While the rest of the U.S. boils, bakes and fries under a torrid sun, we in the Northwest are starting to mildew. The weather situation is so bad that a local TV station meteorologist cum blogger made the front page of The Seattle Times for reporting that as of July 19, Seattle had experienced a total of 78 minutes of summer. The meteorologist used 80 degrees as the necessary temperature to qualify as summer weather.
Three more-optimistic weeks ago we bought four heirloom tomato plants at a Saturday market and planted them in a spot that would guarantee full sun, confident that since night-time temperatures were above 50 degrees summer would arrive soon. We chose strains specifically for their short growing times. Since it was already July, we wanted the least time to pass between the plants making flowers and our serving up sweet, ripe tomatoes on our dinner plates. We also chose plants that had the most flowers. We were encouraged by their appearance. Good color and peppy, I thought.
Our new plants enjoyed three days of sun before the rains began. After a few weeks, their original color became gray. “Mold,” I said. My husband said, “No, it’s blight.” Since neither of us have ever lived on a farm, this was an argument that couldn’t be easily settled. But it didn’t matter. First, we watched the top branches shrivel. Then flowers began to drop. Clearly they were dying.
Today, our first truly sunny day, my husband went out to cut off the gray, moldy or blighted branches, which caused one tomato to fall off. We divided it in half for each of us to sample. “Sweet, but a little watery,” I said. He liked it, so I went out to pick its twin which was still clinging to a branch. As of today, we have enjoyed this year’s tomato harvest. Thanks to my husband’s bumping into a plant and knocking one tomato to the ground, you could say it was a bumper crop.