Hi I returned last Saturday to the Santa Fe Farmers Market with a few boxes. Starting tomorrow (Sat Sept 9), I will be there from 7 am-1 pm throughout the rest of the tomato season. The tomatoes are starting to come in now after a long wait. Don’t wait too long to come to my booth as I will run out before the end of the market. I am located INSIDE THE BUILDING. Just look UP for my ‘Tomato Lady’ sign above my booth. The market people may be moving me around a little inside the building so be sure to look around to see the sign. I have many new great varieties and of course my favorites I bring like Paul Robeson, Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold, Costuluto Genevese, Pink Berkley Tie Dye and more. Over 20 varieties grown this season from all over the world. And of course I will have some Shishito peppers, and small eggplants as well. This is my last season at the market so be sure to come by and say hi and pick up a few.
Now that the monsoons are in full blast, tomato fungal diseases are showing up with all the moisture. One of them is Early Blight. It is caused by a fungus called Alternaria solani. Early Blight is a fungal disease that attacks tomato plants starting on the bottom leaves of the plant and works it’s way upwards. The leaves start turning yellow and get blotchy. If left unchecked, it can take over your plant killing it although it won’t die immediately. Where does it come from? It comes from water splashing soil up on the lower leaves, allowing the fungal spores to colonize on the leaves. The culprit is a bad soil fungus (there are good soil fungus as well). That’s why you always see it start on the bottom leaves. Early Blight should not be confused with Late Blight which is prevalent in northeastern United States. We don’t have Late Blight out here in the southwest (at least not yet).
-There are several things you can immediately do to help with this disease if you get this. The first thing you do is trim off the affected branches where the leaves are yellow. Keep trimming up your plant as needed and spray with an organic fungicide like Serenade.
-Disinfect your shears between plants by dipping the shears and your hand in a container of water with about 10% bleach solution. Alcohol also works. Be sure to disinfect your shears between plants because you can spread Early Blight.
-I like Serenade, an organic fungicide which provides protection from a broad spectrum of common fungal and bacterial diseases. It is a biological fungicide, meaning it uses other spores that crowd out the Early Blight spores. Spray it on when the leaves are dry. It is rainproof, non-toxic for bees and other beneficial insects. Respray every 5-7 days. Spray all parts of the plant-both on top and underneath till dripping. Serenade is also good to spray on other vegetables. Spray for powdery mildew on squash, cucumbers and melons and leaf rust on beans. I use it for all my vegetables. Don’t wait till you get the disease—it works best as a preventative but you can control many fungal diseases with Serenade.
-In addition to trimming the affected leaves, trim off any branches or leaves that touch the ground. I never let any leaves or branches touch the ground, trimming them up about 12 or more inches.
-Another option is to stake or tie up any branches that might touch the ground.
–Mulch with straw underneath the plant so the soil can’t splash up on plant when it rains or if you water overhead. This is key to help prevent Early Blight on your tomatoes. I do it the minute I plant my tomato plants in the spring and add more straw as the plant spreads till eventually the whole bed is covered with straw. If you didn’t do it this year, you can still add straw now. Besides it’s also great for keeping moisture from evaporating in our hot sun.
-If space allows, rotate susceptible crops every 3 years. Just change where you plant tomatoes every year.
I always wonder what is that substance on my hands after working with my tomato plants with my bare hands. My hands turn kinda green and eventually brownish. I wash my hands over and over again and the soapy foam on my hands turn yellow and worse, the towel I use to dry my hands gets green stains.
What is this? It is called ‘tomato tar’ and comes from trichomes on the surface of the tomato plant. Trichomes contain chemicals in the form of essential oils that give tomato plants their smell and repels some insects and has another substance called acylsugars. Alcylsugars are part of the defensive system of the tomato by producing a sort of oil that stops insects from wanting to walk on them. This is exactly what gets on our hands and turns them green or even brown if you leave it on your hands long enough. Getting it off is not easy as I mentioned above but I just read a solution to brown tomato hands that I have to try.
I learned the acylsugars are not water soluble. Most soaps are alkaline which turns the soap foam yellow and still keep your hands brown. If we wash our hands in a weak solution of white vinegar and water, really wash our hands with it-no soap and then rinse it off and then wash in soap, our hands should turn human color again! Also use paper towels or a designated towel to dry your hands as the soap residue from our laundry can turn the towels green. I prefer a black or dark brown towel so if there are some stains (they don’t come out) at least I can’t see them.
Lastly I’ve had some luck taking a piece of fresh lemon and rub it over my hands squeezing the juice to make sure my hands are wet. I have to wait about 5 minutes and then rinse in water and then use soap and water and that seems to work too. I know lemons become alkaline when we mix them with water and drink it but pure lemon juice is acidic and works on my hands. It’s been a year since I’ve had tomato hands and I know when I get them, it’s just a short time till I’ll be eating those wonderful tomatoes!
Here are my favorite vegetables going into the 2017 growing season. I may not have room for all these in the gardening but these are my favorites as of right now
VEGETABLES FOR THE TABLE-TOMATO LADY’S FAVORITES
Goldman’s Italian American-85D
Any cherry tomato
Artisan Blush Tiger
EARLY TOMATOES-52-65 days
Bella Rosa*-very firm even when ripe
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye
Black and Brown Boar
LATE-SEASON-80 days +
Purple Cherokee-purple tomato
Paul Robeson-dark tomato
Indigo Apple or Indigo Rose
*denotes hybrid tomato
Romano-Italian pole or bush
Tarbais-dry pole bean for French cassoulet
Chiogga-beautiful red with white stripes inside
Scarlet Nantes-orange sweet
Chantenay Red-orange very sweet
Ruby Red-gorgeous red/good flavor
Argentata-white stem-favorite in Italy-very cold hardy
Poona Kheera-best tasting ever
Lemon cucumber-never bitter
Boothsby Blonde-Bread and Butter pickles
Russian Pickling-Dill pickles
Mini Whites-sweet pickles
Rosa Bianca-big eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan
Fairytale-small, sauté or BBQ
Jimmy Nardello-red thin skin pepper for sautéing-SWEET
Shishito-Japanese small green pepper-saute-serve for tapas-NOT HOT
Poblano-use for chile relleno/MILDLY HOT
Butternut-will not attract squash bugs
Galeux D’ Eyesines
Costata Romanesco-zucchini-Favorite of Deborah Madison also
Bennings Green Tint-patty pan
I always plant several new varieties of tomatoes each year and the winner hands down for 2016 was:
It is a fantastic yellowish tomato with pink blush outside and inside as well. Sometimes they were more yellowish with pink overtones and sometimes more pinkish with some yellow overtones. No matter the color, it has an exceptional sweet flavor like a Brandywine. It never cracked or got diseases and was very prolific. It is a potato leaf variety. I haven’t been this excited about a tomato for a long time. It now beats my beloved Virginia Sweet tomatoes which are prone to cracks and diseases.
When I did some research on this tomato, the variety originally came from Craig LeHoullier (author of Epic Tomatoes). He stated it came from a Brandywine and an unknown bee-produced cross and had the luck to grow it out with these great attributes. You can read the story of it from him here. No wonder I thought it tasted like a Brandywine! It is now a stable open-pollinated (OP) tomato and will grow out the same each generation. I saved some of the seeds from this beauty and will definitely grow it next season.
I read that you can see tomato hornworms with a UV (ultraviolet) light. Two nights ago we went out to see if we could spot them. I had gotten a UV flashlight last year but didn’t receive it till after the first freeze so there wasn’t much to see. But not that night! In the daylight I could only see the chewed up leaves on 2 plants but could not find the hornworms. But at night they are easy to spot with the UV light. We found many small ones as well as big ones that we would have missed if not for the UV light.
Also we noticed that there seem to be either fluorescent bite marks or trails where they had been so if we saw these we would see if any were hiding. We probably got 30 tomato hornworms in all. What a great way to find them.
I’ve lived here for 21 years and have never seen the tomatoes ripen this late. In fact the majority of them in my garden are still green. I have a few sungolds and black cherry tomatoes and one Pink Berkley Tie Dye and a couple of red ones ripen but that’s it-the rest are still green on the vine.
The plants are big and healthy. So what’s happening here?
The first problem was we had a hot June (except for one weekend) and an unbelievably hot July here with day after day of 92+°F. Why does that matter? Tomatoes won’t pollinate themselves over 92°f-they drop their blossoms, which is commonly known as blossom drop. They will keep producing blossoms but won’t set them producing tomatoes until it’s cooler. So we lost a whole month, putting us behind schedule.
Problem # 2
So once the monsoons thankfully came in, it got cooler and now we have green tomatoes in various stages of ripening. But suddenly, it got even cooler. So much so that it is starting to feel like autumn in August with temperatures dropping at night into the 50’s and daytime temps are much lower in the 70s. So although the tomatoes can’t have extreme heat to set fruit, they need heat to ripen. With cooler temps, it takes longer for tomatoes to turn red, or yellow, or black or whatever color they should be when ripe.
Normally I show up at the Farmers Market middle of August with 6-8 boxes of tomatoes that then increases to 15-20 boxes every week.
Here is what I have now. Only 2 little bowls of tomatoes, getting a bowl a day-hardly enough to go to market with.
Now it is a race to get some tomatoes to ripen before our first frost which usually comes in October but one year it came in early September. Let’s hope not this year!
Last year I decided to slow down and take a little time off (farmer’s burnout) and that I might not go to the market as much nor grow as many tomatoes either. I have 40 tomatoes this year (lost three to curly top virus) so now I have 37 compared to 125 tomato plants last year. I guess I made a good choice as I’m not sure how long into Sept it will be before I have enough to go to market if at all before a frost.