It's at this time of the year gardeners become restive, their nights disturbed by a common vision - the prospect of growing their very own delicious tomatoes! Even those with one large sized pot will happily and determinedly embark on tending a tomato plant.
Why eat lots of tomatoes?
Those with the highest lycopene levels were 55% less likely to have a stroke. That's a pretty good reason to enjoy an abundance of tomatoes! In addition your own tomatoes can bring you a special kind of joy. For many people the essence of summer IS the day they can slice a vine-ripened beefsteak tomato, salt and pepper it and slap it between two slices of good bread, ready for a feast!
But winter is a different story. There seems to be a universal description of those well travelled, picked-when-green, artificially gas ripened tomatoes, as tasting like cardboard. There's no joy in them, no burst of flavor in the mouth. I doubt those Finnish men would get too excited at all about the lycopene in them, especially if they knew what else lurked in those fruits.
Not all tomatoes are the same
This story begins about thirty years ago, when I first met young Casey Houweling of Houweling Greenhouses. It was obvious even then that he was dedicated to growing wonderful tomatoes. At that time he had six acres of greenhouse tomatoes. I've followed his progress through the years now, with a kind of awestruck wonder at his business acumen, combined with his belief that he could master growing the best tomatoes you can imagine, under enclosed glasshouses, without resorting to harmful pesticides.
A big business can still be an indie biz!
Houweling tomatoes are hand grafted and hydroponically grown in recycled coconut husks instead of soil. Irrigation to the plants is computer controlled with individual droppers to each plant. That's how they minimize water usage. Not only does this help, but any water not taken up by a plant is actually recirculated.
The greenhouses grow tomatoes year round. In the dark winter BC days supplemental lighting on 10 acres ensures the tomatoes still are at their flavorsome best. Power needed is generated on site by high-efficiency generators. This lets them sequester the exhaust, using the thermal energy for heating, and the CO2 for plant fertilization.
What about nasty bugs?
Well, I was so delighted to renew this relationship from the past, I contacted Casey. Turns out he's a pretty busy guy. But David Bell, his "go to" person, arranged I'd get a sample shipment of various tomato varieties he grows, for review purposes. It's pretty hard to review tomatoes without tasting them, but, after all, someone's gotta do it!
I enlisted the help of a couple of taste test groups. One was a group of neighbors, the other consisted of my weekly knitting group. They were all very serious about their evaluation, although I have to admit there were a couple of minor scuffles over the ratings of the respective tomatoes!
Houweling's fruit analyzed by BC's expert tomato testers!
- Standard vine ripened
- Heirloom yellow
- Heirloom red
- Heirloom brown ( we weren't sure if it was the color!)
Q & A
Q: Please explain how you ship during the winter months. This is when most tomatoes taste like cardboard when they get here.
A: Our shipping protocol is no different in the winter than the summer. We grow, pack and ship from our 3 farms (BC, California, Utah) and ship at 52 degrees F. The taste issues that many consumers experience in the winter is the source of product from far away, requiring product to be picked less ripe and shipped much greater distances. The other issue (that can’t be attributed to all of these growers) is a focus on higher yielding, lesser flavored tomatoes.
Q: How do your tomatoes ripen? Are they gas ripened? In other words, are they all vine ripened?
A: All our tomatoes are picked ripe from the vine. There are absolutely no post-harvest treatments, gassing or chemicals. In general all greenhouse products are grown and harvested this way, however depending on distance and growing preference they can often be picked too early. The “gassed” tomatoes your are referring to would be field varieties, mostly for food service.
Q: Do your tomatoes get shipped all over North America?
A: Yes they do. We try to keep as much of our product in local markets as possible, as the fewer food miles generally translate into better taste when the consumer brings them home. That said we have some great partners who with effective supply chain management can ensure our product reaches as far away as Florida without compromising Houweling’s commitment to flavor.
Here are the beautiful tomatoes from the greenhouse sample shipment. Some of them are heritage varieties.
Fresh, Houweling tomatoes shipped right to my door!
And before you go, please take a moment to check out a few of the latest articles of interest published this week in the Weeblyhood!
- Crazyhorseladycx: A Stitch in Time via WarnerWords
- Farmacopeia: Dragon Time Essential Oil Blend via flashPress
- Sunshine in the Forecast via marcoujor's musings
- Bologna on the TV via Bumpkin in the Burbs
Thank you for your visit today and wishing you a beautiful weekend!