MY NEARLY NAKED TOMATO PLANTS

MY NEARLY NAKED TOMATO PLANTS

It’s hard to believe, but another vegetable gardening season is winding down.  It is late September; many of the beds are bare, and there is a sense of urgency to ripen the last fruiting crops, especially tomatoes.  All of the determinate plum tomato plants are in the compost pile, but I still have some indeterminate tomatoes slowly ripening – excruciatingly slow.

THE TOMATO PATCH IN LATE SUMMER

THE TOMATO PATCH SEVERELY PRUNED IN MID SEPTEMBER

In order to encourage these few stragglers, I have severely pruned the plants and culled out some of the fruit.  Each surviving plant has been fertilized as well.  We have been averaging one ripe tomato every few days, so the effort does produce results.

A “MADAME MARMANDE” TOMATO TAKING IT’S SWEET TIME VINE RIPENING

This procedure has also been done to our two “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomato plants.  At some point in early August, I run out of patience with these plants and let them be their wild selves.  In late September, I take my revenge.  It typically takes a good hour/hour and a half to tame these suckers.  Given that they are always the last plants standing,  going until the first killing frost, it is worth the effort.

“MATT’S WILD CHERRY” TOMATO PLANTS BEFORE FALL PRUNING

Because of their thin skins and superior taste, “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomatoes have been grown in my garden every year for the last couple of decades.

“MATT’S WILD CHERRY” TOMATO PLANTS AFTER LATE SEPTEMBER PRUNING

A parting word:  Every extra day of being able to make a sandwich that includes a slice of vine ripened tomato is a gift.

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                          gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

 

TOMATOES – TWO EARLY VARIETIES WE LOVE

TOMATOES – TWO EARLY VARIETIES WE LOVE

The “Main Season” tomato season is almost here, but we have been enjoying two excellent tomatoes that begin to ripen ahead of the other varieties.

The first of these tomatoes is an heirloom  called BLACK KRIM.  This tomato is not going to win prettiest in show, but it’s superior taste  more than makes up for it’s rustic appearance.  Originally grown on the Island of Krim in the Black Sea, seeds began to move all over Europe after the Crimean War in the Nineteenth century.  In the 1990’s, seeds began to migrate to the United States.

BLACK KRIM TOMATO – AN EARLY MAIN SEASON HEIRLOOM TOMATO

We have been growing Black Krim tomatoes off and on for at least fifteen years.  It is reliably two weeks ahead of the rest of the pack.  If you are looking to have a longer tomato season, you may want to consider this old favorite.

The second tomato that we offer for your consideration  is MOMOTARO, a hybrid from Japan.  I know what you are thinking: “Japan? Hybrid?”    Yes, the Japanese love their tomatoes and this variety was bred for taste, not how well it handles being shipped across country.  Momotaro begins to ripen two or three days after Black Krim, so  I put this in the main season early ripening bucket.

The taste is wonderful.  Not quite as acidic as other varieties, Momotaro has a lovely sweet quality with nice depth of flavor.  Most of the fruit is handsome in appearance as well as tasty.  Again, I have been growing this variety periodically for many years and always look forward to adding it to the mix.  I usually purchase seeds for this variety from Territorial Seeds.

MOMOTARO – A JAPANESE HYBRID TOMATO WITH GREAT TASTE

One of the great advantages to gardening is that you get to choose what you grow.  If you are looking for something new, give one or both of these varieties a try.  Next week, I will follow up with a post highlighting the other varieties I am growing this year.

All the best,

Greg Garnache                                                                                                                        gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

 

STAYING POSITIVE DESPITE THE WINTER THAT WON’T GO AWAY

STAYING POSITIVE DESPITE THE WINTER THAT WON’T GO AWAY

We woke up this morning with yet another dusting of snow on the ground and the sky is showering even more snow down upon us as this post is being written  Spring is nearly a week old and still no break  in the action.

Adding to my frustration is the fact that various plants have started arriving at  my doorstep; 10 blueberry bushes, a box full of onion seedlings and a box full of seed potatoes.  However, I do find comfort and hope in the seedlings that I have growing under the lights.  Check out my lead photo for this blog.  It is certainly an attitude changer for me.

Also, check out the photo below;  the first “triple banger” of the season from my three chickens.  I’m so proud.

THE FIRST “TRIPLE BANGER” OF THE SEASON FROM THE CHICKEN COOP. YOU GO GIRLS!

And while we’re at it, here is a shot of my “Glacier” Ultra Early tomato seedlings started, well, ultra early.  The plan is to get them in the ground at the end of April, protected (wall of water teepees) and placed in the garden where the vine crops will grow.  As soon as the main season tomatoes start producing, I will pull these plants to make room for the pumpkins and squash.  We have had tomatoes as early as June 14 in the past.

“GLACIER” ULTRA EARLY TOMATO SEEDLINGS GIVING HOPE OF SPRING WEATHER TO COME

There are advantages to starting your own seeds:  greater variety, early start, cost.  For me, the biggest advantage is the feeling that I get from watching them grow, especially when it’s still snowing outside.  Happy Spring everyone!

All the best,

Greg Garnache

Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

The gorgeous weather we enjoyed in September has spilled over into the first week of October.   The rock-n-roll and jazz-funk of Summer has been replaced  with more sedate classical music for company as I harvest late season tomatoes, peppers, fennel, kale, beets, carrots and raspberries.  Ah, the raspberries.  This is the first full year of production for our Fall bearing “Heritage” raspberries.  What a pleasant surprise; tasty and prolific.  One twenty five foot bed has yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of two gallons of berries.  We are about to process our third batch of jam.  We have frozen raspberry sauce and three quart containers of berries for later use.  We are eating fresh berries daily on yogurt, over chocolate ice cream, in raspberry swirl brownies, etc.  Life is good.

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

 

Tomato Season Winds Down

I have been gradually reducing the tomato plant population over the last couple of weeks, harvesting both ripe and green tomatoes and pulling plants.  Our kitchen windows are lined with fruit in various stages of ripeness; trophies of another successful season.  It won’t be long before those tomatoes are replaced with Christmas decorations.

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A few Words About Kale

Over the Summer months we don’t tend to eat much kale.  We use it mostly in  juice making and treats for the chickens.  Now that fall is here, we will begin using it in soups and stews.  Right now, we have four plants in the garden;  two Russian Kale and two Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale.  These plants have been in the ground since early May.  They’re not pretty but still producing.

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A Soup Comes Together

Chicken Soup with Beans and Kale

I’ve been retired now for about a year and a half and since then have been gradually taking on more of the cooking duties.  One of my favorite cooking projects is soup.  As with most of my soups, this one started with a roasted chicken.  Last Sunday, I prepared a “Beer Can” chicken in our Weber kettle grill using a spice rub recipe from “Weber’s Big Book of Grilling“.  After our meal, I removed the remaining meat from the carcass and used the bones to make stock.

GREG'S GARDEN PARTY CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

A NICE HOT BOWL OF GREG’S CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

In addition, I had some leftover “Vermont Cranberry” beans I had slow cookedfor chili.  Stock, chicken meat, beans;  time to make some soup.  To me, classic soup starts with the trinity of onion, celery and carrots.  I finely chopped one large onion, two stalks of celery and two large carrots; then sauteed them in olive oil.  I added six cups of stock, two cups of chicken, two cups of cooked “Cranberry beans”,  four “Tuscan Kale” leaves shredded, a tablespoon of fresh thyme, a two cup bag of chopped plum tomatoes from the freezer and salt and pepper to taste.  Everything except the chicken and celery came from the garden, which made this an act of love. The smokiness of the chicken stock and the texture of the beans helped to make this soup one to remember.  Catherine loved it.

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – 2015

THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – 2015

A Soggy Day for a Garden Party

The week leading up to the “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” was filled with activity: cleaning the patio, weeding the vegetable garden and all of the gardens surrounding the patio, harvesting, searching out recipes, selecting the proper wines, and tracking the weather.  Mother Nature intervened about an hour before showtime with a downpour.

A VIEW OF THE PATIO IN THE RAIN JUST BEFORE THE START OF THE TOMATO LOVERS' DINNER

A VIEW OF THE PATIO IN THE RAIN JUST BEFORE THE START OF THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER

We went to plan “B”, dinner in the Dining Room.  However, the rain stopped just before everyone arrived.  I wiped off the chairs, threw a table cloth over the coffee table on the deck and conducted the tomato tasting portion of the dinner on the patio before the next downpour.

OUR GUESTS GATHERED AROUND THE COFFEE TABLE FOR A TOMATO TASTING

OUR GUESTS GATHERED AROUND THE COFFEE TABLE FOR A TOMATO TASTING

I poured everyone a glass of “Jumilla”, a Spanish wine made from Monestrell grapes, well known for pairing well with tomatoes and tomato dishes.  Once everyone had settled in, I started the tasting.  We began with a beautiful hybrid tomato called “Betty”.  Deep red and nearly flawless, it got everyone’s attention.  “Hey look at me.  I am the very epitome of what a tomato should look like.”

SLICING A BIG RED TOMATO

OUR FIRST TOMATO OF THE TASTING WAS A LOVELY RED HYBRID CALLED “BETTY”

I cut it in vertical slices and handed them around, encouraging folks to use a bit of salt to enhance the flavor.  There was general consensus that “Betty” was pretty good.  Next up was an heirloom called “Black Krim”, so named because it originated on the Island of Krim in the Black Sea.  The “Black Krim” blew everybody’s head off with it’s taste and texture.  Universal thumbs up.

BLACK KRIM TOMATO

BLACK KRIM TOMATO

This was a deliberate maneuver on my part to illustrate how great the taste difference can be from tomato to tomato.  All of our guests had seconds of the “Black Krim”.  It was now time to introduce them to one of our favorite American heirlooms, “Rose”.  Rose is a cultivar of “Brandywine”, considered by some to be the best tasting tomato.  Brandywine tomatoes are very good, but not very productive.

Rose has Brandywine’s flavor with much better production.  Rose was a big hit with our tasters.  Not the most photogenic looking tomato, our photographer did  not capture an image of this variety.

"NEBRASKA WEDDING" TOMATO

“NEBRASKA WEDDING” TOMATO

After Rose, it was time for a some visual variety.  I introduced our guests to “Nebraska Wedding”, a lovely orange tomato with mild, sweet taste.  The name comes from the practice of giving new brides seeds of this variety as a wedding gift back “in the day”(Eighteen hundreds).  At this point, folks were beginning to pick favorites.  Nebraska Wedding definitely was the favorite of a couple of tasters.

GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO

“GREEN ZEBRA” TOMATO

The visual impact of the Nebraska Wedding tomato was followed up with the introduction of the “Green Zebra” salad tomato.  In addition to it’s unique coloring, the Green Zebra added a crisp citrus-like flavor to contrast with the mild sweetness of the Nebraska Wedding.  Our tasters were starting to have fun with all of these flavors and colors.  Conversation became more animated.  Everyone had opinions and questions.  I was a very happy host.

 

THE TOMATO TASTING WITH EVERYBODY JOINING THE CONVERSATION

THE TOMATO TASTING WITH EVERYBODY JOINING THE CONVERSATION

While on the subject of salad tomatoes, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce my guests to a different looking and tasting variety, “Black Ethiopian”.

A BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATO

A BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATO

The seeds for this variety were given to me by my friends Pam and Dave Webb who first got seeds after visiting Gary Ibsen’s “Tomato Fest” headquarters in California.   I think that this is one of the most beautiful pieces of fruit that I grow.  The tomatoes are a deep mahogany color when ripe with slightly green shoulders.  The taste is great with spice notes at the finish – almost like wine.

We wrapped up the tomato tasting with a new variety to me; “hillbilly”.  This is the prototype big ugly tomato that tastes great.  The tomato that I picked for the tasting weighed in at nearly two pounds.

A TWO POUND HILLBILLY TOMATO

A TWO POUND HILLBILLY TOMATO

Hillbilly ripens yellow/golden with red streaks; a fact I had not absorbed from the “gitgo”.  After one tomato got mealy on the vine I thought that it might be prudent to check out what to look for to determine ripeness in a Hillbilly tomato.  Yeah, add this to the “there’s no fool like an old fool” file.

At the time of the tasting, I had yet to experience a Hillbilly tomato.  I admitted this to my tasters and volunteered to try it first.  If I didn’t like it they wouldn’t have to try it.

A PIECE OF HILLBILLY TOMATO SHOWING A RED STREAK

A PIECE OF HILLBILLY TOMATO SHOWING A RED STREAK

I tried it.  I liked it.  Everyone agreed that it was quite different than anything else we had sampled.  Most thought that Hillbilly had a melon-like flavor.  I agree.  Certainly not my personal favorite, it was non-the-less a huge hit with my tasters.  This was truly a fun experience.  I highly recommend hosting a tomato tasting for your friends.

 

To be continued:  Tomato Lovers Dinner Part Two – Dinner

Photos by Jay McCarthy:  You can view other examples of his work  at http://natureslightphotography.zenfolio.com

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of August

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of August

This past week was one of the busiest of the summer for your’s truly.  Our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” was scheduled for the end of the week and I put together an impossible list of things that I wanted done before this event.  They included non-gardening items like repairing part of the patio, installing a new door on the patio side of the workshop, removing all of the weeds from between the pavers in the garden, etc.  Needless to say, I was one tired puppy at the end of each day.

The garden did get some attention.  I managed to perform my weekly tomato maintenance with the added task of pruning off some of the leaves to encourage ripening.  Almost every variety was available for the dinner.  The only tomato that didn’t make the cut was a variety call “Zapotek”, native to Mexico.  Not a big deal.  One fact that I did not know when I bought the seeds was that this variety is nearly hollow; not a good thing in a tasting tomato.  I won’t bother to use it in future tastings.  We will use them for lunch, filling them with chicken salad, etc.

I did have a “there’s no fool like an old fool” moment last week.  I had it in my head that “Hillbilly” tomatoes were a big ugly red tomato that tastes good.  I had most of it right except the “red” part.  After researching the origins of the species for the tomato tasting, I discovered that “Hillbilly” ripens golden/yellow with red streaks.  My apologies to all of my friends that were given plants by the “old fool” and were told by “the old fool” that they were going to ripen red.  I even told my friend Rick Bertolami to be patient.  Sorry Rick.

NEARLY RIPE HILLBILLY TOMATO ON THE VINE

NEARLY RIPE HILLBILLY TOMATO ON THE VINE

Toward the end of the week I was able to spend a bit of time weeding the garden to make it ready for the “Dinner”.  I don’t know about you, but I find it harder to get my self motivated to weed the garden this time of year.  A couple of John Scofield albums on the Ipod helped get met through it, along with some Kermit Ruffins and a compilation of Meters hits.DSCN0833

A SHOT OF THE GARDEN LOOKING BACK TO THE HOUSE

A SHOT OF THE GARDEN LOOKING BACK TO THE HOUSE

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MY FOUR CROP ROTATION ON VIEW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT – ROOT CROP BED (SEE RADISH TENT), FRUIT CROP BED , LEAF CROPS, LEGUMES

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A CLOSER LOOK AT THAT FRUIT CROP BED. THIS IS A SHORT CROP TOMATO BED WITH SWEET PEPPERS, EGGPLANT, MELONS AND A CUCUMBER PLANT. THE METAL SUPPORTS ARE FOUR FOOT DIAMETER HOOPS THAT I USE FOR LOW TUNNELS IN THE FALL.

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FLOWERS ON THE END OF A LEAF CROP BED. THIS IS THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS PATCH

My next blog post will be devoted to the “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”.  I bartered with a professional photographer who shot pictures of the whole event in exchange for a “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” of his own.  He just dropped of the disc with the photos.  I can’t help myself. Gotta go.

All the best,

Greg Garnache