Today, Hilda Staples and I planned to meet up at House in the Woods Farm to buy certified organic tomato plants from my friends Ilene and Phil Freedman. Ilene was having a presale of tomato plants for old customers, and I COULD NOT WAIT to pick mine out. I have bought tomato plants from Ilene for years now; the only exception was last year when I decided to grow them from seed. The first picture is of two of Ilene and Phil's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers browsing the tomato plants.
The next picture is Ilene, holding a perpetual spinach plant. Ilene told me this is actually a kind of chard that does not bolt* in the summer; of course I had to try it (*bolting is when a plant develops its flower parts and neglects its leaves; this can happen very quickly if the weather gets hot. It's not desirable for plants like spinach because not only do you get less leaves, they taste bitter).
This year I wanted to grow tomatoes from seed again; I carefully picked the seeds I wanted from the catalogs and ordered them with Yeon, but I never got my act together to plant them. Luckily, Ilene had everything I wanted, including the Speckled Roma tomato plant that I bought a fruit of from Rick Hood at the Farmer's Market last summer; the most gorgeous and delicious Roma tomato I have ever beheld.
My other favorite tomato varieties are pineapple and green zebra. Most people love the sungold cherry, a prolific, sweet producer of tiny round fruits. Today I also picked up a Valencia, black krim, and a Belgian tomato that promises to have fruits up to five pounds. Ilene told me that at retail prices of $4 per pound tomatoes, one of those tomatoes would go for $20. I don't know if anyone would pay that but maybe they would. But a five pound tomato? How could I resist the temptation to buy a plant and try to grow one?
The hoop house with all of the tomato plants also held lots of other seedlings for the farm. I also picked up five pepper plants, one of each kind that they had. Ilene advised me to grow the jalapeno away from everything else, so it will go in the raised bed with the runaway asparagus fern, strawberry plants, and various herbs.
Ilene and Phil also sell heirloom tomatoes to the Common Market. Ilene said that with their 15%, the Common Market would be selling all local tomatoes this summer. The Common Market is one of the places I would love to interview about their commitment to local produce. I could go on about them but I will save that for a later post.
I was happy when Hilda and John showed up; John hung out in the barn with Phil and a bunch of happy kids. The silhouette is of Phil in the barn with the new hoop house behind him.
Hilda talked shop with Ilene about the various plants she was growing and the pros and cons of the different tomato varieties.
There was plenty to discuss. I was excited to introduce a friend in the restaurant business to a friend in the farm business, and was pleased to see them chatting with each other. I have the soul of a matchmaker.
For more information about the tomato sale at House in the Woods Farm, visit here. I also discovered Ilene's blog this morning and posted it in our blog links, but it is also here. The image of the tomatoes on the table is Ilene's from her Tomato Festival, which she is thinking about doing again this year.