We harvested our first few tomatoes this year way back on June 20th and sent them along to you. Since then, they have been a regular component of your boxes each and every one of the sixteen weeks that have passed.
2018 gave us a late start to tomato season. We had cool weather early in the spring that slowed their growth, and then cool weather again that slowed their ripening. It felt like we were waiting months for the green fruit to finally turn color. Many years we have started harvesting tomatoes in late May or early June — three weeks or even a month sooner than this year.
Generally, our tomatoes produce in waves directly related to the weather. A cool spell allows them to set fruit, then a hot spell stops them from pollinating. Two months later when it is time for the fruit to mature, hot weather ripens them and cool weather stops the ripening.
In 2018, the cool and mild spring kept the tomatoes constantly blooming and setting an enormous amount of fruit. But any time a plant is loaded down with fruit, it takes longer for it too ripen. Producing sugar requires photosynthesis and water, and the more of it the plant needs to make, the longer it takes.
A bumper crop of fruit is never a guarantee of success. It could have been a real disaster if we had gotten a long, searing heatwave like we had in 2017. That would have ripened everything them at once, overwhelming our ability to harvest and use them all. Instead, we had seasonally hot weather with cool nights that allowed our tomatoes to ripen all summer long with no interruptions at all.
Sometimes when summer starts late as it did this year, it can make it up on the flip side and drag well into October. That can keep tomatoes producing far into fall. But the summer of 2018 turned out to be short and sweet. By Labor Day it was obvious that our tomatoes were closing up shop. Most of the fruit had ripened, and they weren’t making any more.
In the end we were able to drag out the season for a full month after that. And the tomatoes in your boxes in September were almost certainly the sweetest of the season. But as October approached, they were getting harder and harder to find out there. Every week, we wondered “Will there be enough for all the CSA boxes?”
Last week’s early rain answered the question for us. We picked the tomatoes for your boxes on Monday, just before the storm arrived. By Wednesday, the small amount of precipitation had literally exploded most of the fruit still in the field.
And so there are no tomatoes in your boxes today. It’s still possible that we may harvest them once or twice more, if it stays warm and dry. But for now, we’re going to call this one of our shorter — and sweeter — tomato seasons in recent memory.