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Tomato blight: How I’m dealing with it

Tomato blight is the boogeyman of tomato growers, especially here in the UK. Our humid climate makes it the perfect environment for blight to take hold and many of us who grow tomatoes have to deal with early or late blight.

For the first time, Kate and I joined that group.

To an extent, there are tried and true methods of dealing with blight in the garden, but there is also a bit of decision-making you have to do as owner of your own garden. So here’s our story.

What is tomato blight and how to recognise it?

The simplest way to think about blight is that it is a fungus-like organism, meaning it behaves like a fungus. It travels in the air and will settle and take hold on wet leaves, multiplying quickly and spreading.

The first signs you might see to alert you of the presence of blight are dark, brown patches on leaves or the leaf branches themselves. Although it’s common to have brown patches on leaves themselves, it’s much less common to see this on steams or leaf branches, so if you see this then there is a good chance you have blight.

In the early stages, you can try to stave off the chance of it spreading by pruning off any of the affected areas however as it spreads it will eventually affect the fruit leaving black spoiled patches on your tomatoes.

Depending on how severe your blight is, you may choose to “cut your losses” and harvest what you can from the plant before you see the blight start to spoil your fruit.

What to do if I see blight

As mentioned above, if you see blight on your plant, the common method to try to contain it is to cut off and dispose of any affected parts of the plant. For many growers in the early stages of blight, this can be quite effective. However, be vigilant. Blight can spread very quickly and completely destroy a tomato plant in the course of a week to two. If you continue to see patches of blight appear you may need to make a difficult decision and decide to harvest all you can from your plants and cut the plants down and dispose of them before you lose your harvest.

Can I eat tomatoes which have blight?

This is another question which comes up frequently and you will hear advice saying yes and no. Some people say it’s ok to cut off the affected patches on fruit if it’s small and then you can use the rest. However, it is also advised that because blight is a fungus-like organism, even though you can only see the effect on one small patch, the entire fruit has been infected.

However, one thing you definitely can do is harvest all your tomatoes which are at a mature size, red and green. You may not want to eat the green tomatoes raw, but there are lots of recipes for relish and chutney and even ketchup you can make to use up your harvest of green tomatoes, not to mention the famous fried green tomatoes.

Something to note, however, at the moment you may not see any signs of blight on the fruit but there is a chance that as you try to ripen those green tomatoes that blight will appear. So it is best to cook them and use them or preserve them soon after harvest.

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