DEVOUR & CONQUER

Exploring, eating and writing about good food on Canada's west coast

header photo

There's a fungus among us tomatoes

September 13, 2013

I haven't done a kitchen garden update in a while, and quite a bit has been going on outside my office window lately. Cucumbers exploding off vines, brussel sprouts, uh... brusselling, and three different kinds of peppers starting to ripen.

Funny enough, had I written this post a week ago, it would have been crammed with pictures and stories about my gorgeous tomato crop which had just begun to ripen. Just a week ago I was musing about not liking Fried Green Tomatoes so innocently, as I planned what I'd be making with my huge yield of tomatoes once they were ripe, red and juicy just weeks from now. 'No green tomatoes for me!' I thought naively.

Then came the storm.

A gorgeous Vancouver Island day suddenly turned dark. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed and the skies opened. And did they ever open - 33 millimeters of rain in 18 minutes poured down over the Oceanside area as if out of a giant faucet. This picture by Kristina Dieleman shared by the City of Parksville shows how localized yet intense the storm was over our area. There was flooding in downtown Parksville and a general sense of "Whoa, that was kind of crazy!" throughout the community after the storm moved on.

Little did we know, that pounding rain woke a sleeping predator that rose from the ground after the storm, jumped into the wind currents and went straight for its target - my tomato crop (along with most of my neighbours' crops and the ripening fruit of most of the Oceanside area). Curse you, Tomato Late Blight!

At first I didn't know what was happening. Woke up one morning and said "Huh, did we have frost last night? The tomato leaves look sort of weird." Then the stems started to wilt and a brown stain began slipping over the tops of my beautiful plump tomatoes. Within days my entire kitchen garden crop was dead. Just like that.

I've pulled off every single tomato from the wilted, brown plants in hopes that they will ripen off the vines but many continue to go brown and rot as the blight fungus has covered everything and continues to kill the tomatoes even after picking.

I've been feeling pretty damn disappointed, all those months of work and care gone within a few days, just because it rained. There's some small comfort in the fact that I'm not alone, and many of my gardening and farming friends out here lost their crops too. The spores of the blight fungus can travel over 20 km on the wind, so there's no easy way to protect tomatoes. Hell, according to BC Agriculture those damn blight spores even make baby clones of themselves to do maximum damage:
"If the spores are contained in a water droplet which does not dry up for a few hours, they will release tiny spores called "zoospores" which swim through the water, attach themselves to the leaf or stem tissue and cause infection."

Experiencing my first massive crop fail is definitely a learning experience, and I can't deny, I've been pretty damn pissed to see all my hard work destroyed in one fell swoop. But such is the life of backyard gardening and it won't stop me continuing to learn about how to grow my own food.

On the upside, the weather is still gorgeous here, so I'm going to throw a bunch of fall vegetables like cabbages, kale and spinach into all that empty kitchen garden dirt and see what happens.

Maybe my early tomato loss will be my mid-winter/early spring harvest gain. I'm ever hopeful, which is part of the experiemental gardening fun.

Go Back

Comment