A Sad Summer for Tomatoes

September 1st, 2009


A Jersey girl, born and bred, you may think that a love for Jersey Tomatoes was in my blood. Not true for many years, as I was never a fan of a tomato that wasn’t sauced or ketchuped. But with maturity came appreciation, and before I knew it, I was trolling the farmer’s market for the perfect plant to take home.

With a practically sunless yard, I set forth for a potted garden of herbs and tomatoes on my deck, each year gaining new insight and passion for those few but beautiful plants. This year, I planted three tomato plants to fill my small, sunny domain. Three plants – three varieties. One – my very first heirloom tomato plant, grown from a seedling gifted to me by our own Chef Julie Snarski – as of this weekend has grown over six feet tall.

But a little bit ago, I noticed some yellow spots forming on the leaves of one of my plants. Having read about late blight, a devasting crop disease, over a month ago, I worried, but quickly dismissed my fears, assuring myself it was simply a lack of sun. But as tomato after tomato from my most fruitful plant began to show greasy, black rings, and the plant itself looked lifeless, I knew it was more. I sacrificed my faithful plant, by fire of course, in order to save my precious heirloom, which has only now started to fruit.

As I wait for my heirlooms to grow, I’ve begun to notice some spots on the leaves that were closest to my blighted plant. Fingers crossed, I will harvest a few precious homegrown heirlooms before the blight takes its toll. And, I’ve moved my third plant as far away as possible (which is sadly, only a few feet).

But I am not alone, as late blight has devastated commercial and backyard farmers all over the east coast. Even domestic goddess Martha Stewart lost 70 percent of her crop that included 50 varieties of tomatoes! Her photos will break your heart…

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