Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heirloom Tomatoes and the Garden Orb Weaver

Black Pear 

Another trip into the farm's only high tunnel to see if I can withstand the heat and check the progress of some gorgeous heirlooms. A few of my favorites are the Black Pear, Brandy Boy and Peruvian varieties. They each have subtle, complex flavors and are simply show-stopping-ly beautiful!

Zipper Spider- pretty cool that it lines up with the center
 of the zigzag, its legs making an 'x' to blend in with the web. 
Here's your biology lesson for the day! 

When I happened upon this spider, I thought the white zigzag was a man made fiber- perhaps a bit of tie to keep the tomatoes from falling over? But I happened upon several more of these yellow and black guys, each with their own zigzag running down the center of their web. I asked Brent, our lettuce farmer, if he knew what was up. He suggested I poke at the web and watch the spider shake like crazy in attempts to scare me off. I decided not to do that. 

A quick internet search later and I found this to be a common orb weaver spider called an Argiope or zipper spider. I dislike spiders (in my personal space) but respect their beneficial garden-y ways. I also thought it was pretty freaking cool that this Golden Orb weaver shares something in common with me! (I'm a handweaver by trade and will have more shameless self promotion in the fall- stay tuned :) )

The zig zag, or  stabilimentum is the last thing woven in one thicker piece of silk. That zipper is slightly controversial in terms of use.  Perhaps it keeps birds from flying into the web. It may also attract insects- the web material reflects the same UV spectrum light as flowers. 

Brandy Boy- a bold shade of pink!
At this point in the summer, heirloom varieties are popping up regularly at SIW. You won't find these tomatoes at the grocery store! Make sure you handle them super delicately. They often have a thinner skin and shorter shelf life. Oh man, they are the best.. If you haven't tried them, this becomes your homework tonight.

The highly sought after... Peruvian!

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