I will admit that growing tomatoes in Roanoke had become very frustrating. You know that is the case when you search tomato farm markets like the Tomato Hunters Paradise that I wrote about a few years ago.
We grew many nice tomatoes in Roanoke, but Roanoke just does not have the climate for growing great tomatoes regularly. I think only once in our years of growing did we get ripe tomatoes by July 4.
It is a far different story here on North Carolina's Crystal Coast. There are no rocks in the soil, the deer are not nearly as plentiful, and the early heat seems in sync with the growing needs of tomatoes. In 2008, we got a ripe tomato on June 1. This year after a very cool, long winter, we still managed a June 5 ripe tomato. That was two weeks before my friend in central North Carolina got one. My guess is that ripe tomatoes are still a ways off in Roanoke.
Our crop this year has been beautiful and plentiful. It has not reached its peak yet, and we already have a tomato that weighs 15.9 ounces. I am hoping that we beat last year's record of 1.33 pounds.
While Roanoke might not be a perfect tomato growing climate, I actually think the sweet corn seems to grow better in Roanoke than it does on the coast. The corn matures so fast here on the coast, it is hard to get it at the perfect eating stage.
Lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are also better mountain grown. I can alway remember my mother saying there was nothing better than mountain grown cabbage.
The Carolina coast excels in watermelons with the local Bogue Sound watermelons being a real treat. The other real area treat would sweet potatoes.
While it is a challenge to beat the Southern Outer Banks for early tomatoes, it is hard to beat the Roanoke Valley's farmers' market and my local favorite, Jamison's, for a vegetable shopping experience in the mountains.
The vegetables might come a little later, but the venues are top notch. Perhaps I should bring some of my home grown tomatoes to Roanoke and sell them at the market. People might pay a nice price for those first homegrown tomatoes.
I wonder if there are enough tomato sandwich lovers in Roanoke to support a small tomato truck garden down here on the coast?