Cool summer means NH tomato crop is just reaching its peak

Special to the Union Leader
September 02. 2014 10:30PM

There's plenty of variety in local farmstands, but the growing conditions have been a challenge for field tomatoes in parts of New Hampshire this summer. (JANINE GILBERTSON)
Green Tomato Casserole
4 green tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of cracker crumbs such as Ritz

Place a layer of sliced green tomatoes in a lightly buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers twice. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Sprinkle cracker crumbs over the top and dot with butter. Bake for an additional five minutes.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
4 cups of cherry tomatoes
1 medium sliced sweet onion
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil
4 teaspoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of coarse salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Place cherry tomatoes and sliced onion in a bowl; add remaining ingredients and mix. Place in a casserole dish and roast for one and a half hours in a 250 degree oven. Serve over pasta such as penne.

Green Tomato Sautee
2 medium green tomatoes, chopped
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Once the garlic starts to brown, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar and stir. Sauté until the tomatoes soften and start to brown. Add the balsamic vinegar at the end to deglaze the pan. Serve as a side dish.

Cooler temperatures and the arrival of late blight in southwestern parts of the state are having an impact on tomato growers this year.

"Our field tomatoes are just starting to ripen," said Matt Gifford, manager of Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand in Sharon. "They’re usually a little further along at this time of the year."

Gifford said the farm is a monitoring station for the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension Service. He said so far this summer, there have been over 1,000 recorded hours at the farm when the temperature was 60 degrees or less.

"That means we’ve lost about a month of good growing temperatures," Gifford said. Optimal ripening temperatures for many varieties of vine tomatoes is 68 to 77 degrees. Gifford said tomatoes are the farm’s largest crop, sold both at the retail farm stand and, usually, wholesale to local restaurants and stores.

"We’re not able to offer much for wholesale this year," Gifford said. "A lot of the chefs in the area have been coming in and buying tomatoes from the stand as retail customers."

He said although tomatoes in the fields are just starting to ripen, the farm has been selling greenhouse grown tomatoes since early July.

"We have three greenhouses of tomatoes," Gifford said. "But we definitely grow more tomatoes in the fields than we do in the greenhouses."

In Jaffrey, Archie Coll, owner of Coll’s Farm, said tomatoes at his farm are also taking longer to ripen.

"We’ve had lots of cool August nights," Coll said. "So it does take longer for the tomatoes to ripen."

He said although he is still looking forward to warmer days, his farm has been hit with blight twice this season.

"We usually won’t get much of a crop from tomato plants until August," Coll said. "We just started getting ripe tomatoes about two weeks ago. Now late blight has come to the area so we’ve had to use a fungicide to treat out plants."

Blight, a plant disease caused by airborne fungal spores, causes browning of plant leaves and leads to death of plant tissues.

The presence of late blight in Hillsborough, Chesire and Rockingham counties was reported in mid-August by the UNH Cooperative Extension.


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