Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #22, 6/17/20

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

P1050593Even this lone sunflower can’t brighten this gray week.

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