Thursday, August 25, 2022

Road-trips and tomatoes


I loaded this post into the torpedo tube for future publication.

Southern Belle, Quicksilver and I are on our way to visit a farm that mimics an old-style, integrated production farm from many years ago...except it has modern conveniences like a tractor and such.

One of Southern Belle's friends operates an "Agri-cation" destination in Southern Florida where students can experience food production and farm animals. This is a business and schools pay a fee-per-student for the privilege. Today's destination does not do that, at least not yet.

The owners graciously allowed me to invite myself and Southern Belle (and Quicksilver) to their farm. My primary responsibility will be to care for Quicksilver while Southern Belle helps with the chores.

The picture in my head is that we will all have a jolly-good-time, the farm will get an extra set of hands and there may be a cross-pollination of ideas.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

I picked a little bit orange because I irrigated overnight and tomatoes are vulnerable to splitting. Better to pick and shelf-ripen than have them split and rot on the vine.


We took our first whack at dehydrating garden produce. At 13 cents per kW-hr and a 300 Watt dehydrator, it costs 47 cents to run a batch for 12 hours.

The Sweet Aperitif are tedious to process due to there small size.

The Principe Borghese are distinctly less sweet than the SA tomatoes but about 1.25" in diameter. They really have not "turned on" with regard to production.

The Stupice is about the same size as the PB but is an earlier ripening tomato and fast to pick as the clusters with ripe tomatoes usually have three worth picking so there is less hunting around for ripe ones.

The seeds I saved from last year's Stupice were an afterthought and I was not selective in which plants I chose fruit from. It shows this year. Some fruit are big, some are smaller. Some vines are extremely vigorous with long internodes. Some are more compact. I have already tagged one plant to collect seeds from based on fruit size, form and plant habit. I want to tag one more plant later in the season.

Notable because a 1.5" diameter tomato represents about 8 times less work on a per-mass basis.


  1. Very interesting data.

    By selecting seeds to save for next year you're creating a Landrace tomato best for your needs and your area's soil-weather.

    Tagging your best producers is indeed the key along with as Thomas Jefferson used a Garden Notebook as that Chinese saying goes "The faintest ink is better than the strongest memory".

  2. I used to grow several different varieties of tomatoes, but over the years I have narrowed it down to just two that work well for me: Amish paste, and Mariana. Both are large paste tomatoes, and are very productive for me.
    I have ordered Amish paste seed from several different sources, and there is a fair amount of variability between the different companies.
    Mariana originally came from Johnny's Seed, but they don't carry it any longer. It's a large roma type that doesn't have the green shoulders that some romas do.
    Saving tomato seed is pretty simple, and you can still eat the tomato!


  3. If you decide to dehydrate onions DON'T DO IT INSIDE. Not even in a shed or the garage. I only did that once. I learned quick that time. ---ken

  4. For slicing tomatoes, I'm having great success with an heirloom variety--mortgage lifter. About the size of a tennis ball. Heavy bearing. Interestingly, the plants in the shadier areas are bearing the most fruit.
    On the other hand, I planted Clemson Spineless okra for the 4th year (always rotating plots.) They usually grow very tall and produce lots of tender okra. This year the plants topped out at less than a foot. They are bearing heavily, but the pods are so tough as to be inedible. My neighbors are having the same issue. We all bought seed from the same local farm store. I casually mentioned this fact to the store owner. He said, "do you want your 80 cents back?" Which reminded me that seeds are still cheap for now. I'd better stock up.
    I hope to get broccoli, cabbage, collards, beets and onion plants in the ground this weekend.

  5. my okra is also tough.
    fed to steers.

    we are in severe drought (PA) and my yellow varieties of tomatoes all well outperformed all reds. no blossom end rot.

    the romas are ok, but still 1/2 are fed to steers because of blackspot.

  6. We're back in drought conditions down here, nothing much is producing... sigh

  7. I"m very interested in your visit to the farm. Blending old, proven ideas with some level of modern tech is so appealing. How they minimize dependence on cheap energy inputs, in all of their obvious and hidden forms, especially.
    We all must get back to basics. Yesterday.

  8. Haven't dehydrated tomatoes this year, but as my pepper planting was approaching 100 plants/15 varieties, I've been dicing and drying sweet peppers (bell, banana, Habanada, Ajvarski, etc.), loading up the dehydrator with 6 or so trays daily. The peppers have taken much less time to dehydrate than most things I've done in the past... watermelon and pear slices seem to take the longest.

  9. I took a dimmer switch and wired in line with the heating element in my dehydrator (but NOT the fan). Had room in the housing to keep it internal with knob on the outside. Adjusting the heat for whatever I am drying is now a snap.


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