It’s that time of the year when tomatoes are bountiful. We enjoy harvesting them in our aquaponic greenhouse, where they grow upside-down in buckets suspended next to our raft system. This method makes excellent use of the overhead space throughout the greenhouse. We began growing tomatoes this way over the past year and have had great luck with “indeterminate” varieties – tomatoes that produce fruit continuously until temperatures reach frost. We’ve also learned to make sure that our tomatoes aren’t deficient in important minerals, like calcium or magnesium. We supply magnesium to our plants with a dressing of Epsom salts to make sure our plants get the nutrition they need.
And pruning the suckers from our tomato plants has been an important way to focus each plant’s energy on the largest branches and to provide the plant better airflow and circulation. That’s gone a long way toward keeping our tomatoes healthy and less susceptible to insect pests like aphids. Tomatoes are also susceptible to powdery mildew, which we control by spraying our plants with a simple mixture of water and cider vinegar. One of our tomato plants in the greenhouse is more than a year old--it managed to survive the winter in our greenhouse and is still growing well.
Another experiment for us has been to grow tomato plants in straw bales. We do this by putting an organic nitrogen additive called bloodmeal inside the bales to condition the straw. This enables the straw to decompose into humus, so that the tomatoes can root inside the straw and draw nutrients from that material. Our research consultant with Notre Dame’s ESTEEM Program, Janaee Wallace, is conducting her thesis experiment on aquaponic tomatoes so we are excited to see her progress and provide assistance throughout the coming year.
All in all, we’ve harvested tons of good tomatoes from our plants so far. We even picked a really big one just the other day that is at least a three-pounder! We enjoy taking care of the tomatoes and eating them in some wonderful dishes. Here’s a recipe you may enjoy that makes great use of summertime tomatoes:
Our Favorite Salsa
· 3 TBSP finely chopped onion
· 2 small cloves garlic, minced
· 3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeds removed, chopped
· 2 hot chile peppers, Serrano or Jalapeno, finely chopped
· 2 to 3 TBSP minced cilantro
· 1-1/2 to 2 TBSP fresh lime juice
· Salt and pepper
Chop onions and garlic; combine together and let flavors mix in bowl.
Combine onions and garlic with chopped tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, lime juice,
salt and pepper. Refrigerate to combine flavors, or if you can’t wait eat right away!
Makes 2 cups.