What’s been going on!
Just when you thought the weather this year couldn’t get any crazier we set a new record for the lowest high temperature at Raleigh of 61 degrees. All this rain, no sun, cool temperatures make it really hard for warm season crops like tomatoes to grow and ripen.
Traditionally the second week of early tomato season we pick twice as many as the first week. Monday, in between the rain showers, I managed to pick a few more pounds than last Monday but certainly not double and I am not optimistic about how tomorrows harvest will go. One saving grace is that all the tomatoes are under cover, to try and grow tomatoes outside in these conditions is disheartening at the least, disaster mostly. We grew all our tomatoes in the open for 20 years and once we moved indoors 20 years ago we never looked back. With climate change intensifying the weather extremes it will only get crazier.
A few people say that the indoor tomatoes don’t have the flavor that field grown ones do, that they need to struggle a little like wine grapes to develop the most flavor. I disagree. Taste in tomatoes is partly variety, partly plant size (the amount of foliage) and partly the soil they are grown in and how they are watered. The worst examples are the Florida winter field grown tomatoes which are small plants, raised in very sandy soils with terrible genetics, they have no flavor. Second are some of the greenhouse tomatoes grown in bags of “substrate” (not soil), irrigated and feed with synthetic nutrients, under low light conditions. Some of them at least have some better taste genetics bred in.
Most tomatoes grown under high tunnels by small farmers are grown just like field tomatoes, in the same rich organic soil as the field just with a layer of plastic over them to protect them from early season cold and excessive moisture. The most flavor comes from a variety with good flavor genes, a large plant with good foliage to photosynthesize lots of sugars and other compounds that go into the fruit, a good balanced soil to provide the right nutrients and careful irrigation. Too much water washes out the flavor, just like in melons.
We spend a lot of time on managing our great soil with cover crops, compost and minerals, have spent years trialing and choosing the most flavorful varieties and most importantly are very careful in how much irrigation water we give them- especially when ripening. What we really need now is some sun and warmer temperatures!
To update our fundraising to contribute to Campaign Zero to help end police violence in America, we had another impressive week helped with more large donations from Ellie and Jim, Karen, Lydia and others. The total for the month is now at $702. Thank you all!
Picture of the week
Even this lone sunflower can’t brighten this gray week.
What’s going to be at Market?
To facilitate less contact and faster exchanges we are encouraging people to pre-order so that it is ready to go when you get to market this page has all of the details on how to do that. We need your orders by noon on Friday for us to be able to put them together on Friday afternoon. The online store opens Wednesday about 9:00 a.m.
Tomatoes! Still a very limited supply on all varieties. Cherokee Purples and Greens, maybe the best slicers great flavor and juice. Beautiful red Big Beefs and Orange Blossoms, medium acid, firm flesh. Sungolds, the essence of tomato flavor.
Beautiful cucumbers both the long Asian Tasty Jade and the short slicers. Basil.
A small amount of Green and Red Little Gem lettuce and good supply of Red Summer Crisp Lettuce (a combination of Romaine and Red leaf) and of the Magenta Summer Crisp.
Callaloo is back! Our favorite hot weather cooking green that we call Jamaican Spinach because once sautéed and steamed it is very much like spinach.
The last week for Escarole for soups, salads or sautéing. Also the last week for crunchy Red Radishes.
The flower department is closed for the season..
Stay safe and well and we hope to see you all at the market!
Alex and Betsy
If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.
I’m a flower farmer in north Florida and last week closed out sales for the season due to heat related issues. But I would have thought in your area your Spring cut flower season would run a little longer. May I ask why it’s over for the season? (A move to NC may be in my future, so its just for my education, not prying.)
we can certainly grow flowers all season long, this is part of our semi-retirement process where we stop going to market by the 4th of July.
Thanks! I can relate, as I retired from growing year round on a commercial scale in 2017. But this year tiptoed out of retirement to grow on a very limited seasonal level. The best of both worlds!