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Bushel Boy Tomatoes

Posted by By Merrilyn Tauscher, FoodE Manager
Monday, June 6, 2011

One of the simple pleasures I enjoyed as a kid was heading out to the garden and gently pulling and twisting off a perfectly ripe tomato, warm from the sunshine. My dad would eat his with a sprinkle of sugar, and the rest of my family debated whether they were best with a dusting of salt or just au natural.

Tomatoes seemed so simple to grow back then. It wasn’t until our FoodE Experts took a trip to Bushel Boy Tomatoes in Owatonna, MN that I learned the science and the care required to keep our stores supplied with “probably the best tomato in Minnesota.”

It starts with well designed greenhouses and knowledgeable horticulturalists. Hot water pipes line the walls and floor of these greenhouses to keep plants at the ideal growing temperature. From sub zero days in January to summer heat waves, the temperature is controlled to within ½ of a degree F. When the air in the greenhouses gets too depleted of CO2, plastic bags below the plants inflate with more so the plants can continue breathing in CO2 and releasing O2.

Fertilizing is miles ahead of the remains from cleaning sunfish that I would dig into my garden at the cabin. Fertilizer is carefully mixed for almost 250,000 tomato plants and samples sent weekly to Holland for analysis and readjustment. The black dirt is different too. Well it’s not actually “dirt”. These tomatoes are grown in crushed coconut shells or “rock wool” (crushed rock) and the fertilizer meticulously drips into each growing container. Using these “soli mediums” produces a tomato that is less watery than those grown strictly hydroponically.

Wait, were those bugs flying around? Yes, indeed. Good bugs are ordered and distributed throughout the greenhouses to destroy the white flies and other predator bugs that find their way inside. Bumble bees pollinate flowers 24/7.

While I would use strips of old T-shirts to tie up my tomato vines, each of these tomato plants is supported by an individual line to keep the leader upright and special clips on every branch with tomatoes help prevent them from breaking. Tomatoes are all hand picked and packaged, and delivered the next day to our stores.

After the care these beauties have had in the greenhouse you want to treat them right at home. Remember that the quickest way to kill tomato taste is by storing them at a temperature below 55F. So be sure to store them on your kitchen counter ~ not in the refrigerator. I like these gems in Tomatoes and Mozzarella with Balsamic Vinaigrette. What’s your favorite way to enjoy tomatoes?

Tags: tomatoesbushel boy

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