As much as I’d love to take credit for the title of this post, I must pass that honor on to Stephen. He came up with it during a recent marathon tomato harvest when a few of us were within earshot of each other. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Oh this is the greatest thing! It looks like we’ll finally have oodles of tomatoes for the stands.

Stephen: How many tomatoes constitute oodles?

Me: When we have all our green crates double-stacked full and need to start using the black crates as well.

Matt: Wow, that’s a lot!

Me: It sure is, and this year it’s taken us a whole lot longer to get there.

Stephen: We’re shooting for oodles now!

I’m paraphrasing like crazy. In fact, I think it might have actually been in the middle of a marathon green bean harvest when we had the tomato conversation. The only thing I know for certain is I liked the phrase so much, I announced then and there that “shooting for oodles” would be the next blog title.

Thanks Stephen.

Truth is, an oodle can sometimes be elusive. Our goal is always to attain oodles, of course, but occasionally Mother Nature has other plans. She definitely did a number to our early, early tomatoes this year. The problems began in March when rains and all-around humidity took their toll on the plants right at the time they should have been setting fruit. The ones deep within the 200’ hoop houses were stricken with blight and consequently either didn’t put on any blooms at all, or dropped most of the blossoms they’d managed to set before they could form tomatoes.

Despite that setback, however, once we removed the plastic from the hoop houses and the plants were able to dry out, they pushed up an entirely new flush of green foliage and flowered like mad. Miraculously, the very plants that had once been knocking on death’s door were suddenly covered with tiny green tomatoes. We were elated.

Then it rained over 5” in less than a week. Now, we know better than to gripe about rain…but this is what it did to those early tomato plants that had so valiantly attempted a comeback.

As much as we tried to keep a stiff upper lip, a few groans and whimpers did sneak out.

Fortunately, just a few yards away we had rows and rows of healthy tomato plants waiting in the wings.

Were we to give that part of the farm a name, we might have called it Hope. Yet being eternal pessimists (when we’re not busy being eternal optimists), we still worried that our aspiration for oodles might evade us this season.

It was kind of telling when, after a meager harvest of only eight green crates of tomatoes a couple weeks ago, young Matt proclaimed we were “swimming in tomatoes.” It’s not his fault. He’s new to the farm and thus had never experienced the overabundance that usually comes from the initial two hoop houses. He didn’t realize that a measly eight crates in mid-May is nowhere near swimming.

Eight crates of tomatoes is actually more like this.

Just as Farmer John and I were beginning to think oodles might indeed be beyond our grasp, it happened. The second succession of tomatoes started ripening, and ripening fast. Dana worked an entire day harvesting only the heirloom varieties,

while Matt picked Early Girls and Stephen spent hours diving into the Bella Rosas.

As evidenced by their postures, the first tomatoes to ripen are at the bottom of the plants. Which means there are more up top that have yet to turn red. Which also means, Mother Nature willing, we can continue shooting for oodles for a good while to come.

The only sure thing about farming, though, is that there are no sure things. Because ol’ Mom Nature is the temperamental sort, we can’t absolutely promise the continuance of the oodle. Yet for now, it’s looking good.

And really, as painful as the experience of losing our first succession of tomatoes has been for us, it’s still early in the season. It’s not like we lost our entire summer crop. They simply came on later than usual for us, and considering our later than usual is actually right on time for a lot of growers, we shouldn’t complain. Because ultimately our goal has been met. As that famous quote goes:

“Houston, we have oodles.”

* * *

Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday:

TOMATOES (you know how many!)** — large slicing tomatoes, juicy salad tomatoes, pink tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and heirlooms (get your heirlooms while the gettin’s good…they won’t be around a whole lot longer!) — plus of LOADS of zucchini, Zephyr and yellow squash; new Red Lasoda potatoes; bunches of basil; sweet Yellow Granex and Red Creole onions; elephant garlic; at least two kinds of beautiful eggplant; bags of arugula; the last “Rattlesnake” green beans; and the first of various types of peppers.

**If you’re looking for tomatoes, don’t fret if you’re running late to the farm stand. Last week the customers who arrived later were shocked that we still had so many for them to choose from, and we’ll have just as much — if not more — this week too!

***And if you REALLY want lots of tomatoes for canning, freezing or just eating and might be interested in a 20-lb. box of red, non-heirloom varieties at a reduced price, let me know in a reply to this email and we can put a box together for you to pick up at the stand.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)