What’s been going on!
The peak of tomato season and Tomato Day at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is Saturday! Lots of tomatoes to sample, a raffle, music and more. Don’t miss it! In honor of the week I bring you an updated version of a tomato related newsletter from a decade ago.
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 2000 feet of row. Everyone becomes a specialist in certain varieties.
Kyle 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.
Laura is the Heirloom queen this season with hundreds of feet of row to pick and sort, some of them have the most difficult stems to remove without damaging the fruit and sometimes one must resort to using needle nosed pliers to pull them off. Starting 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. The tender skinned yellow Azoychkas and next the Kellogg’s Breakfast. Moving to the green-when-ripes, interpreting if it still green or if it has just enough golden cast to it to be picked. Jennie usually takes on the tiny Sungold cherries. Blush, Black Cherries and more while making sure the picking and sorting is going well.
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.
Picture of the Week
A packing shed bursting with tomatoes
What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading