In a world where food prices are skyrocketing, tomatoes have pretty much maintained price composure.
It’s about to get easier for customers this week when Southview Greenhouse Growers, in the southwest end of the city, opens its doors to customers offering a variety of tomato plants ready to take home to mature and grow.
Every year, the greenhouse offers customers about 15 varieties of tomatoes and about five different varieties of the cherry tomato.
Charlie Reid, owner of Southview, has been working with his father, Joseph Reid, to prepare the tomato plants for customers.
For the last two years, Charlie and his father have been perfecting their growing process using a growth chamber that speeds up the germination.
“Sometimes the greenhouse can get extra hot and cook the growth. The chamber sprouts the seeds faster in a climate-controlled environment under light,” Charlie Reid said.
The chamber testing phase is in its second year and Joseph agrees it is a game-changer, especially with being able to maintain an ideal temperature of 24 degrees for the very young tomato crop.
The tomato plants start out in plug trays in the chamber. These trays have 392 plugs. From there, the plants grow and are transplanted into bigger containers in one of the many greenhouses.
“It’s shaping up to be a good looking crop in the greenhouse,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s greenhouses were not always this tech savvy. After graduating from a horticulture program in the Niagara region in 1978, he provided corn, potatoes, tomatoes and other crops to customers in this region.
That led to the opening of Southview in 1985 with five greenhouses that have now expanded to 30,000 square feet of greenhouses and gardens on the property.
Joseph’s been producing an annual crop for 43 years now.
Charlie was only a year old when the venture began at Southview.
“I used to build treehouses on the property and hang out. Then in elementary school, I would transplant. I would do the same on my March break with my sisters,” Charlie said.
He said his time at the greenhouse kept increasing and at age 26, he took over the ownership.
While Charlie is not a fan of the tomato, or the ‘pomodoro’ as Italians call it, he does like spaghetti and pizza sauce.
You could say that means he approves of beefsteak tomatoes, which are great for making tomato paste.
And while he doesn’t really count himself a fan, Charlie said he recognizes he lives in a tomato-loving community.
He said the 15 varieties offered include two types of beefsteak, heirloom tomatoes like the Cherokee Purple and Brandywine.
Each tomato has its own purpose.
“Some mature earlier at the 65-day mark like the Ultra Sweet, some require 70-75 days of maturation and others even longer,” Charlie said. “Some are high in sugar content, some produce fewer cracks and others are great for pastes, grilling, sauces, salads and sandwiches.”.
But he said no tomato plant is completely foolproof in the growing season. There are so many contributing factors down to watering, soil type, sun exposure and the list goes on.
For those who want to battle the drought situation in California and the rising cost of lettuce, the greenhouse has been germinating that, too. The germination for lettuce required about 7-16 degrees in the chamber.
Celery is already transplanted in the greenhouse, so customers can prepare their gardens for full stalks of the vegetable.
In addition to providing plants that grow food for its customers, the greenhouse also specializes in an assortment of annuals and bedding plants, making it one of the largest selections of greenhouses in the North.
The best sellers for annuals are the impatiens, bright tuberous begonias and flowerful geraniums, as well as marigolds, snapdragons and petunias.
Southview Greenhouse Growers opens for the season on May 3. It opens Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Southview Greenhouse Growers is located at 2500 Southview Drive.
Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.