Breaking the two year tradition of ripe tomatoes by the 4th of July, this year the 4-H Sustainability Club produced ripe tomatoes by the 10th of July. The good news is, the eight TomatoBarrels at the Toledo 4-H garden didn’t get the message about a deadline and have continued to produce delicious tomatoes daily!
Earlier this year the club held a series of workshops in Lincoln County. In total 36 people attended and built TomatoBarrels at 14 different locations. The four locations that are producing ripe, tasty tomatoes can be found in Taft, Siletz, Seal Rock and the Toledo 4-H garden.
The Siletz, Taft and the 4-H Toledo locations planted Stupice tomatoes after May 27. These Stupice tomatoes were donated by a local church in Siletz after their May plant sale.
The Stupice tomato, pronounced “stoo-pee-chay,” is an indeterminate heirloom and cold-tolerant tomato plant which makes it ideal for the Oregon coast. As an indeterminate heirloom, these plants produce bloom, set new fruit, and ripen fruit simultaneously throughout the growing season.
These hearty plants produce sweet, red fruit that are slightly oval and about 2 inches in diameter. These scrumptious tomatoes make the perfect addition to summer salads, lunch box snacks, and excellent juices. An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of family because of their valued characteristics. In this case, the Stupice hails from Czechoslovakia. Although heirlooms have a shorter shelf life, their mouth-watering taste outshines most commercial tomatoes.
As an indeterminate or “vining” tomato, the plants will continue to grow and produce fruit until they are killed by the frost. These bountiful plants can reach heights up to 10 feet tall, although 6 feet is usually the average height.
The 4-H garden in Toledo is offering free Stupice tomato seeds to visitors. Due to the fact that the 4-H TomatoBarrels have been producing tomatoes for some time, many tomatoes have over ripened and fallen in the TomatoBarrel. The seeds from these over ripe tomatoes can be collected, so visitors are encouraged to take one over ripe tomato with them. Heirloom seeds will continue to show the traits of the original seeds since they almost always self-pollinate.
To harvest the seed from an over ripened tomato, chop or mash the tomato into a jar and fill the jar with water. Remember to shake the jar from time to time and allow the tomato to decompose for 1-6 days. Once the seeds sink to the bottom of the jar, rinse the seeds until they are clean and allow them to dry. The decomposition discourages transmission of diseases to the seed, while the drying of seed promotes better germination and makes it easier to separate.
Please note that there are four TomatoBarrels with other types of tomato plants; these plants are not heirloom, so please avoid taking from them. To locate the Stupice tomatoes, remember that they have big, potato-like leaves, unlike serrated leaves on typical tomato plants.
The 4-H Sustainable Living Club garden is located near the Toledo Library and south of the town’s skate park.
The fish tanks and variety of pipes found at the 4-H garden will be used for the next sustainability projects which include heating the green house without using electricity or fossil fuels and building an Aquaponics system.
The Aquaponics system will consist of hydroponic pools, the raising of tilapia fish, and solar power. The two hydronic pools will hold more than 1,400 gallons of water. This water will be heated by sucking the hot air from the top of the greenhouse and passing it under the pools. Lettuce will be grown on floating rafts in these pools. The Tilapia fish is a hearty variety that is adaptable to different types of feed; this fish will allow the sustainability club to learn from them as they raise these popular fish. A 2-4 ounce tilapia fingerling can reach ¾ of a pound by the end of a summer growing season. In the spirit of sustainability, the 4-H club will turn the waste produced by the fish into fertilizer for the garden. The planned solar pumps will circulate water and run fans in order to draw down the hot air to the pools.
Volunteers Needed, New Youth Members Welcome
The Sustainable Living 4-H Club has opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills, make social connections, and make a difference in their community. Currently the club is looking for help with plumbing water to circulate through the TomatoBarrels and pools, moving heavy timber to form hydroponic pools, and carpenters to build the ends of the greenhouse. Youth ages 12-18 years are encouraged and welcome to get involved with the Aquaponics system -there is also an opportunity for them to earn money through their service.
For more information, contact 4-H Sustainable Living Club Leaders Carl and Coralee Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-765-2109. To find out more about 4-H in Lincoln County, please contact Program Coordinator Todd Williver at 541-574-6534, email@example.com