Tomatoes in April? You Betcha!Posted: April 7, 2011
Prior to an auspicious run-in at the Saturday greenmarket in Union Square, I hadn’t eaten a fresh tomato since about September. In my attempts to eat what I preach, tomatoes are one of the foods that I try to buy only seasonally (from June to about mid-October). Out of season, grocery-store tomatoes are typically shipped from some far-off place like Mexico, they’re rarely organic, and they taste just blegh.
However, there is hope for the ‘locavore’ foodie who craves that sweet taste of summer: hydroponics! Try to imagine my excitement at the site of shiny-red vine tomatoes amidst the blanket of earthy-toned root vegetables and salad greens that are typical greenmarket fare this time of the year. Shushan Valley Hydroponics, a hydroponic farm based in upstate New York, grows tomatoes hydroponically in greenhouses on their 200-acre farm for about 10 months out of the year, and sells their pesticide- and herbicide-free tomatoes at the Union Square greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Hydroponic farming is a neat thing, especially for the closet science-fiction geek like myself. It’s essentially indoor-farming without soil: instead, plants absorb a nutrient rich water mixture. The advantage? Produce, plants, and herbs can be grown year-round in indoor spaces, which is promising for the urbanite who’s developed the itch to grow their own food. City Hydroponics, a NYC-based hydroponic resource company, provides free “Intro to Hydroponics” classes every Saturday morning from 10AM-11AM.
I was a bit incredulous of how these hydroponic tomatoes would taste – as a fan of the coveted heirloom tomato varieties that grace the greenmarket for only a limited time during the summer, my tomato-taste-reference-bar is set high. But these tomatoes are surprisingly delicious: firm, sweet, and juicy. The tomatoes run about $4.95 a pound, which is pretty steep on a student budget, but store bought tomatoes cost about the same for an absolutely sub-par taste.