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Going To The Greenhouses

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This week I got to visit a couple of greenhouses in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara.  Carpinteria has much warmer nights than Lompoc (where Tutti Frutti Farms is located) yet still remains cool in the summer because of the ocean fog.  Theses conditions are ideal for greenhouses; the warm nights allow for an early growing season, and the ocean fog prevents the greenhouses from getting too hot, which would require costly cooling procedures.  Both greenhouses I visited were growing tomatoes, but were doing so with methods different than those of Tutti Frutti Farms.

The first greenhouse had quite an impressive display of tomato plants, though they looked a little different than I was used to.  This is because they had been pruned so that the plant consisted of only a single vine stretching from the ground to the ceiling.  Pruning a tomato plant allows for more plants to be planted (as they require less space), and also lets more air to flow past the plants, reducing their susceptibility to mildew and fungal diseases.  As all the energy of the plant is focused into the single vine, the stalks, leaves, and fruits of these plants are larger than those of an un-pruned plant.  A pruned plant is also easier to pick.  The picking process is facilitated even more by the manner in which these plants are hung, which I’m told is the traditional manner for greenhouse tomatoes.  The plants are hung from a string that can be tightened or let loose, allowing for whichever level of fruit is ripe at the time to be raised to a good picking height.

The next greenhouse I visited had a horrible stench of death.  This is because blood meal (the collected blood drippings from slaughter-houses, very high in nitrogen) was added as a fertilizer to these tomato plants.  I’m very thankful Tutti Frutti Farms relies only on fermented fish guts to fertilize their plants.  The farmer of this greenhouse had his plants on a hydroponics system, which requires a lot of fertilizer to keep the soil rich.  His soil was a composite of crushed coconut shells, a good organic planting medium.  I got to sample tomatoes from both of these greenhouses, and though they were better than my experiences with the average supermarket tomato, they paled in comparison to the deep flavor profiles of the Tutti Frutti heirlooms.  It’s really no comparison.  


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