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Monday, June 17, 2024

INTERESTING FOLKS – Lena Halberstadt, the Jersey Tomato Chick -One Smart Tomato

Lena Halberstadt and her dog Cava at the Blairstown Farmers' Market recently. Photo by: MB Journe, July 2022.
Lena Halberstadt and her dog Kava at the Blairstown Farmers’ Market recently. Photo by: MB Journe, July 2022.

Lena Halberstadt, and her husband Eric moved to Blairstown in 2017. The couple worked for the same production company in Kyiv, they met at a party, fell in love and got married in 2013. The first year they were together they traveled the globe.

They run a film company, Spitfire Films. The couple makes commercials, music videos, press kits and promos for TV. They produced a music video for Water Street, a local Blairstown band.

Her dog, Kava keeps guard of just a few tomatoes from her harvest.

Halberstadt’s hobby, the garden, has a little bit of everything, squash, pumpkin, beets, fava beans, raspberries, strawberries, peppers, potatoes and a variety of herbs.

She started her garden with five raised beds. Six years later her garden has grown to encompass the whole back yard. She has 355 tomato plants, 66 different varieties of tomatoes which are mostly planted in containers.

Halbertadt starts all her plants by seed “in winter”. Each variety is carefully cataloged by size, color, taste and disease tolerance.

Halberstadt is from Ukraine and is in constant contact with her family hoping for a peaceful resolve to the Russian invasion. She is doing her part by raising money and saving seeds to be sent home.

Halberstadt donates her time each Saturday at the Blairstown Farmers Market. She dresses in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. She raises money for the Ukraine people by selling recipe cards featuring original botanical drawings by a talented Ukrainian artist Anna Farba.

Halberstadt has a variety of stickers for sale at this fundraiser. She is donating all the proceeds to her friend Dmytro Chervonyi who is working every day, in a volunteer kitchen, preparing 230-250 servings of hot lunches and delivering them to the people in the Kyiv region.

For donations, please visit Lena at the market or check out this Facebook link. Chervonyi accepts Pay Pal at dm.chervonyi@dldunnllcgmail-com


Halberstadt explains her “tomato tower” process: she adds compost to the center of the wire cage, all the plants go outside of the wire cage in milk jugs. The milk jugs have some of the plastic cut out so the roots of the plants eventually root into that compost and feed from it.

Instead of pulling weeds she cuts them, leaving the roots to enrich the soil. The leafy weeds are then submerged in rain water. Then put in covered buckets to brew for one week. The plant material is strained out. The liquid that remains is called “compost tea”.

The tea is diluted, one part ferment tea to three parts water. The resulting liquid is lightly acidic, which most plants (tomatoes in particular) appreciate. The tea is a product of lactic acid fermentation, which feeds the plants and the soil. Halberstadt waters her garden once a week with this compost tea.

Lena’s Helpful Hints
”Don’t pull a weed that the insects like to eat, this way the vegetable get eaten less.” Lena stated.

“Some weeds, like Lambs Quarters are very nutritious and tastes like spinach.” Lena points out.

• Plant something like sunflowers to attract birds, they will help control the insects in the garden.

•Plant basil, celery, carrots, onions with tomatoes, this helps tomatoes produce greater yields and repels both flies and mosquitoes.

•Marigolds are another good companion, repelling nematodes and other garden pests.
Halberstadt has so many tomatos, she freezes them whole to use all year round. The tomato skins can be easily removed with warm water. The tomato is preserved, like freshly picked off the plant.

“We still have some tomatoes left from last year in my freezer. There are so many ways to enjoy tomatoes, from cold salads to hot and cold soup, pies, juice, sandwiches to be eaten all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said.

Enjoy the season, here are a couple of links with tomato recipes.
Halberstadt’s favorite tomato sauce trick:
Check out Halberstadt’s Instagram and Facebook pages where she compares two different varieties of tomatoes. Her photography is beautiful. There is always a verdict at the end of each review. #JerseyTomatoChickReviews


Lena Halberstadt and her dog Cava at the Blairstown Farmers' Market recently. Photo by: MB Journe, July 2022.

Lena Halberstadt and her dog Kava at the Blairstown Farmers’ Market recently. Photo by: MB Journe, July 2022.

Reusing gallon jugs was ingenious.

Halberstadt uses her “tomato tower” process which starts a single tomato plant in a wire cage, surrounded by a group of plants in recycled gallon jugs.
Yelens Choban
MB Journe, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

MB has been a resident of Frelinghuysen for the past 22 years. She lives in an old farmhouse on the side of the road. She enjoys the simple life, puttering in her flower garden, practicing Qi Gong under her redbud tree, or creating art on the deck.
MB's experience as a journalist began when her son was quite young, she began writing for The Paulinskill Valley Chronicle, often bringing him to work with her. Her responsibilities were writing articles with photos, selling ads, and billing. This suited her, as a single mother not wanting to be separated from her small child.

She considers herself a lover of nature, often seen photographing its beauty. She has worked as a seasonal employee of YMCA Camp Mason for the past 17 years. She is a teacher and mentor of children, always emphasizing the YMCA’s core values - caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. She tries to listen carefully to each individual she interviews, getting their viewpoint. That is why she likes to write about the interesting people and places that make Warren County such a nice place to live.