September 21, 2013

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

There are two vegetables in the garden that frustrate me more than any other - corn and tomatoes.  Now corn I've come to grips with.  The problem is that we in the Pacific Northwest just don't have a long enough growing season to really do corn.  The "marine layer" of mist dampens our mornings and hides the sun.  The result is that we get our own corn every few years and the in between years we can corn from Yakima (they have awesome corn!).

The other vegetable, or to be truthful it's a fruit, that kills me are tomatoes.  In my whole adult life, there were only 2 years when I didn't plant at least one tomato plant.  And those were my first two years in college - in the dorms and then in a second story apartment (I didn't think of doing a container).  But my next apartment was on the ground floor and there was a little flower garden outside so I slipped a tomato plant in there.  And from then on, I have always had tomatoes ... but many years only green tomatoes.

I planted 10 tomato plants this year.  One was a sunglobe cherry, which always ripen and get eaten right down in the garden.  One was a heirloom large slicing variety.  The rest were Romas for saucing.  I'm in love with Roma tomatoes because they have thick skins that are easy to remove, lots of flesh and few seeds.  Also, they don't split easily in the rain like slicing tomatoes do.  But for some reason the Romas take for ever to ripen ... at least for me.

My mom lives about 30 minutes south of me, right near the Columbia River.  She plants stuff in containers on her back patio.  A month ago she was giving me bags of ripe Romas.  Mine were just getting to full size.  And, yes, we did plant at the same time.  And, yes, we both have about the same hours of sun on our gardens.

Now it's mid September and mine are finally starting to turn.  But now the rain is upon us and the leaves are wilting and some of the fruit are getting moldy in the dampness.  I'm resorting to bringing in any that have even the slightest hint of color and forcing them on the kitchen counter.

But at least I'm getting some this year.  I've already made one batch of sauce.  Many years, like last year and the year before that, none of my tomatoes ripened.  I tried every trick in the book:

  • pierce a hole in the stalk, 2 inches off the ground
  • stop watering
  • put red tarps underneath
  • put big black garbage bags over each
  • pull them and hang upside-down in the barn

Nothing worked.  In most cases the fruit would get black spots or start to mold.

Thankfully I have this awesome recipe for pickled green tomatoes.  But after two years of nearly all my tomatoes being pickled, the last thing I need are more. So my fingers are crossed that I'll get more red then green tomatoes.  


Anonymous said...

Have you considered putting a hoop house over the tomatoes? It intensifies the heat and causes them to ripen better. But not just at the end, throughout the whole season. It's not that expensive either.

I use that method here in Colorado where we have such cool nights and a short growing season.

Mindy said...

Great idea. I'll give this a try next year.