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The Trouble With Tomatoes in the Northeast


weinoo
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According to today's NY Times, in an article penned by Julia Moskin,

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

Seems like the fungus, which is a strain of the same fungus that caused the Irish potato famine in the 19th century, is responsible.

Even more worrisome to me is the fact that this has caused farmers who normally farm using IPM, to turn to other methods, including a farmer known to many of us who shop at NYC's Union Square Green Market:

Tim Stark, a Pennsylvania farmer who specializes in tomatoes, said he spotted three affected plants — he has more than 25,000 in the ground — last week and was worried enough to spray them with synthetic fungicide for the first time in 14 years of farming. For good measure, he pulled all of his potatoes out of the field.

This whole episode will, of course, cause prices on affected crops to rise rather dramatically. It may be one of those years where I don't buy all that many tomatoes.

What do you do when the price for something you really enjoy using in your cooking perhaps doubles?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Having just returned from a farmers market (Hope St) here in Providence, I have another worry to add to the list of NE tomato-lovers: most of them so far suck. The lack of sun and the absurd amount of rain is producing inferior fruit, even without the fungus problem. It's depressing as all get-out.

Chris Amirault

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Seriously depressing. There is nothing I look forward to more in the summer than tomatoes. (Corn is a close second.) If farms like Eckerton Hill double the price of their tomatoes, so be it. I'll still buy them, perhaps in smaller amounts, but there's no way I'll skip them.

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Seriously depressing.  There is nothing I look forward to more in the summer than tomatoes.  (Corn is a close second.)  If farms like Eckerton Hill double the price of their tomatoes, so be it.  I'll still buy them, perhaps in smaller amounts, but there's no way I'll skip them.

Me too. Yet I don't know if I'll be shelling out close to $10 a pound for field-grown tomatoes. I used a pint of hothouse grown grape tomatoes in a pasta dish this past week, and they were pretty sweet, so I may be sticking with those this year.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Seriously depressing.  There is nothing I look forward to more in the summer than tomatoes.  (Corn is a close second.)  If farms like Eckerton Hill double the price of their tomatoes, so be it.  I'll still buy them, perhaps in smaller amounts, but there's no way I'll skip them.

Me too. Yet I don't know if I'll be shelling out close to $10 a pound for field-grown tomatoes. I used a pint of hothouse grown grape tomatoes in a pasta dish this past week, and they were pretty sweet, so I may be sticking with those this year.

I use a lot of grape tomatoes all the time - they tend to be more sturdy and last longer, so if I'm not going to be eating them right away I'll buy the grapes, and I tend to always have some in the kitchen in the summer. But I won't be able to pass up the beautiful heirlooms - assuming they even make it to market - for really simple salads or on their own with some good olive oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Ugh, I am so depressed.

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I didn't even bother to plant tomatoes this year...the first time in a very long time.

But I can tell you that really good, real tomatoes don't usually come around here in MA until late July at the earliest anyway -- there haven't been enough degree days until then.

You southerners in RI are spoiled... :raz:

If the weather settles down and we get our usual spell of summer heat/drought within the next week or so, all could still be OK. Yields may be down, and the season probably won't last as long because the plants will die back quicker at the end of the season, but flavor depends on one factor: dry heat.

I suspect farmers around here might have put their plants out later in the spring because we had such late frosts and cold nights, so that might actually have helped. The tomato plants I see in our area are looking surprisingly healthy so far.

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Margaret Roach, formerly the garden guru for Martha Stewart, explains the woes well, with links, in this blog post. I feel for those in the affected area. I am in Southern California and not suffering, but I can imagine the pain. My best tomato source was pretty much a bust last year. My strategy was to only buy one at a time to make sure they were worth it. When they did not measure up, which was most of the time, I decided to park my cravings till this year. Thankfully things are looking pretty good, but the bleakness of last year is making the goodness of this year all the more special.

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If the weather settles down and we get our usual spell of summer heat/drought within the next week or so, all could still be OK.  Yields may be down, and the season probably won't last as long because the plants will die back quicker at the end of the season, but flavor depends on one factor: dry heat.

Of course you had to bring up a memory of some fantastic tomatoes I used to be able to secure in my local California farmer's market every summer - they were dry farmed, and the intensity of the flavors was really something special.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Spoke to a few farmers today at USGM (Union Square greenmarket for you non-New Yorkers).

They all have it. One fellow had about $40,000 worth of product tossed out the window.

Jersey tomatoes are available -- but then they've been grown indoors, so they're unaffected. The late summer toms and the heirlooms are another story. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Like daisy17, if I have to pay double for the going price, so be it.

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A similar disease struck my garden last year. Most of my tomato plants died very early and I now believe my soil is contaminated. I moved all my tomato plants to another lot this year but I just can't imagine how disastrous this blight could be to any large scale producers.

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One farmer I know outside of Boston recently confirmed that not only is the blight on her farm, it's on just about every farm in the area, all the way up to Maine. It really is going to be a rough year for tomatoes and potatoes in the northeast. She also told me that the blight arrived on seedlings grown by a very large producer in South America and sold via Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Of course, I suppose, they've already made their profit. The price will be paid by hundreds of small farmers whose livelihoods depend on their crops and their customers throughout the northeast.

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Although I am far from the NE, I feel your pain.

The blight is real (although we haven't seen it here) but I'm just sure it has been exacerbated by weather. Rain and clouds, and too much standing water on the tomato leaves don't help matters.

Here in the midwest, we have been plagued by drought and really cool nights. Think low 50's.

Too much rain, not enough, too cool, no sun and even if the plants weren't blighted when they arrived -- they'll get blight.

I'm just hoping for at least one decent 'mater this summer.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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All it is is Late Blight. But, saying all it is - well it is a bad, horrible thing.

The plant dies within 48 (generous) hours.

Sorry you guys.

On the bright side, some growers in the area are not seeing it. It seems to be a microclimate thing.

Tomatoes are coming in to the mid-atlantic now, according to growers. You guys just need about a week of warm temps.

Here's wishing for ya.

Remember, they went into the dirt three weeks late. That sets everything back three weeks vs. norm.

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