A holiday today, well kind of. Cov and Elizabeth are off today and we are taking the afternoon off but only after a morning of irrigating, flower cutting, mowing, tilling and a few other regular jobs. Then later on we will head over to my sisters house for a little grilled food, adult beverages and cut throat croquet. Our contribution to the meal is of course produce, especially the tomatoes. This is the first full week of the big tomato harvest as we have picked at least a few of every single variety for this year, twenty in all. So we will arrive with a large platter, the colors of the tomato rainbow- reds of Big Beef and Early Picks; yellows of Orange Blossom, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Nebraska Wedding, Azoychka and Sun Golds; the pink of German Johnson and the yellow and red stripes and swirls of Striped Germans; dark deep red of Cherokee Purple playing off the bright greens of Aunt Ruby’s, Green Giant and Green Zebras. The juices of the sweet and fruity ones mixing with the higher acid kinds.
This is the great reward after months of careful tending. It is always fun to introduce the new staff to the different varieties and their nuances of flavor and ripening habits. Every Monday and Thursday we spend the mornings picking the 1600 feet of row. Everyone becomes a specialist in certain varieties. Cov is in charge of reds, learning to not pick them too green as they take forever to get fully ripe and can hang on the plants longer than all the others. Only unblemished Italian sauce tomatoes are put in the box, no “freaks” with them. The German Johnsons are much more tender so he has to change gears when he gets to them. Elizabeth is the Cherokee Purple queen, fully 500 feet of row to pick and sort, they have the most difficult stems to remove with out damaging the fruit and sometimes one must resort to using needle nosed pliers to pull them off. She is also responsible for the Orange Blossoms and if she gets done with the purples quickly helps me with the three other yellow kinds. I start with the monster Striped Germans, so large that it takes two hands to pick them, carefully extracting them from between the vines and the trellis wires trying to not scar them. I then move to the green-when-ripes, interpreting if it still green or if it has just enough golden cast to it to be picked. The Sun Gold cherries are a shared job by who ever gets done first.
Bucket after bucket is brought to the back of the truck where each fruit is inspected and wiped with a cloth, sorted into three boxes by color and quality or set aside in the “have to eat today pile”. The knife comes out as we get the first of the new varieties and slices are sampled between cleaning tomatoes. Surprise at a high acid yellow tomato, amazement at the beauty of the interior of the bi-colored ones with red swirls through the fruity flavored yellow flesh, the reassuring solid full flavor of a Cherokee Purple, popping Sun Golds as one walks by the row that has them. Finally finished we slowly drive the load down to the packing shed and the air conditioning to keep them from ripening too fast. Stacks of boxes by variety and ripeness are built, long rows that run around the room. Finally bags are filled with the “have to eat today” fruit and the staff heads home, stained a sticky green from rubbing up against the tomato foliage, talking about tomato sandwiches, salsa and gazpacho for lunch and dinner. Life is good.