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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Check tomatoes for damage after heavy rains

A rain-guage adage:

Summer showers give gardeners hours
(that would otherwise be spent watering),

but what does too much rainfall bring?


My area had a huge rainstorm yesterday that, while a welcome respite from my having to drag the hose around, delivered too much water at once for the tomatoes. Nearly every red and orange tomato I picked today sports a gaping crack that wasn't there two days ago. It's not a loss; these tomatoes are perfectly edible as long as I use them right away, but when does a batch of "do-or-die" produce ever fit neatly into the day's itinerary? These tomatoes cannot be stored for another day (I generally avoid refrigeration), because the split skins invite rot. And fast! 

Some of these tomatoes show small white cracks that formed earlier in the growing season and closed over. They are likely the result of other periods of excessive water -- it's been a doozy of a rainy summer this year, as my twice-flooded basement can attest! The difference between the old, healed cracks and the new ones is that the former occurred when the tomato was still growing. Once the green tomatoes reach full size and start to ripen, split skins will not close over and will instead be a gate for ravaging insects.

If a big storm is in the forecast, it is worthwhile to harvest ripening tomatoes ahead of time to ensure the plants don't get overwatered and cause the fruits to split. Any tomato with a hint of color can ripen off the vine just fine. A pre-emptive harvest gives you more control over when to use the ripening tomatoes. Removing the fruit also lightens branches and spares them from damage when winds and rain are fierce. Worse than a split-skin tomato is a tomato that a storm pushed to the ground off a broken branch. Guess I'm off to make sauce!


David said...

Jennifer, I had that same issue with spitting skins on tomatoes this year as well. We had excessive rain here in Nebraska as well. The tomatoes were awesome tasting and very juicy but just not pretty for slicing and displaying on the table. I canned 12 quarts for Winter soups. They were meaty and great tasting. Perfect for canning but not so much for giving away. Folks are used to the blemish free tomatoes found in the grocery stores and turn up their noses at a chemical free grown tomato with a few blemishes on it. It's actually sad how consumers have been wooed into thinking flavorless produce that lacks nutrition is a good thing just because it looks good. And yes, harvest time comes at the most inopportune times. It's a total inconvenience but this Winter when the winds are howling outside and I'm enjoying a hot bowl of soup made from the garden produce, it will make it all worth the effort.

Have a great tomato harvesting day. :-)

NotThatKindOfFarmer said...

Thank you for sharing this information.Its very interesting.