Home Page Image
 




nothing is more beautiful than a kitchen-garden.

~ William Cobbett ~
 





























Terrific Tomatoes


One of the reasons that so many people grow tomatoes is that they are relatively simple, any plant that can be grown in an upside down bucket will tolerate at least a little abuse. Finding information on how to grow them is easy - the problem is that not all of that information is trustworthy.  Last year, my crop developed blossom end rot and my research lead me to believe the condition was caused by poor soil. Belle kindly helped me find more reliable information - blossom end rot actually has to do with poor calcium uptake and develops when conditions vary too much. For example, if the weather is rainy for a few weeks, but then gets very dry and you don't continue to water your plants.

When you have a tomato related question, trust information from universities' agricultural extension offices or ask a professionals whom you know to be reliable. Chances are, though, you won't have any problems - especially if you take better care of your plants than I did last year.

Your results begin with plant selection. Choose plants with dark green, healthy looking foliage. Avoid leggy, pale plants. If all the plants at your retailer look droopy and thirsty, go somewhere else! When you plant your tomatoes, cover up to the bottom set of leaves with soil, and hill it up a bit around the stalk. Water regularly and wait patiently for your harvest!

Using Fresh Tomatoes:

If you can't quite wait for your tomatoes to ripen, you could try an old Southern favorite recipe, fried green tomatoes. They are perfect for Sunday brunch. Or as an appetizer, with marinara sauce, on a sandwich, or as a side dish to virtually any meal. They are just that good.

Here is Danny Thompson's recipe from Tomato Casual. It looks pretty close to the way my aunt, our family's fried green tomato expert, makes them.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • salt and pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • cornmeal or bread crumbs
  • bacon grease or vegetable oil

Preparation:
Salt and pepper the tomato slices; dust lightly with flour. Dip slices in beaten egg, letting excess drip off, then coat well with meal or crumbs (I prefer corn meal). Fry in hot grease or oil until browned, turning gently (about 3 minutes each side).

Once your tomatoes start ripening there are probably literally millions of ways to eat them. My absolute favorite is to have a thick slice sprinkled with trace amounts of salt and pepper as a side dish with every meal. Possibly the strangest way was my grandmother's favorite sandwich: tomato, peanut butter and a little mayonnaise on white bread. Sounds bad; tastes pretty good. 

Peeling Tomatoes

Sometimes you need to peel tomatoes, and done improperly it can be a difficult task. If you just want to peel one or two quickly for dinner, use a serrated knife, it just works better. However, if you need to peel a batch for a bigger recipe, or to can them here are some instructions to make it easier:

  • Wash your tomatoes
  • Get several quarts of water boiling.
  • Fill a bowl or your sink with ice water.
  • Have a slotted spoon handy.
  • Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water a few at a time - 3 is a good number.
  • Leave them for NO MORE than 15 seconds. Any longer and they will start to cook.
  • Use the slotted spoon to get them out of the boiling water and drop them into the ice water.
  • They will cool quickly in the ice water, and as soon as they are cooled, get them out and peel them. The peelings will slip right off; you may need a paring knife to get them started but they will come off easily.

Preserving Tomatoes

Whatever type of tomato you choose to grow, if you have more than one or two plants, you may end up with more than you can eat right away. Sure, when that first tomato reaches plump perfection and you gobble it up still warm from the sunshine, you might think you could live on tomatoes alone, but after a month or two you'll be looking for ways to preserve your harvest. Plus, there is little in the culinary world to rival having a taste of bright summer sunshine in January!

Tomatoes can be canned, frozen, dried, roasted then frozen, dehydrated, or turned into paste, sauce or salsa then preserved. Clearly, canning requires some specialized equipment and knowledge to be done properly. Freezing may be the easiest method of preservation as whole tomatoes can be frozen. Wash your tomatoes, put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, freeze overnight. The next day you can put the frozen tomatoes in a freezer bag for storage. You can also coarsely chop them, put them in freezer bags and freeze them.

Gardening is great exercise, has documented therapeutic benefits and, if you are growing tomatoes or other vegetables, definite nutritional benefits. You know exactly what fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals have or have not been near your plants. You get the fun of harvesting, eating and preserving your harvest. Enjoy your tomatoes!

 

July in the Garden :

Fight Mosquitoes Naturally
Easier Watering
Enjoy the Hummers