Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tomato Turmoil

Hovering over my treasure, I beamed as I revealed the latest garden loot to my husband.  “Know what these are?”  I asked. 
“Tomatoes” he replied nonchalantly.  Clearly, he wasn’t picking up on my infectious enthusiasm.
“Yes, but not just ANY tomatoes.  These are {pause for emphasis} Our First Tomatoes.”
He gestured towards a pile of rosy red spheres on the opposite counter.  “So what are those?” 
“Those are from Wanda’s garden.”
“And those?” he asked, pointing to a colander of bright orange cherry tomatoes. 
“Those are from Alicia.” 
“Mmm hmm.”

What my husband failed to recognize is the monumental significance of today’s garden haul.  I’ve spent the last two weeks wringing my hands over an entirely unripe tomato crop.  A plentiful harvest that refuses to ripen is more insulting than one lost to bugs or disease.  I should know…I’ve lived through all three forms of frustration.  With August well underway, I was beginning to suspect that I was falling victim to another green tomato tragedy. 

Gardeners are cut from warm and generous stock; the orange and red produce scattered throughout my kitchen bore testimony to that fact.  Unfortunately, they set off a little alert in the gardening cortex of my cerebellum.  “Why are everyone else’s tomatoes ripe?”  I had planted at least 5 different varieties, from two different sources, and spread them throughout the backyard.  None of them had shown so much as a shy blush until this morning.  Hence the hand-wringing.

Tomatoes, I am told, will ripen, given a long enough growing season, which Illinois certainly has.  The complex biochemistry percolating in those plant cells can be a touch sensitive, though.  Tomatoes prefer air temps below 85 degrees.  Any higher, and the plant shuts down its carotene and lycopene production, two components essential to the ripening process.  Resist the urge to fertilize: failing to ripen is not a nutritional deficiency.  Adding fertilizer could actually force the plant into a vegetative state, further slowing your fruit maturity.  No, the only solution is to wait.  I hate waiting.

But none of this emotional rollercoaster registered with Tall, Dark and Handsome.  Aside from enjoying a slice on his cheeseburger, he’s not a tomato enthusiast.  For him, tomato season brings the pleasant tidings of salsa kisses and dragon breath emanating from his sweetheart and the onslaught of fruit flies in the kitchen.  Considering these enticing prospects, his response may be justified.  There is not, I’m sorry to say, much I can do about the salsa breath.  I write it off as collateral damage.   Homemade salsa for supper does not fresh morning breath make.   Add to that, salsa for breakfast and lunch as well, and sweet exhales are gone with the wind.

I have, however, had some success in controlling fruit flies this year.  After a particularly produce-laden purchase at Sam’s Club, I discovered a very effective homemade fruit fly trap.  In a cup, I put an apple slice and some vinegar.  I cut a small corner out of a sandwich bag and secured it over the cup with a rubber band.  It didn’t take long for the flies to find their new favorite restaurant.  Only trick is, finding their way out was considerably harder than finding their way in.  There are suggestions all over the internet for ‘fly enticements’.  Apparently the little drunkards like beer or wine, and heated apple cider vinegar draws them effectively as well.  This summer, don’t let those buggers put a damper on your harvest.  Bring on the tomatoes!

1 comment:

Casa Mariposa said...

I have a bunch of green tomatoes that have come off tomato branches that blew over but only a few ripe ones so far. I'm tired of waiting, too. Thanks for the info about the earwig trap. My thugs were slugs. :o)

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