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Irene Ruins Heirloom Tomato Season

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Yo, Brooklyn! Say goodbye to heirloom tomatoes. Wilkow Orchards, a staple at the Fort Greene and Grand Army Plaza weekend farmers' markets, lost all eight acres of them in Tropical Storm Irene. They harvested enough tomatoes before the storm to offer the tasty, pretty beauties THIS weekend, but it will be the last time to get them until next summer.

I am crushed, and not in a gazpacho or homemade tomato sauce kind of way.

So are the Wilkows, who've been farming the land in Highland, New York for six generations. 

"My dad hasn't even gone down to see [the damage] yet," 24-year-old Becky Wilkow told me over the phone. "He can't accept it. It's a huge loss. It's half of our market."

Right now, tomatoes are the Wilkows' biggest crop. It's considered high-risk and Becky says the insurance company won't reimburse them for nearly the amount the crop was worth. She says the family's insurance company will pay the wholesale cost of what she calls a "classic tomato," the big Beefsteak kind that you can get in a supermarket. Those classic tomatoes retail for about 50 percent less than the retail price of $4.50 a pound that the Wilkows charge for their heirlooms.  

"So, [classic tomato wholesale] is a huge drop," she said.

Becky Wilkow says her family will rely on other, undamaged crops to see them through: apples, and peaches and plums, which she says are still going strong. 

"We are still getting temperatures up to 80 degrees during the day," she said. "We've been picking a huge amount. It's the best peach year we've ever had."

Well, okay. So, no gazpacho. I'll console myself with peach cobbler.