Want tomato soup without the acidic tomato taste? Try fresh Manyel tomato soup and give your palate something that will make your taste buds stand up and take notice. I took the liberty of adding some fresh chives from the garden as a topping. But others may want to mix in something to add a little heat to this savory liquid sunshine. Bon appétit!
A good friend of mine of Italian extraction expressed dismay when he learned that I was using store bought sauce on my tomato pizza. Knowing that I was a gardener, he strongly encouraged me to make my own sauce. What can I say? It was an offer I could not refuse. After all, I had a plethora of ripe Roma tomatoes and sweet, red banana peppers just begging to be used. Not to mention pungent onions ready, willing and able to be part of a culinary symphony. Garlic? Oh yes there was garlic too, ready to play its part.
So how did my effort turn out? Well, I don't think Giada De Laurentiis has to worry about me taking her job anytime soon. Nor do I think The Order Sons of Italy will offer to bestow honorary membership on me in the foreseeable future. However, the taste is better than passable, if I do say so myself. And my friend was right. It tastes better and fresher than anything bottled or canned. So I guess we can label this experience delizioso!
The sun is moving lower in the southern sky each day and overnight temperatures are dipping towards Jack Frost territory. Fall has indeed arrived and its customary hues can be seen, but not yet in the leaves of trees. Instead, my pepper plants are putting on an awesome autumn display of red and gold as they rush to give their last gifts of the season. Our average first frost date is around the middle of October. So in only a couple of weeks this chromatic festival will come to an abrupt and unwanted end. Color me blue!
Today marks the 239th anniversary of the birth of a true original. The one and only nomadic, pioneering environmentalist and nurseryman John Chapman, better known as the legendary Johnny Appleseed. Although he lived what some would consider a rather bohemian lifestyle, you don't have to abandon the creature comforts of the 21st century to enjoy planting and trading seeds. Check out wintersown.org for help in getting started. I've used this organization on several occasions when trying to obtain heirloom tomato seeds and I've always had good results.
But we do have Banana Melons and they are something else! Take a whiff of these beauties when they're ripe and the aroma will transport you to the tropics. Slice into one and the orange interior at first reminds you of a cantaloupe because of its color. But it is more firm than you'll find in the average cantaloupe and has a flavor and sweetness all its own. This is the first time I've tried growing them, but it definitely won't be the last.
"..If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us
it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to
new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even
dangerously, but, uh... well, there it is."- Dr. Ian Malcolm in "Jurassic Park"
As some may recall, last year the squirrels feasted on my sunflowers before they had a chance to properly mature and produce seeds. Or so I thought. It turns out that some seeds must have formed early on and then dropped to the ground while the bushy tailed rapacious rodents were gorging themselves. And one of them actually managed to sprout and survive long enough to bloom, despite being in far less than ideal conditions. This is amazing considering that the area in question has received nothing more than rain water over the course of the summer. And we have had some very dry weeks in the past couple of months. It's only about three feet(1m) tall, but I'm glad this sunny surprise has crashed through the barriers and hope that it seeds before the squirrels notice its presence.
All good things must come to an end. This is the thought that kept running through my mind today as I enjoyed what will probably be one of the last melons from my Minnesota Midget melon plant this season. It's September, a month that can be a scorcher here in the Midwest, but which is more likely to be filled with days where the temperatures swing lower and lower with each passing week; especially at night. Mother Nature didn't design melon plants for less than warm weather. So while my squash and leafy greens will be comfortable until the first hard frost, the melon vines will no doubt give up the ghost long before then. It's just a sad, inconvenient truth. Soon I'll be without those sweet, tasty slices of sunshine. And I'll be left feeling very melon-choly.
Now I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. This is not a parody of Sarah Palin. Heaven knows she does an excellent self-parody without any help from me. And Vladimir Putin has not declared war on this household. Although he might if he found out we served rainbow swirl ice cream the other day. This is a blog that is first and foremost about gardening. So rest assured that there is nothing here except commentary about this season's crop of Russian Persimmon Tomatoes. They're an heirloom variety that make you think more of that popular fruit of Chinese origin than a direct descendent of the prime ingredient in ketchup.
I like to use them in a simple, homemade freezer jelly recipe. The golden color of the final product makes everyone wonder what the jelly is made from. And when they find out they're really knocked back on their heels. When I'm using it on my breakfast toast in the dead of winter, it reminds me of the warm glow of the summer sun in the growing season just past and the season yet to come. It's really a wonderful, sweet way to beat back the harshness of winter.
No need to wonder why I look forward to this time of year so much when you see a quartet of flavors pulled fresh from the garden like this. We have red Tiny Tom and Canary Tumbling Tom tomatoes accompanied by savory carrots and bulb green onions. And by the way, these were all grown in containers.
Last year my large blue container(PC language for a busted up, repurposed garbage can) was host to a Russian Persimmon tomato plant. This season it is providing a home for a winter squash plant. And as you can see, things are coming along quite nicely.
Oh wonderful sight,
Oh most excellent orb,
Oh fruit of delight,
Oh sweet succulent gourd,
Born of earth and water and light
You are a true child of the vine.
And I must wait.
Until the date,
Nature makes your taste full and divine.
Last year I decided not to grow any squash. My hope was that any squash bugs that emerged from eggs laid the previous year would starve to death and be unable to lay any eggs that would hatch this season. So far, it seems that strategy worked. There hasn't been a squash bug sighting yet. And I've had a good harvest of summer squash while the winter squash is developing quite nicely.
Today I harvested the papaya pear squash beauty you see in the photo above, along with some jalapeño and pizza peppers, to make soup. And yes, it was delicious.
The only thing I hate about peppers is that they are so deliberate in their rate of growth. It's vexing to know that no matter how early I start them, they really won't hit their stride until I put them outside. And even in a container, I have to wait until the outdoor night temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And of course we gardeners have absolutely no say about when that occurs. Something that was especially true this year when it seemed that Mother Nature couldn't make up her mind whether to have spring or just skip straight to summer.
Well as you can see, this plant is doing just fine in it's re-purposed container home. And it's providing plenty of pizza peppers ready for harvest.
You say you've got no balcony? You say your apartment is so small you have to go outside to change your mind? You say you wish you could grow something edible in your south facing window? Have I got a tomato for you! Meet Tiny Tom, a tomato plant so small that it can be grown in 6 inch(15.2 cm) pots. You say you don't have money for plant pots? Well, the little beauty pictured above is nestled in a re-purposed liquid laundry detergent container.
Just make sure you clean and rinse the container thoroughly and just as a precaution, use a plastic shopping bag with a couple of holes cut in the bottom to line the container to make sure no errant trace of detergent gets to the roots of your plants.
While it's true that you won't be able to boast about the fist size tomatoes you've grown. A little green makes the day brighter. And when they ripen, you'll have something to nibble on that won't make you feel guilty in the least. You can even sprinkle them in a salad as an extra pop of tomato flavor.
O.K., now you have no excuse not to get growing and add some fresh vegetables to your diet. Enjoy!
My instincts towards thrift often lead me to a local hardware store where there is a section devoted to items which have arrived in less than pristine condition and are for sale at discounted(sometimes deeply) prices. When I saw this damaged waste paper basket, I knew it would make a perfect home for a Tiny Tom tomato plant. And at only 25 cents, how could I refuse to purchase it?
Tiny Tom is one of the increasing number and variety of cultivars that has been specifically developed for growing in containers. I could have spent more money on a really nice ceramic pot or a fancy plastic one. But all this busted up dustbin needed was a liner to cover the holes. A standard plastic grocery bag with a couple of holes punched in the bottom fit the bill. And some good potting soil mixed with homemade compost completed the picture.
As you can see the tomatoes are coming in just fine and will soon be ready to do their part in a salad or for guilt free snacking. Reuse of refuse not only helps the planet, it can be delicious too.
The summer solstice has come and summer is now with us. Though each day henceforth will offer fewer of the life-giving solar rays that produce the bounty of the garden, there is still plenty of time to celebrate the days of summer. And what better way can be found to do that than by enjoying summer squash? Though best when young and tender, this specimen of papaya pear squash still has a few days before it is ready to be harvested. And I can hardly wait!
Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum, the smallest species of the edible onions. Mother Nature apparently loves this zesty herb since it is native to Europe, Asia and North America. And it turns out that in addition to their flavorful taste, chives actually have insect repelling qualities and are used in some gardens as an organic form of pest control. Ain't nature grand!?
Remember that tiny, unassuming cabbage sprout from the photo in March? Well, it's almost grown up and ready for harvest. It wouldn't be worth gardening if fresh cabbage wasn't one of the benefits, in my humble opinion. I'm still just growing mine in containers, but one of these days I'll have to try raising them in a proper cabbage patch just to see how large they can get.
I have nothing to offer here as dramatic as a Shakespearean play. Just lettuce that is so recently gathered from the garden that if it were any fresher, it would have to be slapped! And it certainly tastes great in a salad with homemade basil dressing.
Q. If Dr. Who were a vegetarian, what kind of transport would he use?
A. He would travel in a chard-is.
O.K., Leno and Letterman won't be quaking in their boots worrying about me taking their jobs anytime soon(although Jimmy Kimmel might). But you can't blame a guy for trying a less than standard intro for a brief blurb about a less than well known veggie. And it's really too bad that most people aren't familiar with Beta vulgaris because if vegetables were graded for their nutrients alone, Swiss chard would be a vegetable valedictorian. This green, leafy nutrition treasure trove contains vitamins K, A and C as well as, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, and dietary fiber. But wait, there's more. It's also a good source of copper, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, biotin, niacin and pantothenic acid.
Even if you're not a Dr. Who fan, you're most certainly a fan of good health. So pick some of this up at your nearby farmer's market. Or better yet, grow your own. Like most vegetables, chard is best when it's super fresh.
Did you know that lettuce is thought to be a selected variety of Lactuca serriola, a
wild lettuce found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa? It is
believed to have been first cultivated in Egypt but was also a favorite
amongst the ancient Greeks.
It has taken about a month but finally the barcarolle lettuce(a variety of romaine) in my Earthbox is ready for the table. It should be great with some freshly grated Parmesan and crunchy croutons.
Last autumn before the first hard frost I took a couple of healthy cuttings from my pepino melon plant. I placed the cuttings in water and waited for them to grow roots. Then I planted them in pots, placed them in a south facing window and hoped that they would somehow make it through the winter. Of the two cuttings only one survived and I've noticed that it has been sprouting new growth as the days have lengthened. So perhaps this season I'll be able to sample some of this rare fruit from my own garden.
What do you see? Little green sprouts? I see salad dressing, pesto and pizza. Of course, it helps to know that these are basil sprouts. The anticipation is almost too much to bear. I can't wait until they are ready for use.
So let things grow, let things grow, let things grow.
(With apologies to Sammy Cahn)
Just a little experiment to see what I could grow in a 2 liter bottle planter during the winter months. This Valentine lettuce definitely needs more room, but it's interesting to see how far it developed.