It's that time of year when tomatoes dominate the farm stand and landscape. We are having a decent tomato year so far, but there are some things we wish were better. Though our cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes are producing beautifully, we have hit some speed bumps with our slicing tomatoes. The first major obstacle this season came from a seed company error. We intended to plant 100 feet of orange slicing tomatoes, but received the wrong seed and discovered a few weeks ago that we instead ended up with 100 feet of red grape tomatoes! While we have nothing particularly against grape tomatoes, we really miss those tasty orange tomatoes the would have brought color and bulk to the store and CSA!
The other obstacle has of course been the drought. We have diligently drip irrigated our tomatoes all season, but for some of our slicers, it has not been quite enough. We have ended up with a decent amount of blossom end rot on several of our red slicing tomato beds. Blossom end rot is a frustrating plant ailment that occurs when tomato plants aren't getting enough water or calcium. They look perfect on the top, but the bottom gets a black rotted spot or water stain, making the tomatoes unmarketable. On the other end of the spectrum, when tomatoes get too much water (as our heirlooms did after the most recent rain), the fruit cracks and becomes susceptible to rot.
With all the things that could possibly go wrong with growing tomatoes (and I haven't even mentioned all the blights that can bring your tomato season to an untimely end!), you might wonder if farmers have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them. The answer is yes, but I would say it's more love than hate. Not only are they are one of the most popular crops we grow, but they bring us daily joy as we find excuses to pause by the cherry tomato patch for a quick snack on our way to the next task! So while they are finicky and a lot of work to grow, we still believe they are worth the occasional headache!
Cherry Tomato Guide:
In keeping with the tomato theme this week, we are presenting a guide to the tomato varieties we grow in our pick-your-own field.
- Mountain Magic - Technically this is a "cocktail" tomato, but we grow it with our cherry tomatoes because it is still pretty small. These are very juicy and sweet.
- Cherry Bomb - This variety is new to us this year. We picked it for it's disease resistance and size, but it's taste has won us over!
- Jasper - Another disease resistant tomato with a nice rich sweet and tart flavor. It is the smallest variety we grow.
- Red Pearl - This grape tomato is meaty and sweet. They keep longer than any other type of cherry tomato we grow, and they are less messy since they aren't quite as juicy!
- Bumblebee - Another new variety for us this year! We are growing the pink and sunrise colors. They have a unique striped appearance and a sweet taste.
- Sunpeach - Not as acidic as most other cherry tomato varieties. It is a sister variety to Sungold, and has a mild sweet flavor.
- Yellow Mini - Sweet and juicy, and they add great color to the mix!
- Sungold - This variety has a very devoted following, and for good reason. They pack tons of flavor into a small tomato. Extra sweet, but also tangy.
- Black cherry - These often get overlooked because the ripe ones blend in so well to the plant. The have a rich almost smoky flavor. One of Farmer Lise's favorites!
In the CSA:
- Slicing tomatoes
- Heirloom tomatoes
- Green peppers
- Colored peppers - mostly "Corno di toro" (bull's horn) types. Colored bell peppers are a few weeks away.
- Summer Squash
- Cucumbers - the second succession is dwindling and the third is not quite ready, so they will be limited this week.
- Red Ace beets
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers - jalapeno, serrano and ancho
- Dragon's tongue beans
- Buttercream sunflowers
- Dill flowers
In the store: Everything available in the CSA will also be available in the store. In addition, we will have onions and potatoes. We will also have mushrooms from Fat Moon Farm and sweet corn from Verrill Farm.
Recipe of the week:
This uses not only tomatoes, but many other vegetables in abundance right now!
By Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times August 30, 2010
- 11/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound (2 medium) onions, thinly sliced
- 4 to 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3/4 pound mixed sweet peppers cut into slices about 3/4 inch wide by 1 1/2 inches long
- 1 1/4 pounds zucchini, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 to 4 tablespoons slivered or chopped fresh basil, to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the cubed eggplant in a large, heavy flameproof casserole. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and salt to taste. Place in the hot oven, and roast uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring from time to time until the eggplant is lightly browned and fragrant. Remove the casserole from the oven, cover tightly and allow the eggplant to steam in the hot casserole.
Heat a tablespoon of the remaining oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, about five minutes. Stir in the peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the peppers have softened and smell fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in half the garlic, and cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to the casserole with the eggplant. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet, and add the zucchini. Cook, stirring often, until tender but still bright, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic and mix together for a minute until fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to the casserole. Add the tomatoes to the casserole along with the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and more salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything together, and place over medium-low heat. When the vegetables begin to sizzle, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is juicy and fragrant and the vegetables are thoroughly tender. Taste and adjust seasonings