Well, if ever there is a zombie apocalypse, send me out with a bow to hunt zombies or something, because I’m going to need a few more years of practice before I get this whole crop growing thing perfected.
This week the tomatoes finally reached that shade of reddish orange that meant I could pluck them from their branches!
Now unfortunately every single tomato had spiral scars along their sides. This I learned (thanks to Google) is the result of an inconsistent watering schedule and the fact that I was growing my plants in pots during a California summer.
For the most part, the scarring doesn’t harm the tomatoes. Yes, they don’t look as pretty, but they are still perfectly edible. However, the scarring does tend to leave weak points in the tomato skin for bugs to enter…watch out for holes – the telltale sign that something else has been eating your harvest.
Also, remember how I ran out of one type of soil back when I transplanted these guys and had to use another soil? Well, turns out soil does make a HUGE difference. The plants that had the fertilizer that was actually designed to “improve existing soil” fared the worst – the plants weren’t nearly as full, and their leaves yellowed and curled a lot more than my other plants. The tomatoes that came from these plants were still decent – one was even the largest tomato I picked – but the plants themselves looked rather sad, overall. The plants that had “potting soil”, however, looked amazing! Especially the one plant that was almost nothing but potting soil. It is the bushiest, greenest bush of all of them (and, coincidentally, it was one of the last ones to be attacked by caterpillars). So, let this be a lesson – USE POTTING SOIL WHEN PLANTING IN POTS!
I read online that with beefsteak tomatoes it is often best to clip them from the branches rather than try to pluck them from their stems because they don’t give quite so easily, so that is what I did. A few advisories, however…
1) Your hands will get dirty. Leftover pollen from the tomato flower buds, dirt in general, bugs, juices from rotten tomatoes, etc.
2) Just because one side of the tomato looks pretty, does not mean the tomato is pretty all the way around. Case in point – I clipped one tomato off the vine only to turn it around and drop it in disgust because the other side was completely gored by hungry buggies. Avoid touching mushy, bug-infested, rotten tomatoes at all costs.
3) Tomatoes should not have dark brown/black spots on them. These are sure signs that your tomato is either rotting or has already become the home to some bug infestation. It is advisable to toss these far from any other harvestable plants to avoid contaminating the rest of your harvest with a bug infestation.
4) If the skin of your tomato is wrinkled and mushy, toss it. If the skin is wrinkled but firm…you might be okay (I’m still waiting for one of my wrinkled-but-firm tomatoes to ripen before I cut into it – I think it might still be edible).
5) Watch out for spiders. I couldn’t see the underbelly of the first spider (which, let me tell you, that guy had been camped out underneath one of my tomatoes for an entire week, if not more, before I finally decided the tomato was ripe enough to pick), but the second spider definitely had a bright orange hourglass shape on its belly. I scared it off by poking it with a stick (naturally). A bit of research online tells me this was probably a brown widow spider. Not nearly as deadly as a black widow spider, but still not a critter you wanna go messing around with.
Though I don’t necessarily want to be placed in charge of a large crop any time soon, I do have to say that I was quite surprised at the results of my little harvest. Of all the tomatoes I picked, only a quarter of them were rotten or half-eaten by bugs, and even though there wasn’t a single un-scarred tomato in the bunch, I did manage to grow one giant tomato, and one near-perfect tomato. I even had a few funny looking ones.
I ate one of the smaller tomatoes in my taco earlier this week, and last night we had a bunch of the ripe tomatoes in a tomato and cucumber salad. Not only are the tomatoes entirely edible, but they actually taste rather good. My mom claims they’re the sweetest tomatoes she’s had in a long time, but the ones I tasted weren’t overpoweringly sweet or anything. They had more of a mild sweetness to them, and more of a slightly earthy taste. Still, not bad for a bunch of scarred tomatoes grown by a girl with a brown thumb.
There are still a few tomatoes left on the vines – they’re still too green for picking – so we’ll see if I can get the watering consistency down so that maybe at least one of these tomatoes won’t be scarred!