What's the perfect antidote to excessive temperature garden fatigue? Today! It rained a bit last night, we woke to a gray morning, and it didn't take long for the rain to redevelop. That means no watering, picking, weeding, feeding, or tying....a welcomed break in what's been a long (but wonderful) gardening season. There were a few tipped tomato plants in their posts; the fact that it was the first time it's happened this summer is a testament to the rarity of gusty thunderstorms over North Raleigh this summer!
Not that there weren't garden related chores to attend to.....I spent much of this morning saving seeds from over 30 types of tomatoes - which left me with the task of canning another 7 quarts. Now that we've decided to not blanch and peel the tomatoes prior to canning, it is a perfect time to save seed and evaluate tomato flavors. This batch of quarts will be very high in Dwarf tomato project tomatoes.....we will be very happy to find these quarts this coming winter! The Dwarf varieties really excelled in flavor this summer.
What I didn't get to do was to harvest - so tomorrow will be spent picking more cukes, squash, beans and tomatoes - as well as the first ripe sweet peppers of the season. Then there are the weeds, and the lawn that somehow, in this heat, continues to grow....and the overgrown edges of our back yard flower garden. So, it will be another busy week.
Last night I decided to try a recipe long on my radar screen. It is something we saw a few years ago watching an episode of Lydia's Italy on PBS. It sounded quite incredible - but it tastes even better!
The recipe is called Anna's Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese. (link to the original is found here
). I made a few modifications - my version follows:
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade, combine 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes - (I used mostly Sungold, with a few Rose Quartz to make up the weight), 15 large basil leaves, 1/3 cup toasted almonds, 2 cloves peeled garlic, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, a few grinds of black pepper. Process until it is a puree. Through the top chute, add 1/3 cup olive oil, slowly, with the processor running. That's it! We used this on whole wheat Fusilli cooked al dente - combine the pesto with the cooked pasta and serve with fresh grated parmesan.
It is one of those dishes that doesn't look like much...but packs an incredible flavor! Maybe the secret is the Sungolds....
Right now I am part way through sieving many fermenting cups of tomato seed.....then I will be searching for the ripest, best tasting specimens and doing a pre-marinate step toward tomorrow night's dinner - Gazpacho! After that, a return to canning....we are getting set up nicely for the winter with our cans of sauce and tomatoes. And we are also trying dehydrating Mexico Midget tomatoes...
I wish it would rain!
.....and yet, things thrive in the garden! This morning I did my usual thorough watering of everything - the big garden, some shrubs, all of my driveway pots, but some things are really starting to suffer. Our fig tree has yellowing, dropping leaves, the butterfly bushes look exhausted - forget the lawn (something we typically do, anyway). But somehow, though the plants look wilted and dry by mid to late afternoon, we are being rewarded with a bountiful harvest this summer.
Summer squash have slowed a bit, and a few of the varieties are getting mildewed leaves, but the regular supply continues. Cucumbers grow so fast that it is hard to catch them before they are approaching oversize status. The Bush Beans...it is amazing how the plants keep reflowering and yielding, and giving us a constant supply of slender, green treats. I was shocked today to note that my inappropriately timed Brussels Sprouts (planted in the spring, meaning they mature when it is this hot!) have small sprouts nearly ready to harvest.
The sweet and hot peppers are utterly gorgeous and beyond bountiful. Same with eggplant. And our tomato harvesting has tipped from the indeterminate varieties to the dwarf varieties. Such wonderful colors and flavors.......feeling very fortunate here indeed.
So what are we doing with all of this? Giving away to friends and family, consuming as much as we can handle - and deydrating (eggplant, summer squash, cherry tomatoes), freezing (green beans, baked eggplant rounds), roasting (as in tomato sauce), and canning (roasted tomato sauce and raw tomatoes). We will be very happy for these efforts this coming winter!
Tonight, for dinner, I am going to try an unusual pesto, which we learned about on the PBS cooking show Lydia's Italy - it involves making a pesto from cherry tomatoes, toasted almonds, basil and olive oil. We will have that on whole wheat pasta with either summer squash or green beans.....been looking forward to trying this for years! Let's see how it turns out.....
I hope that all of your gardens are doing well!
Looks I will have to water a bit after dinner - 104 degrees is a bit too much for all of these pots....
....I will just direct you to the NC Tomato News page (see the menu at the top). There is quite enough there! (all I can say is, Yikes!!!!!).....
Still picking, canning, sauce making, seed saving, watering....you all know the drill!
Quick, short blog entry today. Lee's pictures can be found here
Brian's pictures can be found here
Dean's report and pics can be found here
Other impressions/reports in the appropriate Tomatoville thread, found here
If anyone else has pics posted, email the link to me and I will add them to this blog.
Now back to the daily garden chores...I think I'll start by watering the garden (for the billionth time this summer!)
Sue just did a nice write up of her experience in Decorah, with lots of great pictures - found here
. Check it out!
Someone told me that I am quoted in an article in the latest Our State magazine....I've not seen it yet.....
I am so tired of this extreme heat - it is taking a toll on my garden (and desire to go out there and work in it!)...but today I am going to suck it up and spend all morning watering, picking and rearranging things in the driveway. I am hoping that I will find the yet-to-ripen dwarf tomatoes changing color....anxious to taste the later ripening ones, like Dwarf Mr. Snow and Summertime Gold!
.....a few hours later - everything is now watered and picked. Just amazing how things are surviving this heat. I picked a slew of summer squash, cukes and beans - then delved into the tomato patch. I've now got somewhere near 200 tomatoes on our tables and counters, half of them from the dwarf plants. With the exception of a very few varieties, I've gotten at least one ripe fruit from the plants, which makes it a very successful season....I will be able to check off the seed saving and evaluation (appearance, size, flavor, days to maturity) check boxes. It is good to see the varieties I brought to Tomatopalooza back on our tables, because they deserve a bit of a more relaxed, detailed tasting analysis.
So the next few days will be busy with tomato processing - we will can either the uncooked tomatoes, or a big batch of roasted sauce. We've also started dehydrating summer squash and freezing green beans and baked eggplant rounds. Then there are Sue's pickles. This is indeed the opposite of last summer in terms of harvesting and preserving success!
So....We had tomato-wielding guests from Southern Exposure in VA, Martha and her friend - both tomato and sorbet-wielding! - a garden author from Pennsylvania, a small group practicing their video and interview skills from a communications company in the triangle area, a photographer and editorial writer from the Independent Weekly - a Triangle area publication....wonderful event organization by Lori, Brian and her cast of assistants....long time and relatively new tomato plant customers of mine, and Tomatopalooza regulars. We had heat - but surprisingly, it felt far less hot than I expected - a breeze helped, lots of water, and preoccupation with tasting to many tomatoes mixed with all sorts of chats with fellow tomato-holics.
We had less people than usual, and I suspect that the heat kept away 25-35-50 people (the weather reports were all spinning the fear factor - and I believe we who attended may have been more comfortable than those who stayed away!).
We had a remarkable number of tomato varieties to taste - in a way, it seems 3 varieties for every attendee! The reduced attendance actually made it a more casual, relaxed, and in a way, tomato-centric affair. The sheer number of new Dwarf varieties was intimidating in terms of tracking flavors. Between the big tasting Lee and I did at my house earlier in the week, the mini tastings Sue and I have been doing - my palate, though not shot, is a bit worn. I confess to having tasted very few of the tomatoes from the indeterminate or cherry areas - I did taste the three different lines of Lucky Cross I brought (and was very pleased with). But the Dwarf varieties have ARRIVED. No longer can we assume that there is no great flavored, large fruited, interesting colored alternatives to the indeterminate heirloom types. We've managed to create in many cases their equal - if not in yield, certainly in fruit quality.
For me, those that stood out (that I can remember) are the various Cherokee Chocolates (I brought 4 - from various seed lots I've saved through the years), Cherokee Green, Martha's work in progress Chocolate Truffle (it is not yet selected or stabilized - go for it, Martha!), the three Lucky Crosses, Spears TN Green amongst the non-dwarfs....
....and for the Dwarfs (which is where I set up shop and spent most of the event, knife in hand!) - Blazing Beauty 2842 and 2851 (neither of which will be the lead selection), the red Brawny F2, Coorong Red (it is a good one, Patrina!), Dwarf Mahogany, Dwarf Russian Swirl (it showed well at this event - I find it the equal of the large indeterminate Regina's Yellow types, but not as good as Wherokowhai), Dwarf Emerald Giant, Dwarf Jade Beauty, Loxton Lass (the one I brought tasted better to me here than at home - a lovely orange tomato, but not as good as Mallee Rose or Blazing Beauty), Maralinga, Pesty Bicolor (better than Russian Swirl and larger - needs a name!), Pesty Pink, Rosella Purple, Summertime Green, Summertime Gold, Sweet Sue, Sweet Adelaide (it has the white dots on the skin - this is a nice selection!), TastyWine (perhaps the best tomato I tasted), one of the Rosy F3s with the Uluru Ochre coloring, the Uluru Ochre I brought, Tidy striped - purple fruit (very dark color), and a few of the Wherokowhai (I think it was Echo from Martha - though my selection was pretty good as well). Some of the purple fruited Frostys were good, but I was in la la land by then and can't recall them clearly!
Maybe I should note the dwarfs that didn't show well - BrandyFred, Wild Fred (shelf ripened, from a plant that was near dead at the time - was better earlier in the season), Perth Pride (wasn't fully ripe), Rosella Crimson (plants were all past their peak for these smaller fruit), Sarandipity (we have the color but not yet the best flavor), Sleeping Lady (not a bad tomato, just milder - got lost in this crowd flavor wise), Tasmanian chocolate (also got kinda lost in this crowd, and fruit a bit past).
I just got finished watering - there is a TON of ripe fruit on my tomato vines - going to be a few days of canning fruit, making roasted sauce and canning, and whipping out our tomato recipes for meals!
so, next year - Tomatopalooza TEN.....the organizers need to ponder something special, methinks!And about T-Shirts - see the pic of the back design below.....we have Tshirts in four sizes - Medium, Large, XL and XXL - various colors (XXL in pale green, XL in pale green and pale blue, L in pale green, pale blue, bright yellow, sand and pale lilac, and M in pale green, pale blue, bright yellow and sand). 15.00 each - email me if you are interested!
Links to pictures Lee took can be found here
- and the variety list here
A few pics taken by Sue -
Please find Tomatopalooza info here
. I think registration may be closed, but we have some drops - email me at email@example.com
if you want to come - and let me know what tomatoes you hope to bring!
sure, it's going to be hot....but the tomatoes will be plentiful and delicious and it will be an interesting day! See you there!
I hope to start blogging about the event either tomorrow night, or Sunday at the latest.
One thing. It is going to be hot - really, really hot. It always seems to be, though we are holding the event a bit earlier this year than is typical. We will have lots of water. We will need lots of water. 102 degrees, heat index in the unfathomable range. Thundershowers seem to be typical for our Tomatopalooza events - here's hoping we get one on Saturday (not a big one, but just something to cool us off a bit).
Another thing. It is a much better year for tomatoes than last year - for me, anyway - and hopefully for many of you. I have no idea what the tomato variety/selection situation will be.....each year we fret, each year things work out. At least I can make a significant contribution this year! I am bringing over 60 varieties - many of them will be quite interesting to taste.
So - how did this event come about? Well, Sue and I have been selling tomato seedlings for 14 years or so - a few years into it, in a chat with my tomato buddy and Tpalooza co-founder Lee, we realized that it would be helpful for my customers to have a chance to taste those varieties that they didn't purchase or were otherwise unfamiliar with. We started very informally, a handful of us meeting on a Saturday at Umstead Park on a hot muggy summer day. It was great fun - the people who attended were wonderful and we had a great time.....sometimes food was brought, sometimes hot peppers and seeds to share.
Well, the event spread by word of mouth, or by my website - whatever, it started getting a bit bigger. We held a few at our friends Jimmy and Fred's farm in Efland - the first of which was one of our best events ever, just a perfect day...we started getting Tomato kooks from far and wide. The second year in Efland we had a very special attendee - Patrina, from Australia, my Dwarf tomato project co-leader - as well as my UK friend Gary and Michigan friend Jeff.
So here we are - bigger (and hopefully better!) than ever. Another tomato pal Lori took on the event organization and with her cast of assistants, it now runs like clock work. Lee and I actually get a chance to show up with our tomatoes, say a few words, and taste the goodies that everyone brings! The emergence of the Dwarf tomato breeding project adds a complexity to the event - the seeds can't be shared or taken, because they are works in progress. But - this year in particular, I hope - we can share our excitement in what the project accomplished so far - as well as some exciting things to come. We now know that we succeeded in creating big, colorful, great tasting tomatoes on plants that are much easier to manage. I will have a nice selection to taste - and I know others in the project will as well.
We will get there, we will not start on time - we never do, but once everything is set, we will travel the tables of colorful fruit, dig in wherever each of us is most tempted, and start our travel through the colors, sizes, shapes and flavors. It is exhausting, it is exhilarating, it is amazing, it is surprising. We will spar - discuss and argue about whether a variety is correct, crossed, showing well or showing poorly. It is all good fun.....we will all need antacid when it is done!
These are really, really great times to be a tomato aficionado! I can't wait! See you on Saturday!
My rotating guest list aims squarely at Sara...we are about to leave for another wonderful, delicious tomato themed dinner at Zely and Ritz. But before I go, here are the results of a really exciting tomato tasting that Tomatopalooza co-host Lee and I undertook today.
We tasted in groups of 3, 4, 5, or 6 tomatoes. Appropriate pictures will follow each group. We cleaned our palates with wedges of either Diva or Salt and Pepper cukes. Pretty effective!
Scores on 10 point scale - Lee's score first, then Craig. Our palates are pretty well aligned, it seems.
Group 1: Mountain Magic (6. 7), Ozark Cherry (4, 4), Plum Regal (4, 4), Brawny F1 (7, 7.5), Surprise 98-47 (4.5, 4.5) - this represented our only red varieties. I was surprised at the sweetness of Mtn. Magic, the blandness of Ozark Cherry and Surprise, and the depth of flavor of Brawny F1 (Grizzly selection X Cuostralee).
Group 2: Rosella Crimson 08-40 (7.5, 7), Rosella Crimson 08-50 (5.5, 5), Sweet Adelaide (6, 6.5), Pesty Pink (6, 6.5) - this was a group of pinks. Rosella Crimson 08-40 showed pretty well, 08-50 was a late fruit from a sick plant (was previously one of the best tasting dwarfs of the year), Sweet Adelaide may have been overripe (previous fruits tasted better), and Pesty Pink wasn't anything that would displace other pinks we are developing. I am troubled by the apparent disease susceptibility of Rosella Crimson, though one other selection in my driveway looks great.
Group 3: Brawny, large pink pot grown (7. 7.5); Coorong Pink (7.5, 7.5), Brawny large pink garden grown (7, 7.5). All three of these medium to large pinks tasted like very good tomatoes - Coorong Pink is quite promising (esp. if Rosella Crimson doesn't work out due to disease issues, this could be a really good similarly sized pink).
Group 4: Summertime Green 2821 (8, 8), Summertime Green 2817 (8, 8), Mr Snow from Suze which has green fruit (8.5, 8.5)! Now we're talking. These are both from the seeds of Summertime Green being sold - so I am pleased they taste so good! The Mr. Snow is from Suze - it has the same internal structure, but is a green when ripe - and tastes as wonderful as Mr. Snow! Not sure we need another potato leaf green, but...wow!
Group 5: Summertime Gold (Lee) (7.5, 7.5), Witty Yellow (6.5, 7), Sweet Sue 3037 (8, 8), Sweet Sue 08-35 (7.5, 8). Wow again! The Summertime Gold was quite huge - flavor was just a tad diluted. I really liked the liveliness of the yellow Witty selection. And I think we are there with Dwarf Sweet Sue - I think the seed from 3037 is the one to multiply and sell. Great, great tomato!
Group 6: Rosy F3 (Lee - green over orange color) (7.5, 7.5), Loxton Lass (Craig) (6, 6), Uluru Ochre (Lee, green over orange color) (7.5, 7.5), Loxton Lass (Lee) (6, 6). So we have the unusual color of Uluru Ochre in a Rosy selection (came from an orange fruit from last year) - though they get the same score, the Rosy had a slightly earthier flavor. Loxton Lass got lost in this crowd - I think Rose Mallee is a better flavored tomato.
Group 7: Rosella Purple 3039 (8.5, 8.5), Rosella Purple 2814 (8.5, 8.5), Perth Pride (8, 8), Tasty Brown (7.5, 7.5). A very exciting group of terrific purple tomatoes! Rosella Purple that is being sold is 2814, so this is great news. Perth Pride is ready - a unique internal structure, lots of juice and seeds, but delicious and nicely tart. And the purple Tasty Brown is a lead consideration for a medium to large potato leaf purple - a fine tomato.
Group 8: Cherokee Chocolate, 05-55 (7. 7), Cherokee Chocolate 01-19 (7, 7.5), Tasmanian Chocolate 2852 (6, 6), Maralinga (7, 7.5), Mahogany (Lee - pot grown) (7, 7.5), Mahogany (Lee - garden grown) (5.5, 6). Now a set of brown when ripes.....interesting that Cherokee Chocolate didn't fare as well as many of the dwarfs we tasted today! Tasmanian Chocolates were quite small - earlier fruit tasted better. I really liked Maralinga - very sweet, as good as if not better than Cherokee chocolate - as was one of the Mahogany fruit.
Group 9: Lucky Cross 02-55 (7, 7), Lucky Swirl RL (3, 3), Dwarf Russian Swirl (6.5, 6.5), Fred's Tie Dye (7, 7). Three bicolors and a purple green stripe - an odd group! Lucky Swirl came from a dead plant, so this isn't really a valid test. Lucky Cross tasted fine - again, it got lost in this tasting! Dwarf Russian Swirl may have been a bit underripe and underrated - it is a pretty tomato. Fred's Tie Dye had a simple but sweet flavor and is very attractive.
Group 10: Striped Sweetheart (7.5, 8), Don's Double Delight (7.5, 7.5), Tidy Striped (actually purple) (7.5, 8), Sleeping Lady (very small fruit from sick part of the plant, not tasted). The BrandyTad line keeps on giving - Striped Sweetheart and DDD are excellent. I really liked the purple from Tidy -but do we need another RL purple dwarf?
Group 11: Blazing Beauty 2840 (8, 8), 2842 (7.5, 8), 2851 (6, 6) and 2851 (6, 7) and Barossa Moon (6, 5). We have our orange fruited winner in Blazing Beauty from vial 2840 - large, oblate and orange.....great tomato, but the more pale colored 2842 wasn't far behind. Barossa Moon is a large white cherry, thick walled, a bit underripe and not impressive in flavor.
Group 12: Sungold F1 (8.5), Sungold Select II (8.25), Ambrosia red fruit (8). All great - amazed to find Sungold F1 type flavor in OP cherries. Promising!
Afterward - from a customer: Chocolate Lightning (no pic)- 4 ounce brown fruit with green stripes - very attractive (she also brought over a 4 oz oblate purple Boronia 3097). Flavor was just fine - 7.5.
For me.....favorite tomatoes of the entire tasting - Summertime Green, Rosella Purple, Sweet Sue, Blazing Beauty, Mr Snow green fruit, Perth Pride, Maralinga, Tasty Brown (purple fruit), Uluru Ochre and similarly colored Rosy F3, Coorong Pink. And of these, Summertime Green and Rosella Purple are being sold, Sweet Sue and Perth Pride are on tap to release next season, and Blazing Beauty, Uluru Ochre and Coorong Pink will be prioritized so we can get them out there in a few years.
And we've still not yet eaten the real Dwarf Mr. Snow, Dwarf Beryl Beauty, Summer Sunrise, or Dwarf Emerald Giant - three of which are being sold, and always amongst the best! Perhaps they will ripen in time for Tomatopalooza...
This project is exceeding all of my expectations by a long shot!