This Tomato Is an Asshole

So I’m out in the garden today, taking a bunch of stuff apart because hi it’s November, and what do I see? What do I see on a tomato plant that has done nothing, NOTHING since I planted it back in April???

[image: this is the worst tomato]
[image: this is the worst tomato]


Black From Tula is one of the largest black tomatoes at 4 to 5″ in diameter and weighing up to 12 ounces. The flattened fruit has a rich, salty, smoky flavor. This rare Russian heirloom sets fruit in hot weather.


oh I am so pissed off at this goddamn tomato

Future Garden (aka SEEDS!)

Check out what I'll be killing next! #gardening #seeds #hudsonvalleyseedlibrary

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

A few months ago, an internet friend I like to refer to as the New Jersey Tomato Girl alerted me to a seed sale at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I bought the six packets you see up there, and then I told Lydia about it. She bought… well, let’s just say a bunch more. So then we had a cocktail evening and divvied up our bounties. I now have way, way more seeds than space, which is why I’m thinking about submitting an application to join the community garden in my town for next year.

Paul Robeson
Ping Pong
Cosmonaut Volkov
Fox Cherry
Prudens Purple
Japanese Black Trifele
Cherokee Purple
Black Cherry (saved from this year)
Sunset Falls (saved from this year)
some green and red striped tomato we got at the farmer’s market and I saved some seeds from because they were good

Hinkelhatz Hot (New Jersey Tomato Girl says these are fabulous)
Doe Hill
Lilac Bell (saved from this year)

Cherry Bell
Easter Egg (so cute!)
French Breakfast

National Pickling Cucumber (I have already had delicious pickle success with these!)
Harris Model Parsnip
Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnip
Field Peas
Garlic Chives
Butternut Squash (I saved a few of these the last time I roasted the seeds—no they’re not pumpkin seeds but it’s basically the same)

Seriously, where am I going to put all of these? I mean, I’m thinking about how much space my TWO cucumber plants have taken.

It is pretty glorious to imagine all those tomatoes, though.

A Farewell to Plants

Picked my first tomato of the year! A 6.5oz Big Beef.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Ah, the heady days of… apparently June 14th. Today I said goodbye to a few plants, including the Beef Beef Tomato plant that gave me the beautiful fruit above. Ever since the weekend rains, its leaves had just gotten limper and limper. There were still a few green tomatoes left on the plant, I picked them in the hope that they’ll turn green on the countertop (or I’ll just pickle them).

Similarly, the shiso plants Lydia had given me. During my trip they had gone to seed, so when I got back I plucked all the flowers. I am guessing this was not the correct thing to do, as they immediately just started shedding leaves everywhere. Some neighborhood animal decided to eat them and promptly puked them up, so I figured it was time for all of that to go. That was an unfun cleaning experience.

The tomatoes in the pots are still kicking—barely. I think it’s about time for them to move on as well. There’s still so much fruit on them, though. I keep waiting for them to finish, but they seem determined to make it until first frost.

Casualties of the Rain


It’s started raining in California, hallelujah! Unfortunately the rain and wind battered my pepper plants and broke stems off two of them.

[image: two green bell peppers and five purple bell peppers]
[image: terrible photo of two green bell peppers and five purple bell peppers]

The purple peppers were already pretty much fully ripened, thankfully, but I don’t know what the green bell peppers were going to turn into. I had purchased a set of six colorful peppers seedlings back in the spring. Three of them went into the hanging baskets, three went into pots. The three in pots did way better, having more space and soil to live in. Since they were just seedlings, though, I wouldn’t know which was which until they ripened. So far, I have successfully been able to identify the mandarin bell, lilac bell, and chocolate beauty. I’m guessing these green peppers would have turned white or neon green, since the other purpley ones showed their color fairly quickly.

I guess it’s time to pickle! I liked the pickled pepper rings I made last year (they basically tasted like non-spicy pepperoncini), so I’ll probably do that again. My only worry is whether the purple color will leech out into the brine and make it look gross.

California Capers (Pickled Nasturtium Pods)

I planted one non-vegetable this year, and that was nasturtiums. They have a very pretty flower! They mostly died horribly in my garden.

My nasturtiums have started to bloom! #gardening #flowers

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

You can already see in the background that a leaf is getting chewed up. Anyway, the reason that I wanted to grow nasturtiums was to make these “California capers,” or pickled nasturtium seedpods.

Backstory: a few years ago, my parents and I spent Christmas in Italy. Our traditional Christmas breakfast is bagels with lox, cream cheese, onions, and capers. We thought we had bought regular capers, but they were way peppery-er and totally awesome. We tried to find them back in the states, and to that end we bought actual pickled peppercorns. It was not those. So I was looking at various things on the web and ran across these.

I’m not sure why they’re called “California,” because surely nasturtiums can grow anywhere, but I guess it’s because the climate of California means they can grow for a really long time (provided they don’t get eaten to death or a drought attacks or whatever). So my nasturtiums only yielded about three pods before they kicked the bucket, but my pal Lydia had a massive plot of them in her front yard, and she very kindly let me rummage through hers to pick enough for pickling.

They’re a bit of an acquired taste, but I do have to say, they’re good on our bagel combination. Still not the same as the ones we found in Florence, though.

2/3 cup nasturtium seedpods (harvest them while green and still on the vine, otherwise they’re too dried out for this to work)
1/4 cup salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf

Rinse the seedpods to remove any bits of dirt that may still be clinging. Combine the salt and water in a container that has a lid (or use plastic wrap). Add the seedpods, stir once or twice, then cover and let brine for 3-4 days. Shake the container or stir the mixture a couple times a day. (They will not smell good. That is normal.)

Strain the seeds and rinse them in a colander. Place the bay leaf in the bottom of a jar and pour the seeds in on top.

Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil and stir to dissolve. Pour the vinegar mixture carefully into the jar. Close the jar, let cool to room temperature, and then move to the refrigerator. Let them sit for at least a week before using. They’ll keep a long time in the fridge.

State of the Garden 2016

Picked my first tomato of the year! A 6.5oz Big Beef.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

I didn’t do a blog-along this year documenting my garden progress, so now, at the end of the growing season, I shall attempt to recount all of it.

February 2016: started 25 seedlings. They are pretty successful.

March 2016: seedlings go in the ground. I leave on a 3-week trip.

April 2016: return to find everything got eaten by snails except for some San Marzano tomato plants and nasturtiums. The survivors are straggly. I buy four tomato plants (Green Zebra, Black from Tula, Sunset Falls, and Big Beef), a six-pack of cherry tomatoes, a six-pack of bell peppers, one chili pepper, and some chives and basil. I make seven hanging baskets and four pots. Two of the tomato plants go in the ground.

June 2016: tomatoes start to have ripe fruit! Basket and pot tomatoes, that is. Ground tomatoes are doing nothing. Peppers being slowpokes. Lydia gives me some shiso seedlings.

July 2016: more tomatoes! Still nothing from the ground. Peppers getting with the program.

August 2016: more tomatoes! Basket peppers are finished. Potted peppers begin going nuts. I start some cucumber seedlings for the hell of it. I rip out the San Marzanos because I am over watching them do NOTHING.

September 2016: the Sunset Falls tomatoes, which were marked “determinate,” start producing more fruit. Cucumber plants start producing flowers. I leave for two weeks.

October 2016: the cucumber plants are going crazy! The peppers are giant! The tomatoes are giving everything they can in a last hurrah!

Gosh I’m looking forward to pickling season! Hopefully the first frost is still a ways off (last year it didn’t come until Thanksgiving) so I have time for more ripe veggies.

So what have I learned this year? Mostly that the soil/sun situation in our backyard is TERRIBLE and if I want to grow anything it’s going to have to be in pots or beds. The baskets are nice, but doing the top+bottom load means that neither one gets enough soil or resources.

I’m thinking about joining the community garden next year. I have a LOT of seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library—Lydia and I both bought a ton from their overstock sale, and then we shared them with each other. I have at least ten different kinds of tomatoes as well as a bunch of other stuff. The community garden has a lot more sunlight than my backyard, and hopefully more bees as well. And hey, community! Maybe I’ll make friends.

First #cucumber off my plant! Got another dozen or so on their way. #nationalpicklingcucumber #gardening

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Farewell, Garden

Last night the temperature dropped below freezing, and this morning I woke up to some extremely bedraggled plants. Poor limp leaves. I now have two more containers of pickles gestating in the fridge. Hopefully they’ve turned out well; I’ll know in a few days.

(I’m going to a show in the city tonight, so this entry is very early and very short. My apologies.)

Braisin’ Semi-Failure: Celery

[image: celery growing in a flowerpot]
[image: celery growing in a flowerpot]

Now that my celery is approximately two months old, I thought I’d post an update on how it’s doing. (Here is the first post about it, when it was a mere two or three weeks old.) As you can see, it’s thriving! And by “thriving,” I mean bolting. The other celery that I planted outside (which I fully expected to get eaten by rodents) is in much more of a traditional celery shape—one central nestled stalk formation, no wild shoots reaching for the stars.

I think I know why the squirrels aren’t going for the celery, though. I tried a bit. I was expecting it to be kind of bitter, but I wasn’t expecting quite how amazingly, overwhelmingly bitter it was. I had to spit it out. Commercial celery is covered up for its final few weeks, to tame the bitterness and sweeten the inner stalks and leaves. Mine has been sitting in the sun (the little we get these days) and the wrong pH of soil (I haven’t tested it, but I’m assuming that’s part of the problem).

HOWEVER, I am only counting this as a semi-failure, because both plants are still alive. And even if I can’t eat them, I’m enjoying the dark green foliage.

HOWEVER HOWEVER, what can be counted as a total failure is those wildflowers I tried planting at the beginning of November. A month has nearly passed and I have… a pot of dirt. I guess four and a half years was too long to wait to plant that little card.

Pickled Peppers

[image: pint jar of pickled green bell peppers]
[image: pint jar of pickled green bell peppers]

The weather here has started to turn! We’ve gotten a few nights of rain! It’s thrilling! But as the nights have gotten colder, I’ve started to worry about my veggies. We’ve dipped as far as 36F. No frost yet, but I decided to harvest my green bell peppers just in case.

[image: bowl of green bell peppers]
[image: bowl of green bell peppers]

Nine in all! (There’s a runt you can’t see hiding at the bottom of the bowl). I had enough to make a quart of pickles. I sliced most of them into rings, the others into strips. After a day in the fridge, I had very crisp and pickley-tasting pickles! I used a 32 oz. plastic yogurt container. I transferred about half into the pint-sized Ball Jar you see up top so I could get a nice photo.

These are refrigerator pickles because I’m scared of canning.

1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, peeled
however many sliced peppers can be packed into a quart jar

Put the dill seeds, peppercorns, bay leaf, and garlic in the bottom of your jar or whatever you’re doing the pickling in. Pack in the sliced vegetables.

Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Carefully pour into your jar (a funnel may be useful here). Make sure everything’s covered with the brine (you may want to employ a weight to squash them down). Refrigerate overnight. Will keep in the fridge for several months.

Garden Update: November 7, 2015

[image: november 7th tomatoes]
[image: november 7th tomatoes]

Look at all those wee tomatoes! Look at all those flowers! IT IS NOVEMBER.

We’ve had a little bit of rain, and temperatures have generally started to fall, but my plants are continuing their weird “it’s still summer!” behavior. It’s dipped down into the upper 30s a couple nights this week, but the only thing that seems affected is my Casper eggplants. The leaves get kind of limp, but they perk right back up once the sunlight hits them.

I’m just waiting. I still want all the blossoms on my plants to turn into fruits. But… I don’t really want them to ripen, actually? I have plans for pickling! Pickled green tomatoes and pickled green bell peppers and pickled eggplants (okay, these’ll be mostly ripe) and pickled green chili peppers. (Actually I haven’t really decided what to do with those if/when frost hits—if they’ll be pickled or if I’ll make a green chili sauce.) I just want to make pickles! Refrigerator pickles, I should point out. Canning still frightens me.

I have given up entirely on the kabochas. The female bud I was so excited about last month withered and fell off before it had a chance to bloom. It was a sad day in the Hussy House.