It’s Harvest Time: Tomatoes
September 4, 2020
Tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes!
Once you’ve enjoyed a locally grown tomato it’s pretty hard to go back to tomatoes shipped from other states or countries. The sweet, rich, and delicious flavor of the tomatoes we grow gives us motivation and patience as we wait months for them to come into fruition. Growing tomatoes in the rocky mountains at 6,400 feet elevation takes some consideration and planning.
We begin our tomato seeding in February, when the ground outside our Seed Start House usually has a blanket of snow and nighttime temperatures are well below freezing. When seeding these small seeds, it’s hard to imagine the bounty they’ll provide come the warm days of late summer. We grow tomatoes in three season extension structures, CORE House, Rolling Thunder, and Skid. Our CORE House is the warmest of the three, thanks to three walls of insulation, double layer of polyethylene plastic, and a climate battery. Rolling Thunder and Skid are a bit more simple, with metal frames and polyethylene plastic. We can plant frost-sensitive crops in the CORE House between late March and early April. Since the other two houses offer less insulation, we don’t plant summer crops in them until mid-May. Since these houses are ready for summer crops at different times, it offers a natural succession of tomatoes. CORE House reaches peak production first, and as it starts to wane, Rolling Thunder and Skid pick up.
Approximately one hundred and thirty days later, we harvested our first Sungold in the CORE House. 130 days! And tomato plants kind of tease you, because they ripen a few fruits, but peak production is still a few weeks out. Taking all of our houses into consideration, our peak production is in the middle of August. Customers (and farmers!) have their patience tested, as most of our society associates the warm sunny days of June with bountiful tomatoes. Some of the varieties we grow are Cherokee Purple, (an Heirloom variety), Sun Gold, Blue Beech, Marbonne, Margold, and Sakura.
Resource: Check out this article from NPR called “Cherokee Purple: The Story Behind One Of Our Favorite Tomatoes” here.
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WHAT IS REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE?
All of our regenerative agriculture practices at Rock Bottom Ranch keep the land as the first priority. Whether it be the way we intentionally graze our livestock or use practices to minimally disturb soil structure in our vegetable production, we’re stewarding the land and then producing food. Vegetable production is naturally extractive. The vegetables absorb the nutrients, and then they’re harvested and the nutrients leave the farm. After continual vegetable harvests, the soil gets depleted. We have a variety of techniques to keep our soil healthy. We add compost to our vegetable beds, we seed cover crop to capture nutrients and store it in the soil, and we till minimally so the integrity of the soil can stay intact. There are many styles of farming, (vegetables or livestock), that can negatively impact our climate over time. An easy way to support a healthy climate is to support regenerative and sustainable farming practices.
Pull out all your favorite tomato recipes, and enjoy the last bit of our tomato season!
Rock Bottom Ranch Agriculture Manager