen
- Potatoes, Red
- Tomatoes, Green
REGs = Regular members only
EOs = Everyother members only
This Week’s Recipes:
- Christine’s Roasted Autumn Soup with Potatoes, Carrots and Leeks
- Roasted Brussels with Potatoes and Pancetta
- Fried Green Tomatoes
Summer Week 18: Wednesday, October 5th – Everyother Group B