A Blight on Your House

No Telling
(Dante’s Tomatoes by Dore’, with a little help from me)

Or on your tomatoes, thanks to “Southern growers” and according to The New York Times. I was alerted to the tomato pandemic via a bit in the Arkansas Times, and while there are no fingers specifically pointing Arkansasward, we know who they mean.

We’ve unwittingly contributed to the disaster by shipping plants to unsuspecting northern farmers who, if you can believe such rumors, actually grow tomatoes for sale. Why anyone would want a tomato grown in outdoor temperatures of less than 105 degrees is beyond me. That’s like importing watermelons from Canada. Ridiculous.

I guess we know how to get even, though. The NY Times says,

“According to plant pathologists, this killer round of blight began with a widespread infiltration of the disease in tomato starter plants. Large retailers like Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations in the South and distributed them throughout the Northeast. (Fungal spores, which can travel up to 40 miles, may also have been dispersed in transit.) Once those infected starter plants arrived at the stores, they were purchased and planted, transferring their pathogens like tiny Trojan horses into backyard and community gardens.”

I can envision thousands those baby Arkansas plants flinging killer spores like confetti-tears all the way to New Jersey. Sounds more like a pitiful cry for help. Remember Hansel and Gretel and those breadcrumbs? Exactly.

(Titans Recoil by Dore’ and Monda)

So does this leave us tomatoless down here? Hmmm….

“So what’s going on here? Plant physiologists use the term “disease triangle” to describe the conditions necessary for a disease outbreak. You need the pathogen to be present (that’s the late blight), you need a host (in this case tomatoes and potatoes) and you need a favorable environment for the disease — for late blight that’s lots of rain, moderate temperatures and high humidity.”

The emphasis is mine. Clearly, if God meant for tomatoes to flourish in places like Vermont she would’ve turned up the heat considerably. In fact, I suspect this may be God’s way of telling those folks to grow Brussels sprouts instead.

There’s talk that we might have a shortage down here, but barring some apocalyptic meteor-disaster climate change or salmonella outbreak, anyone living in Arkansas could reasonably put in a few plants right now and harvest tomatoes clear through Halloween. How’s that for trick or treat?

21 thoughts on “A Blight on Your House

  1. Ah-HAH!! It's YOUR fault!! Well, listen, missy-miss, we do just fine up here in the tomato department. Our tomatoes positively flourish in our 95-degree summer humidity, so don't y'all be braggin' on your 100+ heat. And for your information, smartie-pants, Vermont is positively stifling in July, because they're landlocked & there's nary a breeze to be had.

    However, the REAL reason we're having trouble with our tomatoes this year, at least in southern New England, is because it did nothing but rain in June & July. And we've had our fair share in August so far, too. So, ain't NUTHIN' growing very well because we ain't had enough SUN, for crying out loud! It's like freakin' Portland, Oregon, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country because it's so cloudy & rainy all the time, people want to commit hari-kiri with their umbrellas.

    So, a blight on your blight, but we'd uh been fine if we'd just had some damn sun. Could you send some of that while you're at it??

  2. I'm not familiar with this tomato blight you're causing, but Southeast Michigan is swimming up to our ears in tomatoes, so I think you're all crazy. The weather's been actually mostly cool, but very damp…we got probably two feet of rain between yesterday, last night, and today. Supposedly, Canada's got this big bubble of some kind of pressure that's keeping the hot air from moving or whatever…keeping us locked in winter patterns or something.

    Point is, despite your so-called blight, my neighbors keep heaping tomatoes on my front porch and the farmers markets are awash with them, and I don't even like the things.

    verification word: mancipay: ebonics for what happened back in the 1860's. ooh, i went there.

  3. Kathi, so YOU'RE the ones! I'll be happy to send you some sun. Plenty here. See, down here in Zone 7 (what are y'all, Zone -5?) we manage two good growing seasons. Just to be fair, I did try growing Brussels sprouts one year and had to plant them in January just to beat the heat. They were ice stormed.

    How about I trade you a little sun for some rain?

    Julia, this is obviously a deliberate Canadian weather ploy. Since you've got plenty of tomatoes, I suggest you find a good recipe. Here's something quick and incredible:

    sliced fresh tomato
    ciabatta bread
    cream cheese
    fresh basil, chopped
    ground pepper and salt

    Simple sandwich. Eat it cold or slap it in a hot waffle iron for a minute. Either way, you'll love tomatoes.

  4. But Monda, I hate tomatoes! You don't know how hard I hate the tomatoes. They repulse me. I can't even stand the smell of the things. I dump the bags in the garage on my dad's workbench in disgust and demand he keep them off my cutting board.

  5. We have no problem growing tomatoes the size of your face here in zone 4.5. However, I make a point of buying only heirloom tomato plants either from local independent greenhouses or the nice gal across the hall who has a killer garden.

    BTW, if I ever get a book published, you're illustrating it.

  6. Don't you love those heirlooms? The uglier they are, the better they taste. My favorites are the ones so purple and green they almost look like diseased eggplants. Yum.

    Julia would never eat those.

    Publish away, Olivander. I'm ready.

  7. Well, Jeez Louise, Julia, send all your tomatoes to ME!! I'll take every last one of 'em!

    Monda, we is Zone 6 here in Rhode Island on the south coast, so we are really astonished at the season we're having. Weird. Damn Canadians.

    Love the sandwich recipe. And you know what else is good? If you use the same recipe, but chop up the tomatoes & instead of bread, toss it all with angel hair pasta. YUM.

    My fave is still fresh baked bread of almost any kind, a couple o' slices of any ripe juicy home-grown pomme d'amour, a dash of pepper, and homemade mayo. Oh. My. God.

  8. Here in arctic Massachusetts we have indeed succumbed to said blight. Normally this time of year I use upwards of 120 lbs of local tomatoes every day of the week. Now I have none. Zip. Zero. My tomato farmer has only berries to sell, then it's kaput for him until next year.

  9. Jewelry Box, I had no idea until I read your comment. Wooohoooo! And thanks!

    Jay, you're having a tomato disaster for sure. Few tomatoes is one thing, “zip” is apocalyptic. You must run a restaurant – 120 lbs of tomatoes a day is quite a lot for the home-canner. What will you do?

  10. I'm so glad I found you on Blogger of Note or I would never have found out what the heck was happening to my 8 tomato plants in my modest little garden! Kathi is right–it rained like crazy in June/July out here in Chicagoland. Never got too hot (just one week of 90s) and the rest seem to be in the 70s to mid 80s. We're starting to finally get into the upper 80s now.

    Anyway, one morning in July, I found these curious brown spots on the leaves of my cherry tomato plants. The next weekend, I found them on the rest of my babies. I'm getting tomatoes now but the plants sure look fugly!

    Thanks for enlightening me! Great blog!

  11. My lil old northern tomatoes usually do really well here in upstate New York. Really, we get high temps and humidity. Honest! But this year they are so water logged from almost constant rain that I've had only a few. My plants are absolutely naked, rarely a leaf to be seen.

    Anyways, I'm from Arkansas and have had many luscious tomatoes that were grown there.

    Here's another yummy tomato recipe for those hot summer Arkansas nights~~

    1 pint/tub bocconcini, small bites fresh mozzarella in water
    1 slice, 1/4-inch thick slice prosciutto
    1 pint multi-colored baby or grape tomatoes or red grape tomatoes
    4 thin scallions, whites and greens, trimmed
    A handful basil leaves, thinly sliced
    A handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    8 slices peasant bread

    Halve the cheese bites and add to a serving bowl. Finely dice the ham, then halve the tomatoes and add to bowl with the cheese. Thinly slice the scallions and herbs, add to the bowl and dress salad with a liberal dose of olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste. Char the bread in a hot oven or under the broiler and serve with the salad for topping.

  12. Shirley, you're killing me! It's a shame you aren't still in Arkansas or I'd come right over to your house and make you whip this up. This recipe goes in the The Cookbook for sure. Thanks!

  13. I'll have you know that we Canadians (Nova Scotia, for instance) were also suffering from that rain in June and July and part of August. We're calling it the “summer that never was” although we get pathetically hopeful when we have even a few hours of sun – now at least three days in a row. 25 C = 80 F or so.

    I have a very small back yard – townhouse condo yard with 16 X 20 feet, mostly decorative cement, and I have three promising tomato plants with tomatoes that are showing no sign of ever turning red. I'm planning on fried green tomatoes. No blight yet, just slugs.

    Congrats on Blog of the Day.

  14. Thanks, Shara! I don't know what's worse – blight or slugs. Fried green tomatoes are a special treat, but you must have the perfect dip. Secret's in the sauce!

    Anyone out there have a good dip for fried green tomatoes?

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