My heart is heavy for my dear friend, Paige Atkinson, who runs a CSA near Lake Placid, NY, as I just learned that she had to destroy her 325 tomato plants due to late blight. The entire Northeastern US tomato crop it seems, has fallen prey to late blight, most notably tomato plants purchased from big box stores. Those that were home-raised from seed seem to be faring better, but they too are susceptible to this airborne blight that releases spores which travel distances on the breezes to affect tomatoes and potatoes, both members the nightshade family. Apparently this is the same blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine that began in 1845 and lasted for six long and deadly years.
So far our dozen tomato plants are unaffected, but the wet and cool weather we've been plagued with, (the 5th coolest July on record with an average temperature of 67.3 degrees), may yet take its toll.The skies have looked like this for the past several weeks, overcast with low, dark clouds moving by, seemingly just above the reach of my upstretched arm. The air tastes wet and earthy, and smells cling to the humidity and are carried along by the constant breeze that turns up the leaves and makes the windchimes clamor. Rainfall this week was 1-1/2 inches, not a great amount for the week but it fell almost constantly, with no respite for the ground to dry out a bit between the tropical downpours.
Every day (several times a day?!) I go out to the garden to inspect the tomatoes and am relieved to find the plants healthy, though the tomatoes themselves seem, to my impatient mind, to be very slow to ripen this year without the heat and sunshine. I suppose we are fortunate that our nearest neighbor's tomato patch is more than 1/4 mile away. The fields that buffer our tomatoes from his have probably kept our tomatoes blightless so far. I cannot imagine a summer without our own home-grown tomatoes, the plants so carefully chosen, planted, protected from frost, nurtured, staked, pruned, pollinated with q-tips (in case the bees aren't doing their jobs correctly!), harvested, juiced and sauced.....it goes on and on, the enjoyment we reap from our own tomatoes. They are the superstars of summer!
This week we ate our Asian eggplants for the first time. Peppers are growing on the pepper plants. We harvested some beets this week and started to dig Yukon Gold potatoes. We planted new crops of spinach, cilantro and a fall beet crop. In the upcoming week I will harvest the basil and make pesto for the freezer. The cucumbers are slowing down now but we still have lots of 8-Ball zucchini, which are so outstanding when they are fried!
Lessons learned (or reinforced) this week: Don't count your tomatoes while they are still on the vine. Impatience is not a virtue; it just makes one anxious. Trust that all is in perfect and Divine order.