By Penny Stine
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I started eight different types of tomatoes from seed, and at least one plant of every kind actually survived into adulthood. This has been a late year for my tomatoes, and so far, I’ve only been able to sample tomatoes from the Sungold Hybrid, Sioux, Jetsetter and the Viva Italia varieties.
I’ve picked a couple Kellogg Breakfast and Aunt Ginny’s Purple tomatoes, but the first few suffered badly from the dreaded blossom end rot, so I couldn’t put them to the taste test. I just picked my first Aunt Ginny’s that was free of BER. I hope to eat it in a couple of days after it ripens a few more days on the kitchen counter. The flavor is supposed to be comparable to a Brandywine, (which are truly exquisite tomatoes) but they're supposed to be a little earlier and more productive, which is why I tried them. They do have a purplish cast to them, with none of the tomato orange hues, which is also like the Brandywine. Most of the green tomatoes on the plant seem as big or bigger than the one in the pic, so that's another good trait.
My sungold hybrids were all in pots, and they produced pretty well until I compared them to those produced by my gardening buddy, Jan of the awesome garden. Each of my plants produced a few dozen fabulous tiny tomatoes. Each of her plants, which weren’t in pots but just left to sprawl somewhere in her garden, produced hundreds of sweet, juicy tomatoes.
Mine slowed down their production a few weeks ago, but seem to be picking up steam again. They’re going to be a repeat for next year – their taste is outta' this world. I may put a few in pots, but I’m definitely sticking at least one plant in the ground.
I thought I had a fail proof system for identifying the tomato plants in the garden – I tied different colored yarn to each cage to identify the varieties. That was a great idea, except I wasn’t consistent about where I tied the yarn and as the plants grew, I couldn’t find the yarn. I think this plant is either a Jetsetter or a Sioux tomato, both of which were fairly early and produced nice-sized tomatoes.
In a taste test, my husband and I agreed that the Jetsetter were sweeter, but the Sioux had that tangy tomato taste that makes such good sauce. The Jetsetter were extremely prolific and I didn’t lose a single one to blossom end rot, which always seems to plague my tomatoes. For that reason alone, I think I’ll go with Jetsetter again next year.
I tried to train the Viva Italias to climb up the trellis my husband built for me. As July turned to August, I found it harder and harder to nip side branches off the main tomato vine. The result is that these tomatoes aren't climbing as high on the trellis as they could. They do seem to be producing a fair amount. I lost the first few to blossom end rot, but the later ones don't appear to suffer from it - which is fairly typical of the disease. They're quite tasty, too, so I'm fairly certain I'll order the seeds again.
None of the Royal Hillbilly or the Virginia Sweet varieties are ripe yet, but the first Virginia Sweet is starting to turn. It's a bi-color tomato, so I'm not sure how to tell when it's ready to pick. The tomatoes are all enormous.
Once I've tasted the Aunt Ginny's Purple, Kellogg Breakfast, Royal Hillbilly and Virginia Sweet, I'll share a review of those.
Yay for our long growing season, which is going to give many of our green tomatoes time to ripen. My brother in Wyoming is expecting a frost any day now. It's good to be in the Grand Valley!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Labor Day marks the ending of summer and a new autumn season beginning. The weather is starting to get cooler. Last night was the first night I slept with a blanket all night without kicking it off.
Our tomato plants have finally been producing enough for our family, but not quite as much as we had hoped for, so we took a trip to Rettig Farms on Orchard Mesa to pick some tomatoes. They have a "You Pick" field that is full of delicious red ripe tomatoes. You can pick a twenty-five pound half bushel bucket for only $5.50. They will have tomatoes until the first freeze if all the green tomatoes are any indication.
We brought our tomatoes home, scrubbed them and turned them into vegetable juice. It was a little disappointing to realize 25 pounds of tomatoes, celery, parsley, onion and carrots and four hours of hard labor only turned into only EIGHT QUARTS of juice. I told my husband we could do another batch, but he had enough of all that fun.
Next Monday night brings the full harvest moon. If it's not raining, spend some time at the fire pit enjoying peach cobbler and the last of summer evenings.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I planted walking onions two years ago and have been unsure about what and when to harvest. We used the greens when they were young, I’ve dug up a couple bulbs, but I know you’re supposed to leave some in the ground if you want them to walk again the following year.
So I left some in the ground. Look what happened:
I think my walking onions are confused. I think I should have also dug up more bulbs around this particular plant.
A couple years ago, my mom gave me garlic seeds from a rogue garlic plant that was taking over Nebraska, which I liberally scattered in a couple places. I also planted garlic from bulbs last fall and have already harvested (and used) most of them.
Meanwhile, the plants that started from the seeds didn’t get very big and didn’t grow much of a bulb, so I ignored them and just let the greens die down. I think they started over:
Obviously, the garlic and onions think it’s spring. I hate to crush their dreams with the calendar, but it will be interesting to watch and see what these little plants do over the winter.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I copied this into my journal from, "When Wanderers Cease To Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put" by Vivian Swift. This charming book is filled with watercolors of nature, seasonal landscapes and small everyday pleasures.
The perfect sentiment for those of us approaching "middle age." Shhhhh.
The Acre of Earth Theory of Life
. Everybody gets an acre of Earth when they're born.
. Parents are the first fences.
. Teenagers think that ugly clothes, uglier hairstyles, and horrible music tears down those fences. This is pretty funny.
. Whatever you do in your 20's is just mapping expeditions.
. By the time you're 35 you're probably a battle weary veteran of numerous clashes over territory, a few border wars - your acre of Earth's been trampled pretty bad. It could use some re-landscaping.
. It takes most of your 40's to clear out the dead wood, plant a nice garden, dredge the swampy bits, observe the seasons. This is how you discover that there's an Eden on the far side of your acre that you never knew was there.
If you EVER feel crowded into a corner by your life, you need to take a better look at your acre of Earth. IT'S BIGGER THAN YOU THINK.
By Penny Stine
Monday, August 29, 2011
Although I was hoping I’d grow enough green beans to make dilly beans, my beans did not get the memo and have not been producing enough. But my friend, Jan of the awesome garden, convinced me that it would be OK to buy beans to make them. So we did.
Jan bought the beans and the garlic from Z’s Orchard at the Saturday farmers market in Teller Arms and we canned dilly beans on Sunday. Jan bought half a bushel of green beans, which made a lot of dilly beans. We both had enough cucumbers to make a vat of refrigerator dills, so we decided to do that, too.
We picked all the dill that was still standing in my garden. (How did dill and cucumbers ever get paired together? My dill is always at its peak in June or July and cucumbers and green beans don’t show up until August.)
I found a recipe on cooks.com that I liked, although I wasn’t sure how much dill a dill head was. Jan didn’t know, either, but we entertained ourselves for the entire afternoon by calling each other dill heads.
Now comes the hard part. The refrigerator pickle recipe says to wait 10 days to eat them and the dilly beans recipe said to wait 6 - 8 weeks!
FYI, that's not a cinnamon stick in the dill pickles - it's a Chinese red noodle bean. We discovered they change color when they're cooked, so we didn't want to include them in the processed dilly beans. Since refrigerator pickles aren't cooked when processed, the red beans stay red when stuffed in the jar of pickles. We also added onions and more garlic, because pickled onions & garlic are da' bomb. Especially if your significant other eats them, too, and isn't offended by your pickled garlicky onion breath.