Inside the Tomato Haven at Screech Owl Farms
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 5.
Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Ralph “Screech” Sweger is an affable guy who always lights up with a smile when regaling you with stories of the folks who love his produce.
His favorite may be the one about the young girl who buys five miniature English cucumbers from him each week at the Pittsboro market.
She unwraps each one (he wraps them in plastic to prolong freshness, instead of waxing them, like big growers do) and licks each one, before re-wrapping it.
When he inquires about her peculiar ritual, she replies that licking them is the only way to prevent anyone from eating HER cucumbers.
The passion and care that goes into Screech’s greenhouses and his produce at Screech Owl Farms is evident in every tomato that we get from him. Each one embodies the platonic ideal of what a tomato should be, in color, shape, aroma, and flavor.
His non-certified organic greenhouse may replicate ideal growing conditions for each crop that thrives therein, but enclosed systems such as these have their own bugaboos, such as parasites.
We civilians may think of meat-eating insects as threats to our well-being, but they are the good guys when it comes to greenhouses.
Plant-eaters like thrips and aphids–with the menacing nicknames such as thunderbugs and sap suckers–pose a serious threat to the welfare of the tomato plants inside this hothouse.
When Screech finds a new bug, he consults a reference guide like the “Ball Identification Guide to Greenhouse Pests and Beneficials,” which will inform him what type of spider or wasp he must procure to combat the invader.
This diligence pays off in the end, you can taste it.
Swing by the Farmer’s Cart to check out the produce at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary, and you may see some of Screech’s cucumbers or tomatoes, or even some of his poblano or Anaheim peppers. Try them out.
Just know that Screech’s tomatoes won’t be here all summer, he plans to harvest his last greenhouse tomato just as field tomatoes in our corner of the world are hitting their stride. He’s got to till in some leaves and get the soil ready for tomato plants for the fall.
If Screech is growing it, then the flavor will be outstanding.
All of the sandwiches and burgers at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen (except the Meatloaf sandwich) currently feature the Screech Owl Farm tomatoes.
Read LOCAVORE’s DELIGHT: The Series.
- #1 Learning to forage for ramps with Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider
- #2 A wild recipe: Ramps harvested by hand in the Appalachian Mountains for this month’s Chef’s Feature
- #3 Slow heat to summer: Green Garlic Confit from Plum Granny Farm
- #4 Fresh, Cold, Hothouse Tomatoes: Screech Owl Farms