Many things went well in 2014. We grew and sold more produce than ever. The weather was cool and rainy, but we missed out on the flooding and terrible storms that plagued other parts of the state.
One thing that didn’t go as wonderfully as planned was our greenhouse tomato program. We grew and sold more tomatoes than ever, but I wasn’t happy with the flavor. Even our outdoor field tomatoes were just “okay,” probably due to the cool temperatures and rain. It was clear to me, however, that many people just want a round, red tomato and don’t care as much about the flavor as I do. As much as I would explain repeatedly to a customer that the best tasting tomatoes were cracked on top, or were brown, purple, green, or striped, they would fixate on and purchase the perfectly smooth, red, round, and not-very-tasty greenhouse varieties. Geronimo tasted better than Florida 91, and was easier to trellis due to its indeterminate habit, but neither variety impressed me with flavor.
In an effort to provide something for everyone this year, we’re going to grow grafted Big Beef in the greenhouses. The seeds are cheaper, the tomatoes will be bigger, and Big Beef is a popular variety for a reason – it hasn’t had all the flavor bred out of it. I don’t think it is as firm or as heat tolerant as the Florida 91s, but surely it will taste better. I’m going to plant my remaining Florida 91s in the field as a hedge against a hot summer. We’ll also put some heirlooms back in the greenhouse- Eva Purple Ball, Cherokee Purple, and Mark Twain (he claimed not to like tomatoes, but they named one after him anyway). And we’re going to have 4 types of cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse for rainbow quarts early in the season.
I chose Eva Purple Ball because it’s been one of the most productive outdoor tomatoes on our farm several years running. Striped Cavern sets more fruit, but is only good eating when it’s baked and stuffed. Opalka sets a ton of fruit too, but gets blossom end rot and always has green, cracked shoulders. (I forgive Opalka, because it tastes good enough to be worth the bother.) Eva Purple Ball has perfect pink spheres, no cracks, and sets fruit in big clusters. I can’t wait to see what it does on top of a nice disease resistant, vigorous rootstock. Cherokee Purple is so universally beloved by those who like heirloom tomatoes that it was the first, most obvious choice for a greenhouse heirloom, even though it is not a super productive variety. Mark Twain was chosen because it’s round and red AND is supposed to taste good.
Our lineup of tomato plants will be similar to other years, with the addition of Weisnicht’s Ukranian and Indigo Cherry Drops. Many seed catalogs have descriptions that exaggerate badly, but I’ve found Fedco’s descriptions to be quite accurate, so I went ahead and got some seed.
In non-tomato news, I have green onions and leeks in our summer field crop plan for the first time in a few years. Our ginger supplier has no seed this year, freeing up about 800 square feet of greenhouse space. This means more greens when the Carmel Farmers Market starts up in May. We added about 600 more feet of strawberries in the fall, and 100 raspberry plants will be joining them in April. Neither are expected to bear a crop until 2016. Rhubarb is on the seed schedule too, with a small crop possible next year and more in 2017 and beyond. Also, a great response at the Indy Winter Farmers Market means our fall crop offerings will continue to expand. Look for savoy cabbage, black spanish radishes, four colors of carrots, dumpling squash, and cylindrical beets. And more giant kohlrabi.
We’re strongly considering adding an additional summer market, but have not yet chosen the market or the person to work the booth. If you have an opinion on the matter, let us know!