Friday, September 18, 2009

Remember when we were kids and how we thought it was so funny to take an orange slice and put it in front of our top teeth? There's was nothing quite like an orange slice smile - it could make even the grouchiest person laugh! Now imagine a Basset Hound with a bright green, not a slice of a lime or even a stolen Green Zebra tomato. If only I had my camera in hand when adorable Hucksley turned and smiled at me with a big, juicy, bright green hornworm in the front of his teeth!

At this point in the season I have mostly cherry tomatoes to enjoy. The larger varieties have produced new tomatoes and if the weather cooperates I'll have more beefsteak sized tomatoes to harvest in the next couple of weeks. I am not ready for tomato season to come to an end so I do all that I can to encourage the plants to keep on giving...I cut them back, give them a nice feeding with organic vegetable food and talk to them as nicely as I can.

I am still finding grasshoppers in the plants although they are moving rather slowly. I am also finding very large hornworms on some of the plants. I remember when I first began growing tomatoes - I would cry hysterically when I found a hornworm, believing it meant the absolute end of my plants. I can recall several occasions - religious holidays, even my birthday, when my family expected me for dinner but I called and said I would be late because of my huge hornworm problem. I'd search every single plant for those evil caterpillars and chop every one of them in half! (Did you know the inside of a hornworm is as bright green in color as the outside)?

I guess I've grown up, at least in terms of my tomato growing. I can actually ignore the worms from time to time - or comment about how cute the little babies are. When I see a lot of damage, meaning entire branches that have been eaten, I know it means I have to take action. First job - find as many of the chewing beasts as possible and destroy them! Hornworms are hard to see. It's easiest to spot them late in the afternoon when the sun is on it's way down to meet the horizon. They look very similar to the underside of curled tomato leaves. Late in the summer, when temperatures are cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon, the leaves react by curling. The plants actually create the perfect camouflage for the worms. Isn't it ironic that the very plants that hornworms destroy also act as their safe haven? It's a very strange and destructive codependency.

Today I discovered what used to be branches full of leaves, telling me it's time to do more than just remove the worms. I have to be proactive or there will definitely not be any tomatoes for me in a few weeks. Out came the sprayer and in went the Safer spray - the new formula that is safe for animals but is very effective on hornworms. From this day forward fighting the hornworm will be a daily battle.

The bicolor cherry plant, which was one of this year's favorites didn't recover from bacterial wilt. Sungolds are still sweet and delicious. They are consistent and dependable although if you leave them on the plant even a minute too long, they have an insipid, unpleasantly sweet flavor. Black Cherry tomatoes are quite good. Unique in color, they have a true tomato taste. Jennys, which look like a smaller version of the Sungold Cherry are still beautiful, orange, sweet and delicious. And the Snow White Cherries are still really tasty. The Snow White Cherry plant is huge and it is full of tomatoes. To be honest, I've never had a bad one. It's a full flavored tomato even though it's a cherry and always gets a wow! reaction. You just don't expect a pale yellow tomato to have much flavor - you expect it to taste as dull as it looks.

Today I name the Snow White Cherry as my favorite. Tomorrow - the ultimate taste'll have to wait and read...

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