Tag Archives: tomatoes
Tomatoes plants are almost always transplanted into our garden from seedlings. Whether you grow the seedlings yourself or buy them from a nursery it is best to remove the lower branches and bury the stem up to the uppermost leaves.
The reason we do this is because the hairs along the lower stem will develop into roots. They will enable the tomato plant to take in more water and nutrition from the soil.
Happiness is a bucketful of tomatoes. We had a bumper crop this year. One question we always get is how to save them. Canning is of course one option however some folks find it too difficult and demanding. One simple option we subscribe to is to roast them and then freeze them. See recipe below for Roasted Tomato Sauce.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
2 pounds tomatoes, halved (or enough to fill a rectangular baking pan)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large white onion, diced
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoon dried herbs (i.e. Herbs de Provence , Italian herbs, basil, thyme or oregano ).
Put the halved tomatoes cut side up in a sheet cake pan or other pan (pyrex) with high sides (at least 2″). If possible, make it just one layer.
Spread chopped onion and garlic on top of the tomatoes.
Drizzle olive oil all over contents of the pan.
Salt and pepper liberally, sprinkle herbs on top.
Put in a 350 F oven for 45 minutes. You can go longer if you want sweeter onions and more intense tomato taste. Just watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.
Scoop contents of the pan (there will be a lot of liquid in the bottom) through a food mill to to get rid of skins and seeds. If you don’t mind skins, you can just put contents into a blender. Save the liquid as it makes for a flavorful tomato broth.
Taste, and adjust seasonings. Then freeze or use immediately.
As you become more familiar with the recipe you can roast other vegetables with the tomatoes such as peppers, eggplant or fennel as seen above.
The height of summer is upon us and so is the height of the summer harvest. This week alone we picked about a pound of basil, 3 pounds of cucumbers, 5 pounds of squash, 5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 watermelons totaling about 30 pounds, and 65 ears of corn. One trombone zucchini was NOT picked in order to see how big it gets. At this size it is no longer edible but it will keep for some time as a decorative gourd.
Some guidelines you should follow for harvesting your summer produce:
Corn – Silks begin to turn brown and dry out as the corn cob matures, approximately 3 weeks after first appearing. You can check a few ears for maturity by peeling back the tops and pressing the top kernels with your thumbnail. If the liquid exuded is milky rather than clear the corn is ready to be picked.
Cucumbers – Harvest when fruits are a deep green color before any yellowing appears. Pick the fruits regularly to encourage more fruiting. Mature cucumbers left on the vine will signal the plant to stop producing.
Squash – Same as cucumbers, harvest often to encourage production.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are best when ripened on the vine. Harvest when the fruits are uniformly red (or yellow, purple, etc.) The fruits should be beginning to lose their firmness just slightly soft.
Watermelon – Watermelons will be nearing maturity when the tendril across from the fruit turns brown and dry. Look for a yellowing underneath where the watermelon touches the ground and for the surface color to turn from shiny to dull.
Always a difficult decision. Tomatoes (and corn) is everyone’s favorite homegrown vegetable. We’ll be starting them indoors in late February and early March. If you haven’t gotten your seeds yet, get them NOW.
This year I’ve decided on Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Pineapple Tomato, Cherokee Purple and Sungold Tomato.
Sungolds are bright orange, cherry tomatoes, hybrids, very sweet, and very high yields. The others are heirlooms, open-pollinated, 1-2 pounders: green, yellow blush, and deep red.
The intent is both visual and culinary. The different colors will delight any child and the depth of flavors from the four varieties in a freshly made salsa, bruschetta, or checca will excite the palate of any adult.
May not be many students around over the summer, but that hasn’t stopped our school gardens from performing. Corn is high, tomatoes are plump, cucumbers are fat, peppers are turning color, pole beans are still producing, and zucchinis are abundant.
Two recipes to utilize all this goodness are included below.
1) Black Bean and Quinoa Salad is courtesy of the Los Angeles County Nutrition Program. Be sure to check out their healthy recipes/cookbooks page and their onsite cookbook of healthy, low-fat, easy to prepare, ethnically inspired recipes (in both spanish and english.)
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup corn
2 scallions chopped
½ cup tomatoes
½ cup green peppers (or red)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped zucchini
Grilled Shrimp chopped
Grilled Chicken chopped
Soak quinoa for five minutes then drain. Bring water to boil and add quinoa. Lower flame to barely simmer, cover, and cook until all of the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Let cool. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (Note: bulgar can easily be substituted for quinoa).
2) California Tabboulleh is a variation on traditional tabbouleh.
1/2 cup bulgar (medium size)
1 cup stock or boiling water
1 lb tomatoes
1/2 cup green onion
1 can black beans
1 cup corn
2-3 cups cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers diced (rib and seeds removed)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt if using water
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup citrus (lemon, lime and orange combination)
1/4 cup olive oil
Queso Fresco or mild Feta Cheese
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped red pepper
Pour 1 cup boiling water over bulgar and allow bulgar to soften while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop tomatoes and leave in a colander to drain. Chop onion, cilantro and pepper. Rinse black beans. Drain and discard excess liquid from bulgar.
Toss bulgar, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, corn and beans. Dress with citrus juice and olive oil. Season to taste. It’s best prepared a couple of hours or more ahead of serving to allow flavors to develop. (Note: quinoa can easily be substituted for bulgar).
Feel free to alter ingredients and measures according to taste and harvest.
In order to get our spring vegetables harvested before the end of the school term we are currently sowing the following from seed directly into the ground: bush beans, pole beans, zucchini, and lettuce. We are also transplanting seedlings of corn and cherry tomatoes, which we started in our greenhouse. Cherries mature quicker than the larger beefsteaks.
For those with year round gardens wait until the weather warms up a little more before planting cucumbers, melons, and winter squash.
If you’re not sure what to plant or when check out this planting guide from DigitalSeed.com
If you haven’t gotten seeds yet visit our friends at Botanical Interests and while you’re there check out their fundraising for school gardens.
We are currently planting rows of bush beans, zucchini and corn as well as starting tomatoes from seed. We are using a recycled egg carton as our container with one seed being planted in each compartment. Remember to keep the soil moist throughout the entire germination process.
Once the seedling gets two sets of leaves like below we pot-up to a larger 3″ peat pot container. Peat pots can be planted directly in the ground.
Once the seedlings are about 6-8 inches tall we can then transplant them to our garden. Remember to harden-off your seedlings before transplanting. Hardening-off is the process which introduces the seedlings to the outdoors a little at a time. We place the seedlings out side for a day, then bring them in at night. We do that for 2-3 days then allow them to stay out at night 2-3 nights. Once acclimated we can then transplant them to our garden.