Wednesday, July 25, 2012



How do YOU say it?

There are quite possibly as many ways to say T-O-M-A-T-O as there are varieties.  Well, perhaps that is an overstatement…there are entire catalogs/companies devoted to the red/green/yellow/black/striped fruit. Yes, I did say FRUIT! The tomato is botanically classified as a fruit, no matter what you may think, nor how it is used in nearly every cuisine throughout the world.

The tomato is without a doubt the most eagerly anticipated harvest from the garden.  The round, red things in the grocery just cannot compare to a field-raised, vine-ripened, heirloom tomato.  The complex blend of sweet/acidic taste and fruity undertones is hard to describe and even harder to resist. Summer without a tomato sandwich is like…well, just wouldn’t be right.

We’ve been growing our own tomatoes for a very long time.  We’ve experimented with all sorts and colors and every year we think we may have found the “ultimate” tomato.  …and then we try a new one…

The Boss likes the BIG pink/red ones with low acidity
and few seeds. 

I am partial to the bi-colors with their
gorgeous colors and fruity taste.
Paste tomatoes are essential for good
sauces and salsa.

A quick word about heirloom tomatoes…these varieties are old, in some cases dating prior to the War Between the States (the Civil War). Unlike hybrids, the heirlooms will grow true to variety if the seeds are saved from year to year.

Growing tomatoes from seed gives us the opportunity to try varieties that are different and somewhat unusual. It also means that we’ve been thinking about tomatoes for MONTHS before we ever get to harvest time. 

We start our tomato seeds in March in the greenhouse.  They are babied along and then put in larger pots sometime in April.  They finally go into the garden about the end of May. (you have heard my stories of COLD and FROSTY Springs here in the Valley).

Once they are in the garden, they are trellised and mulched. (confession time…mulching didn’t happen this year…really don’t know what happened) During the growing season, we tie the plants to the trellis several times.  This allows good air circulation to the plant, thus preventing disease.  It also makes things somewhat tidy and keeps the tomatoes off the ground. The mulch (when it happens) keeps the weed pressure at a minimum and the moisture down at the roots of the plants.

When the weather is warm and humid, (this is summer…so, that means on a near weekly basis) we apply copper to the plants.  This inhibits fungal diseases, allowing the plants to thrive. Pests among tomatoes are relatively few, giving us something for which to be truly grateful.

Sometime in July, we see the first signs of ripening.  Soon, we are inundated with tomatoes.  It’s time to take the most gorgeous specimens to the Market, have a LOT of tomato sandwiches, and make tomato sauce, pizza sauce, salsa and canned tomatoes. If things work out right, there will be frozen tomatoes and dried tomatoes for Winter Sales. For a short while, tomatoes will grace our table at nearly every meal.

All too quickly, about the time of the first frost in September/October, the vine-ripened, heirloom tomatoes disappear from the garden and the menu once more.      …and the anticipation of the next year’s bounty begins.

For those of you wondering how I say T-O-M-A-T-O... take a look at this!

 …and yes, I know, now you are wondering if I really sound  like Larry the Cable Guy…
                                                     ...well, maybe just a little. J

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