by Winnie Yang
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We dreamt of it in the depths of winter. It’s been eagerly awaited by produce lovers, farmers, and Italian grandmas. The height of summer: it’s finally here, and the farmers’ markets runneth over with squash, peppers, corn, berries, green beans, and tom — Wait. Where are the tomatoes?
As you may have heard (here, for instance), Northeast tomato crops have been decimated by a widespread outbreak of late blight. The highly contagious fungus “is believed to have spread from plants in garden stores to backyard gardens and commercial fields,” Julia Moskin reports in the New York Times. A rainy June exacerbated the spread of the blight, which “thrives in damp, windy weather.”
The disease affects both tomatoes and potatoes (a strain of it caused the Irish potato famine of the mid-1800s) and is so infectious that plants showing any signs of disease must be destroyed. “Burning, spraying and deeply burying infected plants are options for farmers,” Moskin writes. “Home gardeners should pull plants out at the first sign of the disease. Rather than composting them, the plants should be sealed in plastic bags and thrown away.”