We’re been harvesting tomatoes from the second planting for a few weeks. Striped Germans, Japanese black trifele, rose de Berne, jubilee, Nebraska wedding, garden peach, Pruden’s purple, jet star and pink beauty tomatoes varieties are in abundance. Paste tomatoes from the third planting are starting to come in. Dry and sunny weather conditions have improved the flavor and texture of the tomatoes. Belmont CSA shareholders are making gazpacho, salsa, tomato tarts, tomato sauce and finishing off their cherry tomatoes on the walk/drive home. Farm lunches have greatly benefited from the addition of tomato, basil and mozzarella. (If you are not a shareholder, but live in the area, you’ll find our tomatoes at Formaggio Kitchen, Huron Avenue in Cambridge and Kitchen on Common in Belmont.)
Without a doubt, 2008 will not be remembered as a good tomato year by most growers in the northeast. Three weeks of rain and overcast skies kept tomato leaves wet and soil water-logged — perfect growing conditions for the fungus that defoliates tomato plants.
We’ve stayed on top of caring for our tomato plantings this year. Straw mulch applied in a timely manner has minimized soil splashing onto leaves. Regular basket-weaving (tying tomatoes up with twine to keep them off the ground) has also minimized leaf contact with fungus-invested soil. Adequate weed management and generous spacing between tomato plants has maximized air circulation. We’ve also been almost religious about staying out of the tomato plantings when the leaves are wet. We’ve taken great care in moving from planting to planting to minimize carrying tomato diseases through the field. Even so, yields are lower and tomato disease more wide-spread and advanced than expected for this time of year.