Tag Archives: Tomato

Garden in May

We’ve had some great weather for this year’s garden. Plenty of rain (keeping our water bills low!), a decent amount of sunshine, not too hot despite a few odd days. All and all, my plants are happy.

In addition to the obvious concerns of what would grow well for us, our garden plan for the year was to grow things according to the following criteria:

1. We had to be able to grow enough of it in our small space to actually do something with. Low-yield things that take up space, like bush beans, were ruled out.

2. It had to save us money. This meant super cheap and readily available items, like zucchini, were out. We can buy local, sustainable zucchini and yellow squash in abundance at a very low cost.

3. It had to be something that we would either use most of while in season, or that we could readily preserve for winter.  This meant not an overabundance of delicate greens that didn’t freeze or can well.

4. It had to fit into a rotational plan that would let us make maximum use of the garden for all 4 seasons.

5. We wanted to do as much heirloom as possible. We did use some non-heirloom, but only where it was impossible to get heirlooms (sunchokes being the best example).

What we came up with for the spring/summer rotation was a whole bunch of tomatoes (almost all from last year’s seed), leeks (which we love but are super expensive here), snap peas (which take almost no room and are prolific producers), some high-yield hard winter squashes, sunchokes (very expensive, hard to get, but ridiculously easy to grow), various greens, carrots, and onions.  As some of these are harvested, we have plans for the fall and winter crops to go in.

And here’s how it looks so far:

The leeks are doing incredibly well. We have three rows, which should give us enough to use and freeze.

Our sorrel is out of control. We love it, but holy cow. This is only 4 plants, and we’re having a difficult time keeping up. I’ve already begun freezing it for winter!

We have about 30 tomato plants. This wasn’t intentional. I’d planted some that were really pretty spindly, and so planted some extra thinking the less-hardy ones would die. We only lost one plant total. We’re going to need more canning jars.

We’re using the California weave method to support the tomatoes.

I didn’t get pictures of anything else because it started to rain; but, I promise, there’ll be more later. The herb garden is going especially crazy, and I need to do some pruning before it gets entirely out of hand. My carrots have failed entirely for some unknown reason. Not a single sprout. No idea why, but I’ll give it another try. And, my basil is awful (I’ll be planting new basil plants this coming week).

How is your garden growing?


My Favorite Foods

When people find out I’m a chef, just about the first thing they ask after “where?” is ” what do you cook?” The “where” part is easy: wherever you pay me to cook. The “what” part is a lot harder, because I cook all kinds of things. I love food, I love experimenting, and I love fun combinations. But, the backbone for all of these things are basic ingredients, and that’s what I am going to talk about today: my favorite single foods. I’ll be doing my favorite herbs later this week, too.

-Greek Yogurt. Full-fat only, please, and homemade whenever I can! Great alone, as a replacement for sour cream, in all kinds of soups, in any dish (especially Indian) that calls for yogurt,  mixed with chocolate and berries as ice cream.

-Red bell peppers. Sweet, crisp, and flavorful, they only get better when roasted.

-Onions. Forget baking bread. You want me to buy your house, just saute’ some onions.

-Local, pastured beef. Rich, flavorful, needs very little seasoning.

-Squash, especially local squash from the cellar in the middle of winter!

-Heirloom tomatoes from the garden. Tomatoes from the store are useless. Tomatoes only taste like tomatoes if they’re heirlooms, grown to full ripeness, and harvested at peak.

-Fresh Chevre. Oh, so creamy and good. Plain, topped with herbs, stuffed into pasta, spread on a cracker.

-Kale. Raw, wilted, topped with bacon dressing or walnuts, stuffed with chickpeas.

-Olives. Good quality only! Stuffed, plain, roasted (with grapes..yum!).

-Cannellini beans. Creamy wonders. Great as dip, in a casserole, bean bolognese, stuffed into ravioli.

Farm Fresh Eggs. Rich, delicious wonders.

-Cranberries. Tart, delicious little balls of flavor!

-Fresh peaches. Because really, how can you not like peaches? Local, heirloom!


This list isn’t exhaustive–I have a LOT of favorite foods. But, it’s a start. Got any favorites?


Monday Food Porn: Heirloom Tomatoes

I suppose I don’t actually need to bore you with the details, but this was so yummy I am going to anyway. The bagel is from a local bakery (I cannot find a website, unfortunately), the cream cheese from the local Menonite store (again, no website I can find), and the tomato from my garden. I should know the name of this lovely little pinkish-red delight, but the tag I had from when I bought it wore out due to the elements (this will teach me not to permanent marker the names of my plants on popsickle sticks!). I’ve saved a bunch of seeds, though, because these are just delicious. And funny looking, which always makes me happy.

It’s About Time!

Well, in theory, I have internet access again. In reality, let’s not get our hopes up that it’ll last. But, while it does, I am trying to get photos loaded and posts written. First things first: I promised my twitter followers and some other folks a picture of the huge Mortgage lifter tomato we have in the garden, so here it is:

Keep in mind that the fella holding this monster is 6 1/2 feet tall. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it once it gets ripe (other than save the seeds, of course), but it warrants something special. If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments!

If you look closely, you’ll see part of our new tomato trellising system. Our tomato plants completely got away from us this year–some are taller than Thadd, and hanging so heavy with tomatoes even at the ends–so our initial system was a bust. Fortunately, a friend of ours has a huge stand of bamboo, and I have a partner who enjoys engineering challenges. Born of this combination was the tomato trellising system we began installing yesterday:

It’s not easy to photograph, but hopefully you get the idea. We got about about 80% of our tomatoes in the lower bed trellised yesterday before we ran out of bamboo. Hopefully, we’ll get the rest done later in the week. I am not sure when later in the week, since we also have a ton of other food-and-garden related stuff do to:

Yep, the tomatoes are in. Above is just a part of one day’s harvest. So, we’re canning on Thursday.  In the meantime:

Peaches are also in. These are from one of our absolute favorite places in the area, Vintage Virginia. I know their website says “Vintage Virginia Apples,” but  they also do peaches and plums, and everything is an heirloom variety. I’ve never tasted any fruit like theirs, and we try to put up a bunch of the peaches and apples each year (drying, canning, freezing, saucing,etc.). I got 30lbs of peaches yesterday, and plan to get another 30 lbs. next week.

Also, we’ll have damson plums from a neighbor to deal with later this week, and I can barely keep up with my basil. So, it’s a busy week, but I know we’ll really appreciate all the work when we have fabulous food all winter. What are you preserving right now?

The Garden

An online-friend and fellow healthy-n-frugal foodie asked me to post some garden pictures, something I really should have been doing all along, anyway.  We’re really excited to have a garden this year, since it’s the first year we’ve ever been able to have one of our very own. We live in a rental, and didn’t anticipate that the landlords would be keen on the idea of us tilling up the backyard. Turns out, we were wrong! They even tilled for us, how amazing is that? It did go in late, which means we had to plant in too much of a hurry for us to do a lot of what we’d like. But, that’s part of starting a new garden, right? We’re already laying out plans for our fall/winter garden, which will include more co-planting and more careful spacing, for starters.

The garden isn’t huge–we’re certainly not going to be able to live on it alone–but it’s a start. We’ll be putting a lot of it up for winter, and it’ll also help keep our costs down during the summer. Plus, fresh-from-the-garden just tastes better. And, our other neighbor has a garden that must be the size of Texas, because holy cow does that guy have produce. He’s been giving us some of his extras, and we’re going to return the favor in canned goods. Bartering for the win.

So, here it is! (Note: my good camera battery was dead, so these aren’t as beautiful as I’d like. I’ll get around to it soon).

We planted a slew of morning glories around the short fence we put up. This serves three purposes: it makes it really difficult for animals to get into the garden, it attracts loads of pollinators, and mostly it hides the very-functional-but-not-so-pretty fence nicely!

We planted 16 tomato plants, all heirlooms of various varieties. We got our first grape tomatoes this past weekend, and our first big tomato on Tuesday!

Above is the “hedgerow” made by the morning glories. We actually need bigger stakes for some of our tomatoes, which will get done as soon as the temperature drops below 99 degrees. Below, our pickling cucumbers and wax peppers:

And, of course, the basil:

This is just one plant. I have several of these, and I’m having to harvest about every other day. Thankfully we love pesto! Not pictured are several other kinds of peppers, the rest of my herbs, a random accidental volunteer zucchini plant, and my blueberry bushes. I’ll try and get some pictures of them soon.

So far, our harvest has been fabulous. We used one shot of homemade garlic aphid spray, and that was it. No chemicals. We’re looking forward to a long season of eating food from right out of our back door, and putting it up for fall and winter, too. I’ve already done a pile of ice-cubed basil (in both water and oil), pesto, sauteed squash, pickles, and some dried hot peppers from the garden.

How is your garden growing? If you’ve got garden pics or a blog, link to it in the comments!