Monday, August 27, 2012

So Many Tomatoes, So Little Time!

This time of year, Chris, Matt and I are literally spending 50% of our time at the farm harvesting, and probably a third of that harvest time is spent on TOMATOES! I have a love/hate relationship with tomatoes. They definitely require more work than any other vegetable on the farm and are also one of the most fickle, sensitive, delicate, disease-prone vegetables as well. We lay down black plastic mulch, stake them, trellis them, prune them, cull the bad tomatoes, and repeat the last three steps multiple times throughout the year. You can’t harvest them in the rain or when the plants are wet because disease spreads too easily from plant to plant. And we plant A LOT of them, partially because people LOVE them, and partially as a buffer in case we get a disease. Every year I tell myself to plant fewer tomatoes, and when I do, it still feels like I plant a ridiculously large amount. Currently we have 660 large, heirloom tomato plants, 220 cherry tomato plants, and 120 paste tomato plants. I have lost track of exactly how many varieties, but it is around 25.
And when tomatoes start coming in, they really produce heavily. Last Friday morning, 6 people helped harvest tomatoes for 6 hours and we got 410 lbs, for a grand total of 860 for the week! Some farms have a farming position that is just dedicated to looking after the tomatoes! Friday when we were harvesting right up until the CSA pick up started, I was wishing we had someone like that on staff! In the middle of the harvest someone from the Weavers Way store stopped by to drop off some things. He walked down to the field and saw me standing in the middle of an array of about 12 bins, full of tomatoes. He asked how the season was going. I could only laugh and wave my hand around me, I felt like a queen in the middle of her kingdom, overflowing with bounty.
We tallied the harvest and divided it by the number of shareholders. At the end of the pick up’s we still had tomatoes left. I called the Weavers Way stores, and they took all that they could. We still had tomatoes left over. I called my coworker to see if he could take any to the weekend farmers market. He laughed because he was drowning in his own tomato harvest. On Saturday I called 11 restaurants in the neighborhood. This weekend our beautiful tomatoes made it onto the menus of Earth Bread and Brew in Mt. Airy, Derek’s in Manayunk, and Gee Chee Girl in Mt. Airy.  By the end of the day on Saturday I finally had only a small handful of cracked and oozing, delicate tomatoes that were unfit for any CSA share or restaurant sale. I happily took these home in the back of the pickup truck and thought about the many different places our tomatoes were at that moment. I almost wished I could put honing devise on them and map their dispersal from the farm.  I imagine it would have looked like a small exploding star, with many rays, but none reaching more than a few miles from Henry Ave and Cinnaminson St. The tomato marathon did not end until late last night in my kitchen when the last tomato was put in a bag and frozen. I went to bed, knowing that as I fell asleep more tomatoes were ripening at the farm and this would all be repeated on Monday.
Any shareholder who would like to purchase left over tomatoes at the end of the pick-up is welcome to. There is no way to predict how many will be left, but anyone is welcome to come to the pick-up at 7pm on Tuesdays or 6pm on Fridays and purchase extra tomatoes at our wholesale price of $2.00/lb.

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