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???
YOU WAITED UNTIL NOVEMBER TO START PRODUCING FRUIT?!
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.
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.
More pickles! These two jars I prepared for my friend Lydia, owner of the blog Truffle Wants Snacks. The larger jar on the left contains Tomolives, which are apparently a Southern thing. I made them with green Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and darkened-a-bit-but-still-not-totally-ripe Indigo Rose tomatoes from my garden. Clearly I picked these a while ago—back in November after the frosts became unbearable for my plants. I was trying to find pickle recipes for green tomatoes, and came across a couple promising posts.
Tomolives are just wonderful in a martini, served as a casual appetizer, skewered with sharp cheese, or plucked from the jar while you stare into the depths of the refrigerator wondering what to have for lunch.
Martinis, appetizers, cheese. Check, check, check. These are some of the many fine qualities that Lydia brings to a friendship.
(The curry eggplant relish recipe will be coming in a few days!)
1 quart unripe small or cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 small red chili peppers (SUPER CHILIS!)
With a toothpick, skewer, or knife, poke holes in each tomato (I used a toothpick and poked them from the stem end down to the opposite end). Place the chilis, bay leaves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in the bottom of a 1-quart jar. Pack the tomatoes in on top.
Boil the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic cloves together for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into the jar. Refrigerate for a week before eating.
(I don’t actually pickle in the jars, I use cleaned 32-oz yogurt containers and then transfer them into the nicer jars when it comes time for presentation. Allows me to make sure all the good stuff is on top. If you do this, during the initial pickling give them a stir every so often to make sure everything get submerged equally.)
My little hanging garden is coming along nicely. I’ve added a couple more baskets! First up is the upper-basil, lower-sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomato plant has exploded, it’s huge! Unfortunately it’s only put forth one fruit so far. There are a bunch of flowers though, so I’m hoping more are on the way. Basil is doing fine.
Second is upper-thyme, lower-Indigo Rose tomatoes. Although this bush isn’t as big as the cherry tomatoes, it’s putting out a lot more fruit. I’ve got one good-sized tomato and four smaller ones growing. And there are a bunch of flowers on this plant as well. I’ve heard these take a while to ripen. They will be dark purple when they’re done. Thyme is going great guns.
The third is upper-super chili peppers, lower-ichiban eggplants. The chili peppers are looking great! There are SEVEN chilis and a ton of blossoms! Salsa is in my future. The eggplants are frustrating me. This one has a bud, but it hasn’t blossomed yet. I’m thinking maybe a week out?
The last basket is upper-sweet gypsy bell peppers, lower-Casper eggplants. These eggplants are even more annoying than the Ichibans. I’ve had three blossoms, but each one has withered and fallen off. I’m hoping the current blossom makes it. I had a problem with some aphids on this plant in particular, but I was able to get rid of them. The bell pepper is so cute! I think another one is starting to form.
I am not a gardener, but I want to learn. I have friends who have amazing vegetable gardens and I get so jealous thinking about their tomatoes! So this year I am trying my hand at upside-down tomato growing. I read about it on Instructables and thought it didn’t look too hard for a beginner.
(I saw a lot of tutorials using 5-gallon plastic buckets as well, but I wanted them to look… not like they were in plastic buckets.)
In the left basket are indigo rose tomatoes growing down, and a couple thyme plants on top. In the right basket are sweet 100 cherry tomatoes growing down with basil on top.
It’s been a couple days (and hey! we actually got rain the day after I planted! amazing!), and they haven’t died yet, which is frankly amazing. Also amazing is the tomato plants’ determination to grow upwards. Already I am seeing heliotropism as they try and stretch up towards the sun.
1 to 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into roughly 1-cm cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/4 cup red wine
1 28-oz. can Trader Joe’s whole peeled plum tomatoes with basil, undrained
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, to serve
Salt the chopped eggplant liberally and place in a colander. Allow to sit for a half hour, then dry with a paper towel. Set a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until the pieces have softened and taken on some color, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan.
If the pan is looking dry, add some more oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the pieces have turned translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about thirty seconds to a minute, being careful not to burn it. Add the wine and scrape up any fond from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and all the sauce from the can. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Return the eggplant to the pan. Add the spices. Simmer for ten minutes or up to an hour or until however long it takes you to get the pasta done (could be no time at all if you timed it well, however, taking a little simmer time to let the flavors meld is always a good idea). Serve atop pasta with parmesan and parsley.