Archive for the ‘tomato’ Category

In preparation Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The dawn before fall is nearly as good as spring when it comes to gardening, for me at least. The first plants are drying in their beds. The grass has all but stopped growing. The temperature inside need only be regulated by the opening and closing of windows. We are passed the heavy maintenance stage of weeding and watering and wrangling. All the pumpkin vines have shriveled leaving our back steps a staggering of orange orbs with only a couple looking as though they are waiting for Cinderella’s fairy godmother out in the garden bed.

Soya Envy soybeans, dried on plant, collected for next year's crop

Next steps:

  • Continue gathering seeds – so far I have edamame, marigold, pepper, tomato and butternut squash
  • Covering the tomato plants for a few more nights before picking all and leaving them to ripen on newspaper in front of a sunny window
  • Pick the last peppers
  • Make a list of what did well and didn’t for next year
  • Canning tomatoes
  • Cooking and freezing the pumpkin for pies and baby food
  • Help my parents pick apples and pears, with bonus bagfuls to take home
  • Plant fall bulbs – my pick this year was crocus
  • Plant garlic – just waiting for the order to arrive
Chile Relleno Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Poblano and jalapeno peppers

This Labor Day was spent laboring over making chile relleno. My mom’s hot Big Jim peppers were ripe for the picking and the Hub and I had found 4 lovely poblanos on one of our little pepper plants. So, what better to end a long weekend with than a 3.5 hour experimental cooking session. My mother had made them several times with mixed results and I was inspired this year by a post from a favorite blogger who happened to get into more and more cooking posts recently – much to my liking.

It was fun charring the peppers – too much rain meant we couldn’t use the grill so luckily my mom had a gas stove. The poblanos really danced but the Big Jim’s seemed to rest well during the toasting.

The blister-skinned peppers were then placed in a paper bag. Thus making their own steam which helps with the skinning of the pepper. While skinning I held the still hot peppers under cold water which also seemed to help the skins release.

My mother either sliced the tops off or made a slit in each pepper to dig the seeds out as best as possible. With 14 peppers to do I finished the job not as thoroughly which made for a few surprising hot mouthfuls when we’d finally sat down to eat. I told burning-eared sis that she’d won the Prize Pepper. After seeding we commenced to stuffing with triangles of Jack cheese and some cooked burger I’d seasoned with a little salt and cumin.

The very-basic batter is what attracted me. The peppers are simply dusted with white flour . . .

and then dipped in stiff-beaten egg whites folded back in with their whipped yolks. I used a pinch of salt during the white beating to get them to thicken a bit more substantially.

After dipping the lightly floured peppers they were placed in 1/4 inch of oil in a medium skillet. The oil is ready when you can put the end of a wooden spoon in it and small bubbles rise up. This test is less splattery than the water flick test I used to use.

The batter was puffy and light and adhered well to the floured peppers. They turned a lovely golden color. Each one took about 5-7 minutes to make sure the cheese had melted inside, turning every couple minutes. We served them up with homemade refried beans that my mother had started earlier and a tomato sauce I started earlier, from our garden tomatoes we cooked down, strained and blended. It was seasoned with chili powder, cumin, dried onion, fresh garlic, paprika, salt and a pinch of sugar.

It was well worth the mess and process. Definitely not something I’d want to whip up every weekend but a great once-a-year treat when the garden is bursting with that bounty of peppers.

Cha-cha sal-sa Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Last week my sis, mom and I made quick work of 18 pints of salsa. Last year we hadn’t done any. It can be quite the chore, but with three (and a couple beers) it was quite a fun evening.

  1. Sterilized jars
  2. First we scalded the tomatoes in simmering water for easy peeling
  3. Peeled tomatoes
  4. Chopped onions, garlic, sweet and hot peppers (make sure to use gloves – I also made it a point to take my contacts out before starting this venture, nothing says, “youch!” like hot pepper in the eye)
  5. Threw it all in a couple stockpots to simmer with some vinegar, a little brown sugar and salt – upwards of 3 hours (we didn’t do it nearly as long as the recipe said)
  6. Just before ladling into jars we added some lime, fresh garlic and chopped cilantro
  7. Ladled to within 1/2″ of top of jar
  8. Topped with sterilized lids and rings, tightened
  9. Immersed jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes

I’ve been eating piles of it. We used a few long hot peppers and a couple jalapenos to two grocery-sized bags of tomatoes. We got an awesome medium heat and it is very smooth.

What a great way to spend an evening.

Tomato Tomato Tomato . . . repeat Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Multi grain spaghetti with tofu parm crispies

The tomatoes are bursting and bouncing off their vines and stalks and it’s a wonder how we’ll use them all. Already The Hub stewed a few. I like sliced tomato and cheese sandwiches with a little mustard. A quick favorite is also a quick sauce:

  • 2-3 C. chunks of tomatoes (any type)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 T. fresh chopped basil
  • 1 T. olive oil

Throw everything in a pot and cook over medium til reduced slightly and garlic has softened. To this you can add onion/chard/spinach/peppers if you like. I’ve served it on toast with a little cheese as a pizza. Most recently was over multi-grain pasta. I also made up some tofu parm crispies:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into long cubes (1″x1/2″)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/3 C. fresh grated parmesan (I get mine from the deli section already grated for me)
  • garlic salt

Heat oven to 450F. One a cookie sheet pour 1 T olive oil, roll tofu cubes around in it with fingers. Sprinkle them with garlic salt. Take a pinch of parmesan and slightly press onto the top of each cube. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes til cheese is a little melted and toasty. (If it’s taking too long I will turn on the Low setting of my broiler to speed things up). Give them a try – I know there’s nothing out of the garden but they are really good – might just change your mind about tofu. One of my kids didn’t like the tofu, the other didn’t like the tomato sauce – I’ll still call it a winner.

Boiling over Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Stewed Tomatoes

Tis the time for preservation of the all-too-short season of growth. The Hub cranked out the first 4 quarts of stewed tomatoes. We have one determinate tomato (all fruit ripens about the same time) so we need to stay on top of it to reap the most benefits. Stewed tomatoes are quick, he added some onions too.

  1. Cut up tomatoes into rough chunks
  2. Cook over medium heat till desired reduction to intensify flavor
  3. Put into sterile quart jars
  4. Wipe rim clean
  5. Place on sterile lid and ring (tighten to slight resistance)
  6. Place in boiling water to depth that the lids are covered (sometimes it’s easier to keep it a little shallower and have a hot tea kettle standing by to top it off)
  7. Boil for 15 minutes
  8. Remove from boiling water and wait for the !POP! to know it is sealed – if one doesn’t, just refrigerate til you can use it.

Worst thing about the process is the residual steam when we are trying to keep our house cool and dry.

dragon beans

Other means of preservation: freezing

So far I’ve picked some edamame and froze them in quart size freezer bags. When ready to use, just boil up some salted water, drop them in for 5 min. or so, peal and enjoy.

Our Dragon Tongue Bush Beans are awesome. They are great fresh so I doubt we will need to preserve any. Even when they get big they are still good and not too fibery. When they are cooked though, they loose their distinct purple flecks.

3 2 1 Acclimate! Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

My babied seedlings of tomatoes and peppers have had a rough go of making it to the garden. For weeks I did really well. Watering when slightly dry, timing their artificial grow lights, repotting when necessary. Then I try to set them outside to acclimate a little and boom! I let them dry out too much, then they get sunburned, the children water them too forcefully and the dog topples all of them over. Good grief! So now I’m attempting some resuscitation to see who will make it out of my 20-some little plants. That would’ve been too many for our garden plot but now I’m hoping I have a 1/2 dozen of pepper and tomato each to put out some time this week.

Seedlings you do at home need time to toughen up to the outdoor conditions: wind, sun, night and day temps, all are much more severe than the conditions in your home, garage and in some instances the greenhouse where you purchased them.

What I should have done to acclimate them:

  • Mimic the sun time they will have with my artificial lights a couple weeks out
  • Start setting them out in a shady spot during the day when the temp is 65 and above
  • Move them to a sunnier location where they will get just a couple hours of sun
  • Slowly increase their time in the sun an hour or two each day until they are staying in the sun for a full 8 hours
  • Plant them in the garden when the nights are only getting down to the high 50s or 60s (right now!)

Oh well, this is the most success I’ve had starting my own seedlings anyway so I’ll chalk this up to another lesson learned the hard way.

Good Friday marks potato planting Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Kennebecs harvested in 2008

Good Friday was always the day to plant potatoes – I picked this up from my father who had it passed down to him. It’s nice to get something in the actual ground so early – gives the gardening itch a good scratch. I didn’t exactly get mine planted yet but I got them picked up.

You can get seed potatoes at many places: grocery stores, hardware stores, nurseries, etc. I finally got to Runnings (local ag/hardware store) and picked up some seed potatoes. I chose Norland Red and Yukon Gold. Also available were Kennebec (white) and Pontiac (red). On sale for $o.35/lb. I picked up about 3-4 of each and made sure there were a few good eyes on each one. In past years I’ve used a bag of fingerling potatoes from the grocer that we hadn’t eaten up before the eyes started to sprout and they did well too – potatoes are not the pickiest crop. There are a few things to take note on though:

  • Avoid any seed potatoes that seem soft or moldy.
  • Potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes so can have similar ailments or transfer ailments/pests to each other.
  • Rotate where you plant potatoes every few years and when rotating, also avoid places tomatoes have been planted.
  • Cut the potatoes leaving a couple eyes on each and let the cutting dry for a day or two before planting.
  • Plant cutting level with the ground and mound about 3″ of dirt around them.
  • Once plants emerge you can continue mounding up more dirt just under the top set of leaves.
  • Potatoes will send out roots to make more tubers all the way up their stems – that’s why you can keep mounding the dirt, making a higher and higher hill which also makes digging them up later in the season much easier.
  • Potatoes can be harvested from mid-summer (for fingerling potatoes) up until the tops wither in fall (for larger potatoes).
Round 3 seed planting – tomatoes Monday, March 29th, 2010

Now, approximately 7 weeks out from the last average frost date, I got my tomato seeds planted.

  • Sioux – touted: In 1947, Oscar H. Will & Co. stated, “It out-yielded all other varieties in South Dakota trials.” This one sounded perfect for our area, duh! It’s sounds like it is going to be a humble but universal tomato lending itself to anything from burgers to canning.
  • Royal Chico – We always like having a bunch of Roma-type tomatoes for quick spaghetti sauces, canning and fresh pico de gallo. This one is touted as being disease resistant and is also becoming rare so I’m glad to contribute to maintaining its use in the home garden.
  • Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa – sounds like it will be a great one for BLTs or a caprese salad (basil, tomato, fresh mozzarella with a little olive oil, salt and pepper). It came as a freebie with my order.

I planted 4 seeds of each in 3 TP roll pots. Then cut up some plastic clam-shell type packaging to make water-resistant labels using a permanent marker. I also labeled each packet with the date I planted them. Hopefully they will germinate a little quicker than the 2-weeks-or-more stubborn peppers.

Tomato seeds planted 3/28/2010

After getting these planted I assessed my peppers and replanted the ones that had little to no germination. Odessa market (a sweet pepper) had only sprouted one seedling after planting 3 pots of 3 seeds each. Then the Chinese 5 color peppers hadn’t had a single seed germinate so I replanted a couple pots of those as well. We’ll see. I have sprouts from the mini-red sweet peppers (notably did the best from a germination standpoint) and a couple each from Craig’s jalapeno and the lemon-yellow habanero. After the re-planting I added a 2nd-planting date on my seed packet.

In preparation, 3Rs Friday, February 12th, 2010

Reduce Reuse Recycle,

I’m in full-on prep mode for the coming season.

  • I’ve started a compost jug (this may be a bit early as my compost pile is under 5′ of snow). The plastic lock-tight coffee canisters work great for this, though trying to brew the morning joe, I inevitably open the wrong one – well, that’s one way to wake yourself.
  • I’ve been collecting my clear plastic juice, water and sports drink bottles. I cut almost all the way around the base , leaving an inch to keep it still attached – this flap will be the anchor I can use by placing a rock on it or covering it with dirt. Much better than trying to pile dirt around the side – especially with our SD winds. These will act as seedling protectors when I first put the little plants out in the garden. They will help with wind, cool nights and heavy rains. If you do clip off the bases, use them for kids’ paint trays or beer trays for baiting slugs later.
  • Old plastic bottles can also be cut diagonally from the base into “scoops” to be left in fertilizer, amendment or potting soil bags.
  • I’ve also taken to collecting TP roll tubes and paper towel tubes. I saw a hint in a magazine where 2-3″ cut-up tubes were used for plant pots. Set on a tray – filled with dirt, and seed – once ready for transplant outside one needs only to slide the dirt a little down the tube and plant the whole thing, leaving an inch of the tube above ground. This tube provides a little support as well as protection from cutworms that like to wrap themselves around the base of new plants, clipping ‘em at the base. The paper tubes end up composting.
  • I’ve also made newspaper pots using an almost origami technique – those ended up turning to mush by transplant time so I haven’t tried them again.
  • Old newspapers can also be used as mulch. I’ve gone back and forth about oil vs. soy-based inks – though the latter is obviously optimum, the little research I’ve done is that oil-based inks, at such a small increments such as those used in a daily newspaper, pose no contamination risks. You can also find naked newsprint end-rolls that are free of all inks too. I’ve found newsprint difficult to work with on an average SD day – unless you wet them immediately and weigh them down with some dirt, they will end up in a not-too-pleased neighbor’s yard.
  • If you have any old mini-blinds they work great as labels. Just snip them into 5-6″ pieces and use a permanent marker to label. Popcicle sticks work too but tend to bleed their labels. They do work as simple markers for seeds layed out in a bed though. Great for this girl who forgets just where she tried to sow some poppy and hollyhock seeds in her perennial bed.
  • I went through my seeds and organized them by planting times: anywhere from 10 wks. inside to “outside after danger of frost has passed.” I used an old floppy disc holder to store them in. Other options would be recipe containers or tackle boxes.
  • My seeds came in from Baker Creek and I found some from last year. I wrote in a notebook which ones need to get planted first and I’m working on a planting calendar to post here some time soon. So far, in my garden, I’ll be planting by seed: pumpkins, winter squash (last year’s leftovers), peppers (hot and sweet), watermelon, tomatoes, okra (had good luck with past years), beans, peas, edamame (only tried once – failure – will give it another shot), slo-bolt cilantro and lavender. Some will be started indoors, some outdoors and some, both ways to see what way has better luck.
Wishing season Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

My mom asked me the other day if I’d received any garden catalogs yet? “Um, one – Baker Creek.” She wanders away just to come back and plop down what looked like a dozen seed, perennial, vegetable, and supply catalogs.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The anger over tomato blights and squash maggots has softened like labor pains for a mother looking upon another birth (like me come April). The hope is here again. South Dakota is a nice place to garden for that. Everything is covered with a blanket of snow – some survivors will mark the building blocks of what is to come and among them a blank slate to fill anew. Without our killing winters I couldn’t imagine anything turning the switch on the jungle I inevitably find myself in come August. By then I’m just willing the growing season to end.

So, with my impending 2-month leave April and May I’m going to give a shot to starting some seeds. I’m had very minimal success in the past. Lighting has always been my problem. The seeds sprout, grow, become lanky and flop over – growing in much too long and weak to rebound the transplanting to come.

In steps my first wish – this is why I love my March birthday, just in time for garden season – a grow light with adjustable height. You see I have a great south window, but it’s never enough, nor can one regulate the S.D. sun. Also, seeds just give us a sate to our early gardening thirst, they also give us a jump so we can grow some things our growing season just can’t accommodate without a head start.

The hub and I have started a seed list just from Baker Creek:

These are just a few ‘wishes’ – haven’t filled out the order yet – guess it’s also the time to figure out the garden budget before we get too ahead of ourselves.