As I approached the truck at the farm getting loaded in the field the first thing I noticed was a procession of green baskets filled with tomatoes as far as my eyes could see. It undulated toward the horizon and I instantly thought of Dorothy and the yellow brick road except mine was paved with countless lugs of yellow and red tomatoes instead of bricks. And there were plenty more on the vine waiting to be picked. The walls of cherry tomato plants are so thick and tall that they are like a labyrinth garden loaded with bright orbs of sunset colors. As you approach the center of the row you can feel a peaceful solitude while snacking on the sweetest orange and red gumdrop tomatoes. Before arriving at the farm I had just come from the packing house where several pallets were loaded with heirloom tomatoes ripe and ready. So yes we are at the peak of the tomato season and have launched our annual sale. So all you folks out there making your own sauce to last for the year to preserve summer in a jar, now is your opportunity so seize the day. We are running case specials but you don’t need to purchase a whole case to reap the rewards of this year’s bumper crop. We have dropped our prices at the stands and no matter heirlooms, beefsteak, roma, or green; all tomatoes are the same price and the more you get the better the deal.
In addition to tomatoes we are picking all the key ingredients for gazpacho and ratatouille, cucumbers, onions, peppers and eggplant. Gorgeous shiny eggplants of various shades of purple set beside rows of bullhorn and bell peppers all turning a vibrant yellow and red. Okra plants are loaded and we are gathering up the ground cherries for those who would like to try something different. Cucumbers and zucchinis are back to a steady production as well. The biggest dilemma we had this week was gathering up about 200 bushels of onions and figuring out where to store and cure them. I’m still not certain why we didn’t plan for this sooner. If it’s because we had a better crop or just that we procrastinated on the planning. We started getting creative about onion storage and I started picturing the unused space of the historic Bethesda Community Store and converting it to “The Onion Room”.
While speaking with our farm manager and in complete awe with how much they are getting done I realize their is sort of a race of endurance going on between the crew and the plants. The crew is trying to keep pace but sometimes the plants bolt out ahead. We’ve begun bringing in extra weekend help to keep up. Last weekend was crucial to find people to help pick and get us caught up with the plants. This weekend we are hoping to get ahead and do some trellising of our blackberries and preparing the strawberry beds that will get planted in a couple weeks. We even started talking about cover crops that will begin in September.
Lastly I discovered a hidden butterfly garden that was really a sight to see. I think we planted them to attract beneficial insects and pollinators, but in all honesty I had completely forgotten about it. A jungle of zinnias, and dahlias and all kinds of wild flowers so brilliant and festive towering over me. The flowers seemed to be alive when I noticed nearly every flower seemed to have a partner or two. There were countless swallowtails butterflies, tigers and standards, almost as many of them as their were of the tomatoes. It made me think of those great monarch butterfly migrations in Mexico that I always wanted to take the kids to see. Wow, I really felt like I was in a special place and time. It doesn’t have much to do with our produce this week but I new it was something I thought I’d share. Have a great week everyone.