No title

Summer = Tomatoes

For me, Summer is tomatoes. Tomatoes are summer. And that’s pretty much it.

So last week’s harvest made me very happy, and confirmed that it was Summer, my favorite season:


And E making his mother’s slow-roasted tomatoes made me even more jubilant, and reminded me that it was still Summer, still my favorite season (mmm… if only you could slow roast without the oven in the Summer…):


Gazpacho? Yet more proof of the awesomeness of Summer, and why it’s my favorite season:


And Caprese? Is there anything more indicative of Summer? Seriously? Italian anything and tomatoes? That’s just the essence of Summer:


And camping, this weekend? Yeah, that’s Summer. But even moreso is returning to this harvest:


And, from the harvest, I was inspired to make a Summer soup. The only ingredients not from our garden? Salt, olive oil, and a red bell pepper.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

First, slice tomatoes into 1 cm steaks, and layer in a baking pan. Then, top with sliced peppers from the garden (Pimiento D’espellette and jalapenos) and garlic from the dried harvest. If you are lucky, some random genetic mutation may have happened in your garlic harvest, and you can just use *one* clove (i.e. not a head of cloves, just one). The largest clove you’ve ever seen:


After the garlic, add strips of a red bell pepper and sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350:


Turn and mix the tomatoes, and allow to bake for another 20-30 minutes. Puree in a blender. Serve into bowls and top with minced basil. Enjoy!


No title

More Garden Porn

Today, a mere three (3!) days after my last garden post, we’re thrilled to brag about our harvest. In fact, we’re even proud of everything that is not tomato-related, which is impressive, since we’re like 70% tomato-focused. Regardless, this is what I harvested from the non-tomato plants today, and I couldn’t help but think…yummm!


Altogether, however, our tomato-based harvest outweighs the rest:


Let’s celebrate the squash (the striped green and the yellow), the misshapen red onion (ahhh… the adorable foibles of the un-knowledgeable gardner) and its perfect small red onion companion (planted by a more knowledeable gardner 1-2 seasons later…), the garlic, the okra (seriously, you are missing out if you don’t have okra in your life), the eggplant (hell yeah!), the cucumber, and of course, after all of this, we’ll get to the tomatoes.

First: Our cherry and small size tomato harvest has begun to reach epic proportions. I dare you to declare otherwise:


Second: Our larger slicing tomato selection has started to become educational:


In order, starting at the top left, we have:

– 2 stiletz tomatoes (why? why did I grow these? I have plenty of sun and heat?); followed by
– 1 brandywine red lantis (so sweet. Smaller than expected, but we may save seeds and grow again, nonetheless).
– 1 thessoloniki waiting for full ripeness. If I can, I’ll post photos of the slices.
– Next row: 1 super marzano (paste); 1 marvel stripe (gorgeous when sliced, can’t wait), 2 orange russian 117 (oxheart/pear-shaped!!! woo-hoo!); 1 white oxheart.
– Last row: 2 black krim (purple black); 2 black from tula (lighter brown-black); 2 Paul Robeson (full chocolate black)

Finally, I am disturbed by the beauty of red current — it produces much teensy tiny, impossible to harvest, frustrating fruit. Delicious, but annoying fruit that refuses to ripen on the same schedule and each one is entirely too small to deal with. And yet, how gorgeous is she?


No title

Tomato Time is Coming!

We aren’t at full production, but we’re definitely seeing ripe fruit on at least half of the varieties. Today’s harvest was impressive:


It inspired me to make an all-tomato lunch. E and I each had the pleasure of tasting and comparing large slices from several beauties:


In clockwise order, that’s White Oxheart, Thessoloniki, Ananas Noir, Kentucky Beefsteak, Brandywine Red Lantis, Green Zebra, and Black Krim. All delicious. E’s favorite for taste was Thessoloniki, then Brandywine Red Lantis, then White Oxheart. I couldn’t decide between White Oxheart, Ananas Noir, or Black Krim for overall taste, but truly, they are all excellent, it just depends on what you want (more/less acidity, more/less gel sacs, seeds, or meat, more/less sugar).

This year, Cynthia introduced me to the awesomeness that is oxheart tomatoes — pointed on the end and shaped more like a bell pepper, often with whispy droopy foliage. Thanks to her glowing reviews, we’re growing several: White Oxheart, Orange Russian 117, Sweet Horizon, and Japanese Black Trifele.

So far, White Oxheart is the only plant that has ripe fruit:


What a pleasure — the fruit production is prolific, and they are slightly sweet with medium acid. The best part, though, is that while they are the size of a beefsteak, they have the consistency of a paste tomato (lots of meat, little seeds). In other words, we look forward to roasting these, slicing them for sandwiches (won’t make the bread soggy!), and eating ’em easily with a knife and fork all summer — if there are too many at the end, they’ll make great fried green tomatoes and sauces.

No title

You see what happens?

Baby Tomatoes, if cared for, will grow into adolescent tomatoes.

Saturday, a tomato-lovin’ friend came over (thanks J!) and we potted up our 219 tomatoes of 34 varieties (including 2 husk tomatoes).

It’s a fairly time intensive task, but I find it very relaxing.

First, you separate the plants from each other (because their roots have grown together as they’ve outgrown the tiny cell where they were planted):


Then, you dig a small hole in the cup of dirt, add a tiny bit of tomato plant food, drop the roots into the hole and add potting soil to fill up the rest of the cup. If possible, it’s best to bury the stem with dirt up past the seed leaves, and if you want, you can even remove them if the plant has enough true leaves.

At the end of the day, we had a front yard full of plants:


Anyone need a tomato seedling or 10?

No title

Planning the Tomato Madness

Today, we had several big garden milestones.

First, day 13 after potting, we finally got one sprout of Aunt Molly’s Husk, the last of the 35 varieties to sprout. Somehow, we managed to germinate at least one seedling of every variety we tried to grow (keeping the seedlings alive, of course, is another matter, but still).

Technically, Aunt Molly’s Husk is a husk tomato or ground cherry (like a tomatillo, which we are also growing), so it’s not a true tomato, but once we were growing 33 varieties of tomatoes, given that the cheery tomato seeds I ordered over the internet came with tomatillo seeds and Aunt Molly’s Husk seeds, well… who are we to resist? Salsa verde, here we come!

Second, the tomato seedlings were allowed outside for their first exposure to the real world today. It was only 2 hours, but they seemed to like it and rewarded us with 8 new sprouts between last night and tonight.


Third, at tonight’s 13-day post seed-potting count, we are at 199/257 seedlings sprouted, for a germination rate of 77.43%.

Fourth, and finally, we got the busted concrete debris removed, cleaned up a bit of the winter garden, purchased some redwood bark for the walkways between the garden, and started the final transition to this year’s garden madness, aka The First Summer of Tomato Madness.


And yes, in case you were wondering, that is a very dead Christmas wreath hanging to the right of our front door. Perhaps we’ll take it down tomorrow…

No title

Tomato Seedling Update

Day 8 after potting I am proud to report that we have 60.46% germination!


That’s 153/256 tomato seeds (the total is an estimate — you shoot to put 3 seeds in each cell, but if you accidentally drop one, you only find out when your yield is > 100%).

I am excited to see what the final germination rate is — in the last 24 hours we got 28 new sprouts, and I can only hope for a similar increase tomorrow between day 8 and day 9.

No title

Our Babies

Well, as I said, E and I are committed to the garden this year.

And, I’m a tomato-lovin’ fool.

So, I’m trying to grow several varieties of tomatoes from seeds.

Basically, I’ve got a *grow room* in our garage:


And, it’s so cool.

When they first sprout, they look like this:


And, then, less than 24 hours later, after exposure to the one cool flourescent and one warm flourescent bulb, they look like this:


In the interests of safety in numbers, I planted roughly 250 seeds of somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 breeds of tomatoes and tomatillos. Even with the new construction, this summer, we have space for maybe 20 plants of this type if we want to have a summer garden with vegetables of any other type. It should be interesting to see how this plays out…

No title

Summer Girl

Summer has always been my favorite season.

I love the sun. The late bedtimes. The feeling that it’s always almost time to relax and have a barbeque. But, I must say, tomatoes have become one of my favorite things about summer:


All but the three huge professional-looking heirlooms came from our garden. I am SO proud.

Also, the one lonely okra on the left is to show that our okra from seeds experiment was successful. We managed to grow at least one, and if the buds are to be believed, several more are in the wings.

Foodwise, I may love autumn harvest more than summer foods, but seasonally speaking — I love the heat, the sun and the tomatoes. And, in the midst of family drama, work drama, and all of that jazz, the calm and slowly evolving life of our garden (especially the tomatoes) brings me more joy this summer than I could have imagined.

No title

First Harvest

E says the word “Harvest” sounds like “genocide” to our plants. He’s probably right.

Regardless, I don’t feel the tiniest twinge of guilt despite eating about 10 cherry tomatoes and eagerly awaiting the final ripening of Mr. Stripey’s firstborn:


As of last week, the garden as a whole looked like this:


Which is good, because we’ve successfully managed to control the fungus that infected 6 of our 7 tomato plants. We trimmed leaves. We fertilized. We sprayed antifungal. We switched to an every-other-day watering plan. And, thankfully, although they are a bit sparse for the wear, they seem to be doing much better. At last count we have somewhere around 150 tomatoes waiting to ripen. How exciting!!!

The earliest producer of the group was the squash. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve picked about 7 great fruits like these:


The first meal was sautéed squash in a sage in browned butter sauce over whole wheat penne topped with black pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano:


And the lesson we’ve learned is that it’s best to pick them when they are still pale yellow. Apparently, the darker the rind, the thicker the rind.

Speaking of thick rinds, this dark yellow rind (an early developing fruit before we realized we should pick earlier) did a reasonable job of protecting its important reproductive portions from our local raccoon (I was still grumpy that we wouldn’t get to eat it):


Remember the Okra from seeds experiment? Well, several of the non-culled survivors have grown to full-fledged plants that have and will continue to flower, and should (hopefully) bear many fruits:


And finally, my fascination with the biology of the cucumber continues, unabated. It has grown from the tiny seedling, to the clutching, wrapping vining monster, to a fully trellised plant with a wingspan greater than 5 feet:


E and I shared the first cucumber with some store-bought tomatoes and we agreed it was amazing and we couldn’t wait for its siblings. Thankfully, after a few weeks of fallen flowers, the female flowers are now producing over-grown ovaries like no-one’s business. The babies look like this (look at the appendage attached to the unbloomed flower on the left):


And, they grow, very quickly to look like this (note the fully bloomed and wilted flower at the far end for scale):


We’ve got several proto-cukes and we can’t wait to enjoy them with the tomatoes, which are coming ever-so-slowly closer to being ripe each day.

Tonight’s garden-inspired dinner was a first course of sliced black krim (from the farmer’s market, ours are not yet ready) topped with olive oil, aged balsamic, basil and lemon thyme; followed by a second course of habanero, yellow crook-neck squash bisque that cleared my sinuses but was quite a delicious non-recipe invention, if I do say so myself.

No title


It’s halfway through June. When did that happen?

It seems like just yesterday that E and I planted the transplants in the garden and tried our hand at growing okra from seeds.

And yet, here we are, 39-days post transplantation for most of the garden, and they are huge! All of the tomato plants have at least one green tomato that is in development, and many have more. (11 days ’til early girl is supposedly bearing her early fruit, and just a few more for the others. I can’t wait!):


The herb box has been amazing. My success made me so excited that I purchased some herb seeds and planted those as well (cilantro, dill, chives). Predictably — it was less of a success — the dill sprouted, but died over memorial day when no one watered it. The cilantro is hanging in. And the chives, which the packaging swore were like weeds have not yet sprouted.

In particular, the basil is just kicking ass this year. I love it. Every week or two I trim the tops of all 6 plants for a huge harvest of the freshest basil available while forcing them to become even more bushy in their quest for sun.

In such a short time, despite many trimmings for meals, the herb box has gone from this:


To this:


And, much to our surprise, *all* of the okra seedlings. We actually had to cull some of the plants to prevent them from strangling each other. We’re still not sure how much success we’ll have in pots, but regardless, we’ve gone from this:


To this:


Plus, a fellow-tomato lover heard of our sunshine and asked if she could borrow some sun. She donated a yellow pear tomato plant that quick caught up with its friends and is doing very well. And as a thank you, she gave us a crook neck squash. This thing is out of control! When we got it it was maybe 2 inches tall with two leaves, and yet, here it is:


It’s even starting to produce squash:


But, the biggest surprise for me has been the japanese cucumber plant. It went from this:


To this:


But what’s most amazing is the structural supports this thing sends out. I swear, this plant has intelligence. It grows these long probes, which extend in search of things to support itself and when it finds supports, it attaches. And not just a little bit:


Amazing, I tell you.

I’m finding it so fascinating how quickly plants change — it’s a much needed reminder for me that everything is constantly changing. Every day, each of the plants are different from the day before. The squash, in particular, wilts without enough water, and then stands right back up when you alleviate the problem for it.

Yes, the best part will most certainly be the enjoyment of the fruits. But the care and observation of the growing is full of joy as well.