Lazy Seattle Tomato Farming and The First Tomato: Don’t Pick it!

My favorite farmer’s market tomato grower is Billy of Billy’s Organic Farm in Tonasket. He assured me that his San Marzano start–an Italian, open-pollinated heirloom plum tomato–would bear a ripened tomato by the 4th of July.  He was right!  Here’s our first fruit on June 30th.
BUT.  Though we were tantalized and tempted, we didn’t pick it.  Ripening tomatoes emit a gas that helps to hasten the ripening of other tomatoes on the vine.  That’s a pretty, poetic idea, isn’t it?  That one tomato, growing redder, will inspire her sister tomatoes to do the same?  (Yes, we even anthropomorphize fruit around here–you can see why we’re vegetarians…)

It’s finally almost  time for the rest of the tomatoes to start ripening in Seattle.  For weeks now one of my favorite bloggers, that mad-genius homesteader Mikey Sklar at Holy Scrap Hot Springs in New Mexico, has been waxing blithely on about all the garden tomatoes they’ve been harvesting.  Makes me jealous.  Here in Seattle, we have a much humbler growing season–rarely a tomato before July, and some years we are durned lucky to reap a respectable basketful before September, when the weather can turn wintery with green fruit hanging all over the vines.   And let’s not even think about last August!

Tomatoes_SM-0864Because of the relative shortness and utter unpredictability of the Seattle tomato season, I have become a Lazy Tomato Farmer.  We have tried the intrepid tomato path:  coddling seedlings in a greenhouse, choosing the healthiest plants that volunteer from the previous year…Now I always let the good folks at Billy’s farm on the sunny side of the state raise my beautiful tomato plants until they are about a foot high in mid-May.  Then I buy them from him at our local farmer’s market, thank him profusely for having such gorgeous plants and heirloom varieties (we chose seven different kinds), then plant them happily in my garden, staked with bamboo and mulched with straw.  This year’s plants are now almost as tall as me (though granted, I am not very tall), and we finally ate that first San Marzano in a salad last night (leaving a couple almost-ripe ones on the vine for inspiration!).

I'm looking forward to the ripening of this unusual heirloom--the Japanese Black Truffle, which produces burgundy, pear-shaped fruits.


  1. Suzanne

    Dear Lyanda -This year you Seattlites are having more hot weather than some of us in California -my Marzano’s haven’t ripened yet! (We’re in a small valley near Santa Cruz – supposed to be pretty warm in the summer.) I’m writing to share that we had japanese Black Trifele last ear and they are fabulous – my husband’s new favorite. It was quite prolific – I even added some to a sauce pot – very yummy. Good Luck with the ripening!

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