Playing With Fire

0928_salsaIt would figure that POD’s record tomato harvest occurred during a year when my stomach is less than amenable to tomatoes. Even so, nary a tomato has gone to waste — unless you count the scores of fruits that the *$@%)$! squirrels nibbled, and then left to rot on the vine. The Hurricane’s lunches haven’t been tomato-free since April and the freezer is stuffed with roasted red pepper sauce, tomato gravy, and three gallon bags of plum tomatoes.

Yet the tomatoes keep on coming.

And coming. Although they’re slowing down.

As canning tomatoes is evidently tantamount to jaywalking across Lower Broadway when the bachelorettes still think they can drive, I’ll refrain from posting my very non-expert canning instructions and instead say: without messing with the acid-to-tomato proportions, I sort of followed these recipes:

National Center for Home Food Preservation
Simply Recipes
Ball Fresh Preserving

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Tomato Time

East Nashville’s Tomato Arts Festival may already be history, but the tomatoes here at POD are in full, glorious swing.

And unsurprisingly, we’ll do things differently next year. Notes to self:

Raised Bed
Mr. Stripey, you are delicious071315_leaningstripey, but you do not work so well. Planted on May 9 this plant never had the vigor of the two hybrids planted in the front. I think the religious applications of Tomato-Tone have been the saving grace. Thus far, one fruit has been harvested and although it looks like a few more will make the cut, next year it’s time to look into a different variety.

I’d be willing to give another indeterminate a shot here, though. Next year, consider planting tomatoes towards the back of the planter — because even though the leaves never quite hit their stride, the plant’s height shaded the bush zucchinis that resided behind it into soggy oblivion. Also, figure out a better staking method! the 42″cages were so not up to the task. And finally, alas, tomatoes that are low in acid must also be part of the equation. Mike McGrath has some great suggestions on this front.

South Side

Because I had a couple of extra starts, I decided to hack out a swath of garden along the southeast side of the back yard, because why not? It’s largely devoted to herbs, but we threw a couple of tomatoes and a watermelon out there, because why not? Aaaannnd, forgetting entirely that I, you know, blog about the garden from time to time, I manged not to note the exact variety of yellow tomato that we planted. Or when, exactly, I planted them. (Around Mother’s Day?) But hey, we currently have a dozen of these sweet guys taking up precious kitchen counter space!

We’ve gotten three Mr. Stripeys off this plant, but we’ll still be in the market for a new pet next year.

Also? STAKE AND TRAIN THEM BETTER!!

Front
It would figure that in PODs version of shattering a bottle of champagne on the bow, tomatoes would christen the new land. Hastily purchased at the Home Depot and planted just hours after signing the papers on POD 2.0 (in mid- to late-April) the Juliet plum and Husky Cherry Red tomatoes went absolutely crazy in front of the house. So crazy, that the indeterminate plum totally overwhelmed the cage is hanging kudzu-like over the cherry laurel and spilling onto the porch. Not good for the laurel, very good for the tomatoes. So far, we’ve stuck about 10 lbs of plums in the freezer and the rest have rounded out the Hurricane’s lunches. The Juliet is just about the perfect tomato for lunching and saucing. I’m not totally crazy about the Husky’s flavor, although production is impressive enough.

Next year, select sweet determinate plants for the front and position them as close to the lawn as possible — they’ll eke out a few more minutes of sun and will be infinitely easier to harvest. These are the Hurricane’s tomatoes, so make ’em sweet and small.

My Beautiful Thing

After years of disappointing yields, POD is swimming (or drowning) in garden-fresh produce. What a deliciously beautiful thing.

Harvest TimeMy days as a container gardener were rewarding, for sure. I loved pushing seeds into the soil with the Hurricane’s tiny fingers assisting, we loved watching those tender shoots push through the deluxe organic-by-the-bag soil, and we loved June. We loved how healthy and vibrant the young plants looked, we loved the possibilities and the promise, and we loved having the only garden on the block. Heck, one of the only gardens in all of Pennsport.

For all the pleasure, those days were also pretty demoralizing. What I didn’t love so much? July and August. And aphids. Given the scarcity of delectable gardens in the neighborhood, each and every pest and squirrel came a’callin’ each and every year. Still, we managed to eke out enough of a harvest to come back for more, year after year, but only barely.

And on the menu for this week?

And on the shopping list? Lamb and Surryano and not much else.

You Say Tomato, I say 토마토 (T’omat’o)

GreenTomatoesWhile some mothers have cookie monsters, this one has a tomato monster.

Which makes sense when you consider the Korean love of all things made of tomatoes: like, say, tomato and local almond crullers. True story. These fried and glazed gems were spotted (and sampled and rejected) a couple of years ago in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Seoul. 

So naturally, when the little blue deck got cleared off back in late-October, this gardener and Amma had a hard time tossing the hard, green tomato runts into the compost.

And here we are, a month later, serving brown-bag-ripened tomatoes to a three-year-old for breakfast.

Cuked!

cukeattackLike kudzu, this cucumber decided the Mystery Tomato’s and the Early Girl’s cages looked more welcoming. After spending about a half an hour unwinding tendrils in 90+ degree heat and carefully applying water to the soil, everyone seems happy. Except the Endurer, who’s actually doing something useful, like cleaning, entertaining a newly-minted 3-year-old, cooking, and shopping.

A Final Accounting

saucy tomatoesIt’s been a good year, and despite the late-season arrival of whiteflies, earthquakes, hurricanes (we’re not talking about the toddler variety, here, but rather the other, even more devastating type), floods, and mildews, Plants on Deck endured. And endured well, actually.

It shames this gardener to admit it, but nearly a dozen White Wonder cucumbers got composted after slowing deflating in the crisper into a gushy goo and a half dozen others are still withering away in the office fridge (come on, colleagues, eat up!). Over 40 cucumbers, all told, were harvested from a single vine. And, despite early reports of a dry, squashy texture and flavor, later-season fruits weren’t too bad.

And it was with great delight that over 15 pounds of tomatoes were plucked. Fret not, none of those went to waste. They weren’t the prettiest girls at the party (as you can see above), but we’re firm believers here at POD that it’s what’s under the pock-marked skin that matters. And these particular ladies were pretty dreamy in this simple, no-frills sauce.

Too Many Tomatoes

Seed List, Tomatoes

You didn’t think Plants On Deck was going tomatoless, did you?

After last year’s abundance of well-documented tomato woes (and not such an abundance of tomatoes), this year’s hybrid fixation/experiment includes tomatoes, too. Here’s hoping these compact determinates produce more vigorously than last year’s bug-ridden indeterminates.

Patio Princess Hybrid: “Just the right size for small pots, while 2-3 plants will file a large tub. Each 24″ plant produces an abundance of 2 1/2 – 3″ fruits.”

Sweetheart of the Patio Hybrid: “This compact super producer bursts with snack-ready supersweet  baby cherries about 1″ round.”

Tomand Hybrid: “Tomato connoisseurs rave about the flavor of these broad-shouldered beauties. Fleshy, juicy and flavorful, ‘Tomande’ will treat gourmet gardeners to both heirloom taste and abundant hybrid yields.”

(Of course, Champ is heading back into the ring for another round.)

WARM! Be patient, POD. Don’t transplant those seedlings until Philly’s enjoying open-window 60° nights. 60°. pH 6.0-6.8. Well fertilized (esp. phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.) Consider plastic “mulch” in the early part of the season. 60°.