Somehow, we've moved on from searching desperately for a few ripe Mexico Midgets or Sun Golds to the annual line up of ripe tomatoes on the kitchen counters. It is fun, delicious, occasionally surprising - and consistently busy!
Before a discussion about the garden, I want to highlight a few upcoming activities well worth checking out. (there are links below, and also in my Upcoming Events page)
Tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM - Monday, July 17- is a special tomato dinner at Acme Food and Beverage in Carrboro NC. All details, including the sumptuous menu and registration, can be found here.
For those who miss our Tomatopalooza events, come on to Iseley Farm in Burlington NC on Saturday, July 22, at 3 PM in Burlington for the Epic Tomato Tasting.
Beyond that, on July 25 the Durham Garden Forum Gardeners' Advice Fair will take place at Duke Garden at 6:30. A mini Tomatopalooza happens at the Olive Wagon in Lafayette Village in North Raleigh at 6 PM on July 27. Then comes the Home Grown Tomato Festival in Charlotte NC on July 29. Finally, consider registering for a special tomato themed class at Southern Season on August 6. I will be doing three tomato workshops at different Wake County libraries in September and October; once the dates and locations are confirmed, they can be found in my upcoming events page.
Now on to the garden....it has been HOT and HUMID. This makes the plants somewhat unhappy - and me as well; it is virtually impossible to be out there tending to things after lunch. Today saw a bit of relief with an early afternoon cloudburst.
The lower tomato foliage turns pretty ugly when things get hot and humid, and I've done several rounds of foliage removal. I've clearly got issues persisting on some plants in bales - the 2 Sun Gold plants, Amethyst Cream and Egg Yolk in particular maintain a severe wilt from late morning on, but the foliage is still green and they are all producing. I've never seen so much blossom end rot on Green Giant, typically a very happy resident in my garden. Mama's Huge Orange is about dead, likely a victim of tomato spotted wilt; it is also not orange, but red. Anna's Kentucky Heirloom is similarly afflicted and I may get no tomatoes at all - ditto Lillian's Yellow Heirloom. The peppers are clearly suffering from bacterial spot and the basil is going down fast to either fusarium or downy mildew (or both).
However, that is the extent of the bad news. Eggplant is abundant and healthy, and the dwarf tomatoes are thriving and occasionally surprising; there is a lot of research going on, so each plant that ripens fruit offers an answer to a mystery. Some of the dwarfs - Dwarf Caitydid, Dwarf Beauty King to name a few absolute highlights - are simply delicious and the equal of the best indeterminate varieties.
Tomato ripening and picking means seed saving, an activity that has kept me quite busy. Ripe tomatoes also mean the chance to cook up our favorite recipes; thus far we've had Pasta alla Norma, roasted tomato crostata, and tonight, our first tomato bisque. If the harvest intensifies, it will be canning time. It all happens in the blink of an eye, but I am putting lots of effort into keeping the plants going - attending to the foliage issues, feeding and watering - to really push the yields and see if I can get productivity well into August.
Be sure to click on the images below to advance the picture carousel - just a sampling of the goings on in the driveway with tomatoes this week.