Monday, June 8, 2009

Tomatoes in May? Must be the weather...

Over the years, we have become in sync with the outcome of the annual “vegetable race”. And, it never fails: when tomato and pepper transplants are put into their permanent garden home simultaneously on April 28, the tomato always wins…if your definition of “win” means: ripens first. 

Tequila pepper
And this year is no exception. 10 days ago, we harvested the first ripe Bloody Butcher and Lemon Boy tomatoes. 2 days ago, the first ripe pepper, a Tequila hybrid sweet pepper, was ready for the grill and salad. 

The salad also included some of the biggest blackberries ever harvested from our garden, along with plump bush beans.

The odd thing is…it’s only the first week of June! The tomatoes were actually harvested on May 30, and that is the first time I can ever remember picking a ripe slicing tomato in May. Even the Sacramento Bee had a picture in the June 6 edition of someone showing off their first tomato (a cherry tomato. Sorry, cherry tomatoes are not part of this competition…only slicing tomatoes).

Usually, we are lucky to have the first picking by mid-June; usually, it’s way  after the fourth of July when we finally say, “Oh-oh, better get the canning jars ready.”

So, what’s so special about 2009?

For those who say. “it’s the weather”, let’s look at the May 2009  stats from the Wilton station of the Weather Underground.

The overall trend? Consistency. No big spikes in high temperatures, low temperatures or wind. Rain was limited to under an inch during the first week.

Now, here is the weather pattern for May of 2008, when tomatoes and peppers were first harvested here in mid to late June:

The big difference: 2008 features heavier winds, a greater temperature variation, not much rain and a greater swing in barometric pressure.

Barry Goldwater famously said during his 1964 Republican presidential nominating speech, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” But moderation in the pursuit of tomatoes is definitely a virtue…especially when it comes to the weather.

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