Saturday, August 1, 2009

STILL Waiting for Tomatoes

Local excitement over the first ripening Better Boy tomato! It is the only one so far. I think I will leave it on the vine for a while just to show the others it CAN be done.

The entire region is waiting for tomatoes. According to today's paper our tomatoes always peak later (as compared to say, the Central Valley, I imagine) because of cool night temperatures. This year there has been untypical daytime coolness as well. "Since June 1, only 24 days have peaked at 80 or above . . . . Thirty-eight days have fallen below 80 and below seasonal average." This was certainly true all last week, which was cool and foggy in the mornings with balmy, perfect afternoons in the mid to high 70s. This pattern is expected to continue through next week but trending even cooler. Normal would be low to mid 80s.

We have had a couple of hot spells to be sure -- in the high 90s -- which somehow always seem to coincide with a harvest kitchen day.

I was surprised to read that local farmers really like this cool weather. Produce such as beans, squash, and corn are thriving, they say. Even the heat-lovers, like eggplant, peppers, melons -- and tomatoes - are expected to do better than when they are sun-blasted. "I think the fog is wonderful for growing vegetables," says one. "This is Salinas weather, which is ideal for vegetables: peppers, beans, and stuff like that."

Evidently this kind of weather makes for better produce: "firm and ripe, with generally better color, flavor, and appearance than usual," according to the UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor.

So far, the only tomatoes we have harvested are a few ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes -- a handful now and then for a salad. Local farmers are just starting to get theirs to market.

But most of ours are still green. We shall see what happens during the rest of the month. August is usually our time of peak abundance. Last year our vegetables and fruits came mostly from our backyard, with plenty left over to stock the freezer.

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