But dang, there’s nothing like eating a tomato that five minutes ago was on the vine in your own greenhouse.
Hence the haiku:
Fresh bread, mayo, salt, pepper
Jersey girl heaven.
If this were New Jersey I wouldn’t need a greenhouse – just a patch of dirt almost anywhere. My childhood neighbor had one come up in the middle of the lawn, uninvited.
But this is Alaska, where it’s tough to grow them outdoors without help from at least floating row covers and preferably wave-selective plastic ground cover.
That’s not to say people don’t do it. But they generally won’t get the yield we’re getting because there simply isn’t time in the season.
Warming it up
Heck, we didn’t get our first ripe one until about Aug. 1 despite our warmer-than-usual summer, for a few reasons:
- The greenhouse is built on a deck, which means spaces between the floorboards.
- Small spaces also exist between the roof and the top of the greenhouse; we refer to these as “honeybee highways,” since we’ve seen insects zooming in and out.
- We have no auxiliary heat source except for buckets of water that absorb the day’s warmth, and it gets cool at night.
Even so we’ve got a nice clutch of tomatoes ripening and have been eating cucumbers whenever we like. The one I picked yesterday (“Sweet Slice”) measured 12 inches and had considerable girth. Seeds will be saved.
As I’ve noted before, ain’t no tomato like a Jersey tomato. But the fruits we’ve picked thus far are making us happy. The texture and flavor are as far from the store-bought stuff as fresh challah is from pilot bread.
Some things are worth it
Our only concern is that some of the varieties, especially the “Patio” and “Cherokee Purple,” are thick with tomatoes but proving slow to ripen. If we get an early cold snap then we’ll have to lug the planters indoors and maybe rig up some extra light.
Totally worth the hassle. Food you’ve grown yourself nourishes in several ways:
- Psychologically, as you watch the plants grow
- Physically, as you’re required to exert yourself (especially when you don’t have running water in the greenhouse)
- Physiologically, since we’re not eating foods picked nine days ago in Southern California (and that were drenched in pesticides and herbicides)
The outdoor beds are also producing like mad. Yesterday we had a salad with eight kinds of greens in it, and amused ourselves by speculating what that highfalutin hodgepodge would have cost at a farm market or, heaven forbid, at a restaurant.
I’ll be visiting my dad in South Jersey toward the end of September. With luck farm markets will still have local vegetables, including corn, lima beans and tomatoes. I won’t care what they cost. Some things are worth the price.
Let’s have coffee
Speaking of South Jersey: I’m interested in staging at least one reader meet-up on or about Saturday, Sept. 26. Or maybe two meetups, one in South Jersey and one across the river in Philadelphia.
The question I have is where these might take place. Got any suggestions for places that aren’t hard to get to and don’t have parking hassles?
The obvious answer is a shopping mall or a fast food restaurant. I’ll be in the town of Erial this time, since my dad just sold his place in Cumberland County. When I arrive on Sept. 23 I’ll scout for possibilities, but in the meantime I’d appreciate any reader tips.
I won’t have a car but I can probably get to the Lindenwold line and take it to the end (is Echelon Mall still there?) and also over to Philly. So perhaps I could do a morning meeting in Jersey and an early afternoon one in the Philadelphia area. The Philly suburbs shouldn’t be ruled out, as I’m not averse to taking the Market-Frankford to the end of the line or one of the commuter trains to Germantown or Chestnut Hill.
Let me know your thoughts. I’d love the chance to meet some more of you.