Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tomatoes...tis the season!

The first tomato came early this year to the Uftring house.  We held a daily vigil, watching as one small golden orb warmed to copper and then blazed to a bright orangey red.  I pulled out the Kodak for the ceremonious first pick.  Reverently, I sliced it into three parts, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and dined on that home-grown gourmet goodness with my daughter and son.  A third of a cherry tomato doesn’t go far, but when you’ve waited 8 months for that flavor, it’s divine.  Particularly when your tomato harvest is never guaranteed. 

I have had my fair share of failures in that department.  Take, for instance, the Year of Green Tomatoes.  That June, my plants were covered in a veritable shroud of yellow flowers.  Never before had my garden looked so productive.  Clearly, my green thumb had finally kicked in.  As the green drops of salsa-promise plumped to the size of a small fist, I felt pity for my fellow gardeners.  There they were, poor souls, complaining of black spot, blossom end rot, and hornworms while I teetered on the precipice of my greatest tomato haul ever.  I was beginning to swagger in my puddle-jumpers.

Later, though, as my compatriots began fishing fruits from their garden, I was still waiting for the first blush of red.  Pink, even.  I’d have rejoiced at a hint of pink.  But there was nothing.  The first-pick vigil that year turned bitter as June ended, then July wrapped up and finally August drew to a close on my enormous crop of green tomatoes.  Humility.  That’s what God had in store for me that year.  At the end of September, He opened the ripening floodgates and we ate as many BLTs, salads, and salsa as our digestive tracks would allow.   

So you see, early cherry tomatoes are nothing to sneeze at in this house.  And I, being a tomato failure on multiple levels, have developed a keen appreciation for those who can reliably grow a red, disease and insect-free crop year after year. 

Karyn Gallup is just such a gardener.  I stumbled upon her treasure trove of tomatoes this spring while garage sailing in Bonfield.  Even from a distance, I could see that no hornworm would dare rear its ugly head on a spread so pristine.  The soil looked so much like freshly sifted brownie mix that I had to tell myself not to taste it.  Sprinklers were hard at work, raining over tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, okra, broccoli, cauliflower and eggplant. 

One of Karyn's three vegetable beds

Together with husband Mick, Karyn sells vegetables from her home as the Tomato Lady.  Each morning, she heads out early to her 7000 square foot garden with her workbasket.  In it, she carries Safer Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer, a bypass pruner for removing ripe vegetables (pulling at the stem stresses the plant), a sturdy trowel, and 3-4 different types of gloves (it helps that her daughter works for Wells Lamont, a glove manufacturer).  She invests at least two hours each day in her vegetable venture.  “I like coaxing things out of the ground”, says Karyn, and it shows. 

The Gallups do have a few favorites: cherry tomatoes for their flavor, ‘Big Boy’ as the best slicer and ‘Brandywine’, an heirloom with great flavor and unique leaves.  Karyn picks her tomatoes at the pink stage and ripens them in an old, converted corn crib, air-conditioned and safe from the greedy pinchers of ravenous bugs.  “The insects are a bigger problem than the weather”, she warns, and to that end she is vigilant in staying ahead of them.  Experience has taught her that hornworms will feast on dill first, so she maintains a stand of the herb nearby to sound the alarm.  Her right hand man, Mick, runs the tiller each fall to kill hornworm larvae. 

By establishing wide rows, Mick is able to run his Yardman roto-tiller through the bed as often as needed.  By the time I toured their property in early July, he had just completed his eighth till of the season.  No wonder the soil looked so delicious.  His fertilizer of choice?  Homegrown compost, and with their harvest averaging 30-50 pounds of tomatoes per plant, I’d say it’s doing the trick.  In fact, two local restaurants are incorporating the Tomato Lady’s produce in their cuisine. 

You can sample the Tomato Lady’s fare at 2828 N 11000 West road in Bonfield.  Their ‘Mater Wagon is out and fully stocked, 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  

1 comment:

Casa Mariposa said...

What a garden!! Do you know why your tomatoes didn't ripen? That's so odd. I have yet to eat a ripe tomato from my plant. I lost most in a storm and a squirrel ate the other one so you're ahead of me with a harvest of one. :o)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...