Well, despite all the tomato disasters this year, I’m forced to send up a prayer of thanks to the gardening gods, for at the last minute, I was able to salvage some of the crop. The plants look awful – dead and decaying foliage and fruit in an almost complete state of collapse – but the urge to reproduce and salvage something for the next generation was so strong that the plants managed to ripen some of their progeny before being carried off. Only the earliest fruits that had started to form before the blight descended in full force managed to mature, but enough did to allow me to put up 30 quarts of tomatoes. This may sound like a lot, but it’s a fraction of the 100 plus quarts one would expect from seventy healthy plants. Still, I’m not complaining: that’s thirty quarts more than most folks around here, and far more than I had expected a month ago.
I did learn one interesting thing from this disaster: in the race to harvest the fruit before the blight infected it, I brought in tomatoes slightly less ripe than I normally would. The standard wisdom goes that you let tomatoes fully ripen for canning, but I picked quite a number early, when still orange red, rather than than the deep burgundy I would normally have waited for. As it turns out, this fruit is much easier to can, as the firmer flesh blanches better, and allows for fuller packing in the jars. And from what I can tell from sampling the product, there’s been no reduction in taste. Late blight, by the way, doesn’t affect humans, so there’s no worries about eating the fruit – it’s just a question of who get’s there first – you or the disease. Once the spores reach the tomato itself, it only takes a few days for the entire fruit to turn to brown mush. Frightening, really; you can see why late blight was once considered a candidate for biological weapons.
Ah, well, on to more pleasant thoughts, like… fresh spaghetti!