The beginning of July. Out with the sweet red of strawberries and in with the red fruit of tomatoes. Red, and orange, yellow, and purple, first green, sometimes pink, solid, striped, and tie dyed. Most of the year we are asked, “Do you have tomatoes yet?” Short answer, yes. When tomatoes are not in our hands and bellies, they live in our hearts and minds.
The tomato plant (scientifically called Solanum lycopersicum) is a solanaceous crop, in the family of many familiar foods like eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. All solanaceous crops are flowering, simply put - flowers give way to fruit via pollination. Tomatoes are native to South America and were later cultivated in Europe. So by some geographic technicality, a tomato could be considered a tropical fruit! The Mexican word tomatl turned to the Spanish tomate and then the English tomato. The Italian word for tomato is pomodoro (that pasta pomodoro you love means tomato pasta). Pomodoro translates to “golden apple,” meaning some of the first varieties of tomato grown in Italy were likely yellow.
The original wild plants were more ornamental and the fruits were much smaller. After years and years of planting, growing, harvests, and seed saving experiments, the varieties we know and love today came to be. Start to finish, tomatoes are around the farm in some way. Seeds are snuggled up in their bags during the winter, sown in late winter, planted early spring, grown, pruned, and harvested through summer, then finally cut out in the fall.
In the early days of March we get busy with sowing. Beefsteak, Cherokee, Sungold, and many, many more (there is even a variety called Kellogg's Breakfast)! It is hard to believe that seeds no bigger than the top of a pin grow to tower over us. After the seeds get cozy for a while with their soil trays warmed by heat mats, they are moved out to our greenhouse to spend time soaking up the sunshine. Once the plants are mature, they are planted into various plots on the farm. There is an entire white high tunnel filled with hundreds of tomato plants. Like most plants, people, and animals, tomatoes appreciate good friends. Nasturtium and marigold flowers are companions to tomatoes, they attract beneficial insects that drive away pests and bees that pollinate.
Countless hours are spent trellising and pruning, this supports the plants and ensures they produce fruit all season long. And finally, after months and months of lots of the utmost love and care comes the fruit! Flowers turn to fruit, green gives way to all the beautiful colors and flavors of tomatoes. The harvest is what we look forward to all year long, it is worth the wait and such a joy to share with the community.
My personal favorite way to eat tomatoes is straight up, cherry tomatoes are like candy. An heirloom tomato the size of my head, sliced with salt and pepper. I learned this next one last summer, it’s one of those no measurements just do what feels right recipes:
Heat a generous amount of olive oil or butter in the pan. Sautée onion, garlic, cherry or diced tomatoes until cooked down into a sauce. Salt and pepper and add herbs to taste. Chop your favorite Third Way Farm sausage, add to the pan and cook to perfection. I personally love the hot Italian, I like to add smoked paprika for an extra kick, too. Serve over pasta, rice, potatoes, or on its own!
Paintings! I'm painting tomatoes this weekend
Summer. In the hush of winter and hopefulness of spring, memories and stories of the season to come comfort my longing for sunshine. Morning mist and dewy grass wash away the respite of winter. Harmonies of chirping of birds and hums of bugs become the soundtrack of my days. Blossoms turn to leaves, azaleas and peonies burst open. The bees come back around. I smell bonfires and hear the familiar echoes of laughter on the porch. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, school is out and the pool opens up again. Farmers markets are back in full swing. My freckles come out from hiding, but suntan lotion is in the air. Burgers on the grill served with that beloved blue and red berry medley, cool whip on top if we are lucky. Towels laid oceanside littered with strawberry stems and sand. Tomato sandwiches and salad, everyday. Summer is the favorite.
June 21st stamps the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I love the Midsummer traditions celebrated in Scandinavia, honoring the season of abundance and fertility with dancing, bonfires, flower crowns, and feasting. Summer is an occasion to celebrate with loved ones. At Third Way Farm, we have a big community dinner every week, potluck style. I love coming together with everyone over the fortunes of farm fare that we all had a hand in getting off the ground. Feasts celebrating such should be more often.
While summer is often a period of recess and holiday for most, farmers are only getting started. All the work from last season to present, comes to fruition in summer. With sunshine ahead and summer rain storms in tow, the fields erupt overnight. Crop beds turn to rainbow seas of green, purples, pink, yellow, red, and blue. Riches of growth and life are evident in the abundance of beautiful vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Yes, fruit.
My mom always reminds me of her summers picking blueberries and the buttermilk pancakes her grandfather would make with them. And her bus driver, who also had a small you-pick strawberry farm. Few sounds compare to the satisfaction of the pop that comes from picking a strawberry of the plant. Few smells compare to that of a blue cardboard quart overflowing with berries. Few feelings compare to being sticky and red from the juiciest fruits. All year, we wait for the berries to come -- strawberries are the catalyst of the plenty to come. Raspberries, perfect for eating after capping them on your fingertips. White and black currants host a jelly-like tartness in their small fruits. Gooseberries are a sibling to currants, having a similar tartness. Goumi berries too are juicy and tart, akin to rhubarb and perfect for jam.
Seasonality of fresh food has been washed away from our culture. All year, grocery stores are stacked with plastic crates of produce unblemished and fluorescent. Strawberries bigger than a golf ball in January, tomatoes soaked in pesticides. I recall eating berries so sour that only snowcaps of sugar would make them halfway sweet. This is not to say that there are not people growing these crops organically and mindfully out of season (hydroponic and greenhouse growers are rockstars). We remember the seasons outside the home, but forget to honor seasons of food in the kitchen. In a convenience oriented world, we forget to practice patience in so many ways. My heart explodes when I visit the farmers market and I see the community come together to support local farmers and artisans. Farmers dream of the days when everyone shops and eats locally.
As long as the earth endures seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
The Return of Robinhood
Nestled into a hidden woods on Robinhood Road, in Havre de Grace Maryland, exists a picturesque farm community; a place of green pastures, beautiful woodlands, and colorful fruits and vegetables. And in this thriving place, a place called Third Way Farm, there is also a community on a mission to build a better world through a holistic and regenerative approach to agriculture; a mission grounded in our faith and our belief in a world where all have a place at the table. Where, when we give back to the land, and to one another, all of creation thrives.
We are farming on land that was once inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the Piscataway and Susquehannock tribes. We recognize that this land was unjustly taken from them without their permission. We hope our lives upon and care for this land will honor their legacy and wisdom in living harmoniously with this place.
Third Way Farm, LLC
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078