Melinda Briggs photo
This summer’s cool, rainy weather is causing Cincinnati home gardeners to delay one of summer’s greatest pleasures: slicing into ruby red homegrown tomato.
The cool weather may be great for that air conditioning bill, but cloudy days and chilly nights keep tomatoes from ripening. Tomatoes need those hot, steamy days that are typical to southwest Ohio in August and nighttime temperatures above 60 degrees to fully ripen. So some home gardeners are finding that their plants have loads of green tomatoes, but nothing ready for picking.
Commercial operations are in the same boat. One of the folks at Shaw’s Farm Market in Milford says their crop is healthy, but slow in ripening.
“You really won’t see tomatoes in Ohio until late July, early August,” said Rochelle Schmidt. “But this is even later than usual.” Shaw’s grows their own tomatoes (green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, too) and Schmidt said the farm market is adequately supplied, but that her tomato pickers had to pluck fruit with just a blush of color, and let the tomatoes ripen off the plant. “We needed that hot weather they were predicting,” she said.
The cool weather has its upside, though, she said. “It’s been slow-going for tomatoes, but it’s been great for our corn crop!”
Cool, wet weather can have an even more sinister impact on tomatoes, too. The current climate makes a perfect breeding ground for “late blight,” a crop disease that can attack tomatoes and potatoes. Late blight has been in the news lately in the Northeast, as it has been found in many commercial tomato operations and greenhouses. The disease will destroy tomatoes already on the vine and force growers to pull up an entire crop, sometimes numbering in the thousands of plants.
So, bring on the hot weather and those delicious homegrown beauties. One can face only so many fried green tomatoes.