Before I write about the lowly tomato I want to express my appreciation to Ilene over at "The Rock Whisperer" (see the Blogroll) for being a good friend when I needed one and now mentioning my blog on her blog. I would not be doing this if I had not started following her blog. And another word of thanks needs to go to my old high school buddy and still another great friend Shelly for supporting my blog. Many thanks to both of you!! On to the tomato.....
It is tomato season in most of the country!!! I love tomatoes, my husband loves tomatoes.Red, full of juice, juice, tart and tangy-perfect for salads or plain with a bit of sea salt and cracked black pepper. So simple and yet so full of amazing flavor. Thus I try to grow some every year. I say try as I live in SW Florida and tomatoes do not exactly thrive in our soil conditions. Our soil is a veritable hothouse of pathogens that can easily destroy a tomato plant. Everything from the dreaded tomatoes mosaic virus to several different kinds of blight.
My first year gardening, blissfully unaware I planted tomato and pepper seeds and watched eagerly as the plants grew larger and larger. Soon they were large, vibrant green and I was dreaming of salsa and canning my first crop of red deliciousness. Then the dark hand of fate stepped in and cruelly introduced me to blossom end rot and a whole slew of evil insects. I staunchly stuck to organic techniques and forbid the use of the dreaded pesticides and fungicides. Topped with my lack of knowledge on soil conditions, nematodes and fertilization my poor little plants were doomed.
I have garnered a bit more knowledge and this year had a respectable crop of Amish Paste tomatoes and Thai Egg tomatoes. Both are heirloom and can handle tricky weather and soil. That and fertilizer, mulch and proper planting times have helped my crops tremendously. I have had very little luck with the tomatoes bred for Florida. Many gardeners on Garden Web (a great resource no matter where you live) have had much better luck.
Now is the time for me to have seeds started for my next crop. In fact it is a little past time and I need to get on the stick. Luckily, I have a few volunteers in a pot on the patio so there are 2 tomato plants already.
Eventually, I will get them started and ready to go into the soil in September. Then I will be having tomatoes while the snow flies and the frost hardens the North. In fact I live about 30 minutes away from where most of the tomatoes are grown for the nation for winter sales.
Immokalee, FL grows much of the produce the rest of the country eats in the winter. Well, if that is the case then it should be easy to grow produce in S. Florida , you say? Nope! The growers use a host of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers to grow the tomatoes you eat. Not to mention they use migrant labor composed of mainly illegals, working 12 to 20 hours a day in poor conditions. I have seen this first hand in the packing houses. Workers there labor 12 hours a day in season with no A.C. in 80 to 90 degree weather, 2 -15 minute breaks and 1- 30 minute break. Did I mention water is no allowed on the packing line due to the possibility of contamination of the product? That in itself is ironic as the buildings are open to the exterior with lizards and critters carrying salmonella and all kinds of diseases able to run in and out at will.
Did I mention these tomatoes that they are slaving over don't really taste like anything?? They are bred for color and keeping qualities like a thick non bruise-able skin.
What can you do that is cost effective so you may have fresh luscious tomatoes to eat?
1) Grow your own. This can be a small container on a patio or a shared plot with a friend with more space. Cherry tomatoes pack a lot of flavor in a little plant.
2) Eat them only in season.
3) Preserve them yourself in season. This year I made freezer tomato sauce and dried some and preserved them in olive oil. Again of you don't have equipment to preserve them maybe you can share with a friend.
4) Buy from local sources that you know and then either eat only in season or preserve them. This can be organic or not. At least if it is local a large amount of fossil fuels have not been expended on the shipping of the item.
5) Buy organic at a grocery store out of season - this is the most expensive option and I would not suggest preserving them as it is definitely cost prohibitive.
6) Buy canned tomatoes for cooking out of season.
7) Eat the crappy, mushy no taste store bought out of season tomato.
Below is a link to a book review for "Tomatoland" and brief overview of the tomato on the NPR website. *****Notice the female on the sorting line is scratching her head in the accompanying photo . Another reason to wash your produce!
Also notice the tomatoes are green. They pick them green, gas them and the tomatoes ripen in the shipping process. These are not sun ripened on the vine. Just because the vine is attached also does not mean they were ripened on the vine. They just picked them that way as it is a great sales ploy.
If you don't want to read the article you can listen to it as they recorded in during the initial broadcast of the story.
Enjoy your tomatoes and relish the flavor whenever your season my be!
I love food!
Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for a frugal way of living. My home is located in South Florida and I live with my husband in a family neighborhood. This is the sub tropics so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!