Technically a fruit, the tomato is the darling of the summer. Small, large, smooth, wrinkly, pear-shaped, yellow, green, orange, red—the tomato comes in all varieties and flavors that can only truly be experienced when they are in season.

This year, for a lot of tomato farmers, the rainy start to the summer has been wreaking havoc on the tomato. You may have heard on the news, several stories about the highly contagious fungus known as late blight fungus.

This fungus, like many fungi, is found in the soil and spreads quickly. The Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century was blamed on a relative of the fungus and the fungus can jump from potato to tomato. The tomato, commercially, is a high-profit product for farmers and this blight is threatening to destroy crops—and farmer’s income. Spraying with a potent fungicide is the only way to control this fungi which affects organic growers.

Every year, I get excited by the vast number of tomato varieties out there. I love watching them grow from a small four-leaf seedling to a tall towering vine (or bush). And there is nothing more unique smelling than a tomato plant, with it’s pungent sour-y greens smell. This year, I am growing five varieties—standard grape, pear, sicilian (lobed-like fruit), san marzano and a heirloom cherokee. My yields are modest–due to sun and space, and I’m still not used to city gardening (but I’m getting better), but I enjoy watching them grow.

I’m knocking on wood that my tomatoes will be safe, but given my history of spotted leaf mold and the high humidity and heat here (and given all the rain we’ve gotten), I’m not getting my hopes up I guess. One thing I’ve been trying to do is to keep my plant leaves pruned up higher so they don’t touch the soil, but I will be reading up on this disease and doing my best to keep it at bay! Good luck to all you tomato growers out there!

Read more on late blight:

Tomato Late Blight Pathogen from Cornell Long Island Horticulture and Research Extension Center
http://www.hort.cornell.edu/department/Facilities/lihrec/vegpath/photos/lateblight_tomato.htm

New York Times Article: NY Region Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/nyregion/18tomatoes.html?_r=1