I harvested my first tomato yesterday, finally. It’s a Martino’s Roma tomato from Seed Savers Exchange, one of several paste tomatoes that I planted in hopes of having a huge harvest to freeze, can and dry. Given the green fruit on the plants now, the harvest will be better than last year, which was horrible, but not great. I’m hoping for a little more fruit set and a warmish September to give the fruit time to ripen.
Speaking of fruit set, I need to correct or at least amplify part of my previous post on tomatoes and heat. Unlike many fruit-bearing plants, tomatoes are self-fertile, meaning they have both male and female parts. Usually tomatoes need only a little help from the wind to move the pollen from the anther to the stamen. (Sometimes gardeners will shake their tomato plants in hopes of moving the pollen around.) One reason we have so few tomatoes this year is that the high humidity levels made the pollen more sticky – and less willing to fall. According to this article by the Washington State University Extension Service, tomatoes have a very narrow window of temperature and humidity during which they set fruit.
Several readers informed me after my post on tomato blossom drop that bees were not involved in tomato fruit set (as I thought), and they usually aren’t. But it seems they may have some role. Apparently, sonicating bees (those that noisily flap their wings) who get near tomatoes in flower encourage the pollen to spread better than wind. Also bumblebees are used to pollinate tomatoes in greenhouses where wind is not available to do the job.
Fortunately, my garden has plenty of wind and lots of bees, so however the job gets done, I’d like to see a little more pollination — and a lot more tomatoes.