A few weeks ago we visited the Souris River Hutterite Colony. Living where we do means that we are surrounded by people who thrive through their connection to the land and the Hutterites are no exception…in fact, they are shining example of self-sufficiency and collective living. It may not be for everybody…but they do grow fantastic tomatoes!
Each year the greenhouse draws me in like a mosquito to a blood bank because they’ve got tomatoes. Not just any tomatoes, mind you. They’ve got tomatoes from April until October and they are amazing! Their exceptionally long season is the result of Souris River Colony’s ingenious growing techniques and I never tire of listening to Tom the greenhouse man’s lilting accent as he explains how the tomatoes are fed, pruned and pollinated.
The technique actually came from my friend Julie. She used to own and operate a greenhouse and it was she that initiated me into the wonderful world of tomatoes. When Julie sold her greenhouse (a very sad day for me), the Hutterites made the bid and Racher’s Greenhouse moved across the fields and into the colony.
Tom explains how the system works. ‘Trust’ vining tomatoes grow up a cable which is periodically lowered as the producing part of the plant climbs ever higher along the vines. The result is an extensive system of bald tomato vines wrapped along pots like fresh cut hay, while new fruits continually ripen above. The plants are pollinated by bumble bees which Tom and Helen order by mail. A simply amazing gravity fed drip system ensures that the plants get food and water five to seven times a day. What a life!
It is always well worth the trip out to the colony to experience this operation first hand…and then eat the fruits of their labours. The girls gleefully munched on their love apples all the way home.