Our New Tomato System and Linguine with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes


What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago we were struggling through the most horrible tomato season imaginable. (It’s here: My first ever post!) This year it’s a whole new story. Now we’re swimming in tomatoes, like Scrooge McDuck backstroking through his big vault of money. I can’t believe how well they’re coming and how good they taste. What’s more, we’re selling out every week at market. It’s great.

I’d like to take all the credit for our turnaround. And I’d like to blame all of last year’s crappiness  on environmental conditions. It’s been a long season. I deserve the props and could use the validation. So I’m tempted. But that wouldn’t be true. We made plenty of mistakes last year. We deserve as much blame as does the weather. And this year the conditions have been much better, granting us a natural advantage. That being said, this year we’ve done a lot to influence the outcome and improve our results.



First on the list of our tomato-centric improvements is the half-house. This year, for the first time, instead of field planting our tomatoes we’re growing them inside structures we lovingly call half-houses. I think it’s a perfect name because the structures are about half greenhouse and half open field. When we built them our goal was to take the best from both traditional greenhouse and field culture systems while trying to avoid their drawbacks.

Our half-houses are cathedral style hoop houses built from specially bent, 1/2 inch galvanized pipe, 1×2 pine slats and greenhouse plastic. Each 6×30-foot structure (we have two so far) went up in an afternoon and cost less than $200 (a similar size green house would have cost at least $2,000). They’re light and fairly low (6 ft tall). They are covered with greenhouse plastic, with the ends open and a lot of venting along their length. During the day, we roll up the bottom three feet of the walls, allowing maximum unfiltered light and good venting. At night the walls can be lowered to moderate night time temperatures.  So far they’ve withstood rain, hail and 95-mph winds. With traditional green houses venting is a huge problem. A few of the green house growers I know have to end their season when the temperature starts hanging above 90. With our walls rolled up we have no problems.


So far this year the half houses have performed fantastically. In Colorado the nights are cold, even in summer. The half-houses have been great for moderating the low nighttime temperature. We’ve been able to ripen our fruit and get to market a few weeks earlier than our friends who are field growing. On the other side, because of all the full light the houses provide, we’ve been able to grow a wide selection of heirlooms not generally suited for a green house. It’s the best of both worlds.


So far this year we’ve sold out of tomatoes every week at market (and we’ve taken several hundred pounds). It’s been great but I don’t think it can last. More and more growers are bringing tomatoes each week and our yields keeps increasing. I suspect that pretty soon we’ll be bringing some home and eating a whole lot of tomatoes. That’s why I love recipes like this one. It’s quick, simple and it lets the tomato shine. Not all fresh tomato pasta sauce requires skinning, seeding and a long boil. Some, like this one, are easy. Give it a go and let me know what you think.


Pasta with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes

A great recipe for when the tomatoes are coming fast


  • 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced olives (I use kalamata or gaeta)
  • 2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and soaked
  • 1 large clove garlic sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 lb pasta
  • salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 400. Core the tomatoes and slice into 1/2 inch wedges. Shingle them in a oven safe pan. Sprinkle with olives, capers, oregano and roast garlic. Drizzle the EVO over everything. Bake for 30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the garlic is golden.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
When the tomatoes are done, transfer them to a bowl, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and toss. Fold the pasta into the tomatoes, season to taste and serve hot.

3 comments to Our New Tomato System and Linguine with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes

  • Achel

    I had the pleasure of eating this tomato pasta dish last week and enjoyed every bite. I’m going to add some spinach or kale (which ever is available at my local Monterey farmers market) to my next bowl. Thanks – this was quick, easy, healthy and delicious.

  • Anna

    I’m not sure what exactly happens with the molecular breakdown of a tomato as it’s being roasted…but whatever it is is magical.

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