Tag Archives: Tomato’s

Garden Success And Failures

Gardening season is ending and the often bewildering holiday season will be dominating our life for the next 2+ months. Fall colors and cool weather will give way to barren and snow covered landscapes and the cold weather of winter.

Now is a good time to look back and evaluate our gardening successes and failures. None of us want to admit that many of our garden failures, both flowering and vegetable were self inflicted.

We often ‘want’ and plant plants that we know or should know are not well suited to our climate and weather conditions. I know avocados will not survive in my climate, but that does not stop me from wanting them in my landscape. Sometimes my wants and desires override my Common Sense.
These failed crops and flowering plants are self inflicted.

Just because a seed package list a plant as being hardy in zone 7(my zone) does not mean it it suitable to withstand my high wind and dry summer heat. Many plants will bolt and produce seed heads. Die from drought stress, will not properly pollinate in the heat of summer. Some plants like an acid soil when I know my soil is mildly to highly alkaline.

Carefully evaluate what crop and just as important, what variety will grow and produce given your climate and weather conditions.

Ask local gardeners that successfully grow flowers and vegetables if you can collect a few seeds or maybe even do a bit of seed trading to improve your gardening success rate.

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Chow Chow Relish – Using Late Season Garden Vegetables

Grandma’s CHOW CHOW

1 peck (1/4 bushel) green tomatoes about {12 or 15 pounds}
5 lbs. strong flavored yellow onions
1 large head of cabbage course chopped
5 lbs. sugar
5 red hot chili peppers {you need at least 2 of these and more if you like your chow chow hot and spicy}
2+ cups chopped sweet green bell peppers
2+ cups chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 to 5 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 or 4 tablespoons celery seed
Optional – 1 package of pickling spices
About 1 qt. of cider vinegar

Slice or dice tomatoes and sprinkle with 1 cup salt, place them in a clean old white pillowcase and hang them from a close line pole over night. {This will remove most of the green tomato juice from your bag of sliced green tomato’s} I’ll bet wrapping your sliced tomato’s in cheese cloth would work just as well.

Chop all vegetables and combine in a large kettle. Stir in salt, let stand covered at room temperature overnight, or at least 8 hours. Drain well.

Rinse and drain green tomato’s and other vegetables only once.
Using a meat grinder, {or course chop by hand} coarse grind tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers. In a large pot, add sugar, spices to mixture. Add enough vinegar to almost cover. Cook uncovered over a very low fire for 4 hours. Adding additional vinegar as necessary.

Fill hot sterilized 1 pint canning jars to 1/2 inch from the top and seal.
Makes 8 to 10 pints.
Note: Sterilize jars in a boiling water bath insuring jars are completely covered with water. Don’t forget to sterilize jar tops as well.

Process in a boiling water bath for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow jars to cool over night. Check to insure all jars sealed properly. Any jar that did not properly seal should be refrigerated and consumed with in a week or so.

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Excess Green Tomato’s? – Fry Them!

Fried Green Tomato Recipe
They taste great, and it’s a good way to use up excess green tomato’s from your garden.
Many people prepare them the same way they would prepare squash or egg plant for pan frying.

I stole this serving hint idea from an Italian sidewalk cafe near Lake Como in northern Italy, whether it be fried green tomato’s, okra, french fries, squash or egg plant, grate a little ‘real’ Parmesan cheese on them just before serving.
{Don’t even think about using that stuff in a can or box, doing a bad imitation of Parmesan cheese}.

Ingredients
medium size, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal {Being from the Southwest, I like cornmeal}
1/4 cup good quality olive oil or canola oil if you prefer
Hint: Try replacing 1/2 of the oil with melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut unpeeled green tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 45 minutes or more to drain excess water. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and cornmeal/bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of lard or good quality olive or canola oil in a skillet on medium/medium high heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then well beaten eggs, then cornmeal/bread crumbs. In the skillet, (fairly low heat) fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side (turn only once) until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add more lard or oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

___________________________________________________________________________
ORIGINAL SOUTHERNER’S FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
fresh green tomatoes
flour or cornmeal or corn bread mix
(corn bread mix – 1/2 flour mixed with 1/2 corn meal)
salt
pepper
Pork Lard (Or a good quality Olive oil or vegetable oil)
Slice tomatoes about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Spread on plate. Sprinkle salt evenly over tomatoes. Continue placing tomato slices in layer over previous layer and sprinkle with salt until all tomatoes have been salted.
IMPORTANT: Let tomato’s drain for 1 to 2 hours. This removes excess water from tomatoes so that they will cook up nice and crispy.

Remove tomatoes from container, rinse off excess salt, pat dry using paper towels.
Mix flour/corn meal, a little salt and pepper (to taste) in bowl. Coat each tomato slice with flour/corn meal. Let tomato slices set 10 – 20 minutes. (This fixes the flour/cornmeal to your tomato’s so it stays affixed to your tomato’s while frying.)

Heat lard/oil in a skillet to medium to medium high. Place tomatoes in oil. (Reduce heat as necessary). Let tomatoes brown on one side, then turn (turn only once) and brown on the other. When tomatoes are a golden brown, remove one at a time and place on paper towels to drain.

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Salsa The Spice Of Summer


Salsa {This is a good basic Salsa}
Prep Time: About 20 minutes
Recipe Yield about 4 cups (2 pints)
Ingredients
4 or 5 large tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
1 strong yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or {1 Tablespoon dried}
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tomatillo, diced (optional) {Best roasted}
salt to taste
2 – medium or 1 large size mild green Chili peppers de-seeded and course chopped
1 or 2 green or red jalapeno peppers, minced {de-seed and de-vane peppers for pepper flavor and less heat from the peppers}(Use 1 pepper, taste Salsa, adjust salt and pepper to your taste.)

Directions
In a food processor or blender, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, oregano, lime juice, vinegar, tomatillo, hot pepper, mild chili pepper(s), salt to taste. Chop /blend a scant 20 or 30 seconds.
In a non-aluminum pan, over medium heat, warm until Salsa reaches 165 to 180 degrees. {Use meat thermometer to check temperature} Pack into (2) hot sterilized pint jars, Seal tightly, when cool, this may take several hours, refrigerate Salsa. Salsa will keep safely under refrigeration for 1 or 2 months.
For longer storage, process Salsa for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool over night, check to insure jars sealed properly. Store in a cool dark place. Salsa will safely keep 1 or more years.

Nutritional Information open nutritional information.
Calories: 53
Total Fat: 0.5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 13mg
Total Carbs: 11.7g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 2.3g

Avocado Feta cheese Dip
A chunky, savory summer dip that tastes great with tortilla or corn chips or as a topping for corn or flour tacos.
Prep Time: About 20 Minutes
Recipe Yields about 12 servings
Ingredients

2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 ripe avocado – peeled, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or {1/2 Tablespoon dried}
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar {replace with fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice}
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese or {Diced / Grated cheese that you like}
(1 de-seeded finely chopped green or red hot pepper to add more spice to your life)

Directions:
In a bowl, gently stir together avocado, pepper, onion, and garlic. Mix in tomatoes, parsley and oregano. Gently stir in olive oil and vinegar. Then stir in feta {cheese of your choice}. Cover with plastic wrap. Best served chilled for 2 hours.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 12
Calories: 66
Total Fat: 5.6g
Cholesterol: 8mg
Sodium: 108mg
Total Carbs: 2.8g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
Protein: 1.8g

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Summer Weather Pattern Settling In For A long Hot Dry Period

After receiving almost 3 inches of rain over the past 5 days, long term weather forecast is for many rainless days with day time temperatures ranging from 95F(35C) to 105F(40.5C). Nights will be at or above 75F(24C).

Tomato’s and Peppers stop pollinating and blooms drop occur when:
Daytime temperatures greater than 32° C (90° ) Pollen sterility occurs, flowers may drop.
35° C (95° F) Much reduced fruit set .
Night time temperatures less than 15.5° C (60° F) or greater than 24° C (75° F) will result in poor fruit set.

Take extra time to check your garden. Cucumbers, squash, zucchini and okra may need to be harvested every morning. A good rule is harvest while young, smallish and still tender.

It is the time of the year tomato horn worms are hatching and are active eating your tomato vines. Check your vines very carefully.
Late evening is a good time to find and remove horn worms as they come out of hiding from the days sunshine and heat and began feeding on your tomato vines.

As temperatures rise and rains are less frequent, observe you garden for signs of drought stress. If plants look stressed, drooping leafs in the early morning you may need to increase your irrigation schedule to 2 or even 3 times a week to your plants healthy.

Heavy mulching around your plants will help in weed control, reduce moisture loss and keep soil in your plants root zone cool.

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Fall Gardens

The official start of summer is still 9 day away, however if you plan to plant a Fall garden, now is the time to select your Fall garden plot and ready it for planting. It is also near the time to plant your seed to establish seedling transplants.

New Fall garden site selection.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure. If such exposure is not received by crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash (vegetables that contain seed), the plants grow spindly, they have weak stems, drop blooms and are generally nonproductive. Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful; shade in the morning is acceptable. There are vegetables which produce passably in the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, root crops (carrots, turnips) which do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi- shaded areas but even these crops will do better in a full sun condition. Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade; plants will grow tall and spindly. The production potential of the garden’s most popular vegetables depends solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.

Turf grass MUST be removed. Don’t think that you can dig or till this existing grass into the garden soil and get rid of it. Even a well-tilled, pulverized garden soil will contain enough bermuda grass sprigs to cause troubles for years to come. New garden areas are doomed before they begin if all bermuda and other lawn grass is not completely removed BEFORE tillage begins. If a raised garden is being considered, sod should be removed BEFORE additional soil is put into the prepared frame.

Chemicals applied to the grass to kill it rather than pulling it out. There are several brand names which contain the weed and grass killer glyphosate. These include Roundup and Kleenup check ingredients on label for the term “glyphosate” and follow label instructions for application rate.

Quick (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets (1 1/2 feet) FT; bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; leaf lettuce (1 foot) FT; mustard (1 1/2 feet) FT; radishes (1 1/2 feet) FT; spinach (1 foot) FT; summer squash (3 feet) FS; turnips (1 1/2 feet) FT; and turnip greens (1 1/2 feet) FT.

Moderate (60-80 days) maturing vegetables are: broccoli (3 feet) FT; Chinese cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; carrots (1 foot) FT; cucumbers (1 foot) FS; corn (6 feet) FS; green onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; kohlrabi (1 1/2 feet) FT; lima bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; okra (6 feet) FS; parsley (1 1/2 feet) FT; peppers (3 feet) FS; and cherry tomatoes (4 feet) FS.

Slow (80 days or more) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts (2 feet) FT; bulb onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; cantaloupes (1 foot) FS; cauliflower (3 feet) FT; eggplant (3 feet) FS; garlic (1 foot) FT; Irish potatoes (2 feet) FS; pumpkins (2 feet) FS; sweet potatoes (2 feet) FS; tomatoes (4 feet) FS; watermelon (1 foot) FS; and winter squash (1 foot) FS.

Using your Spring and Summer garden site. Once the decision to have a fall garden has been reached, a gardener must take action drastic action. You must pull out some of those plants that have been nurtured from “babies” in the spring to monsters now. This takes courage and faith! It is recommend that all plants, weeds included, be removed except okra, cherry tomatoes and pole beans if the foliage is healthy. Large-fruited tomatoes may have some small ones still hanging on, but unless you have at least 20-25 good-sized fruit, pull them out, make green tomato relish or chow-chow. Pull the old plants up and discard them. Give them to the garbage man. Don’t try to compost insect and disease ridden plants.

The two charts below are for planting Fall crops in zone 7.
You will need to adjust your planting dates to suite the USDA zone you garden in.

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Tomato Season Is Near

blossom end rot

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service provides many pictures to help you diagnose and treat your tomato disease problem(s).
Tomato Problem Solver and
Disorders of Tomato Leaves

You can’t treat your diseased tomato plants if you don’t know what disease they actually have. The secret to successful tomato growing is to check your plants everyday and start a treatment plan as soon as you see the first signs of a disease or insect problem.

University of Iowa Also has a great fact sheet on line with photographs and treatments for many common tomato diseases. This is a PDF file.

You may find what you thought was a disease problem is really an insect infestation. If this is the case take a look at Colorado state University Extension service: Tomato Insect Pests fact sheet for insect identification and controls.

This has nothing to do with tomato’s but it’s too good not to share.
I am relieved to know that my T-bone steak was ‘made’ by my market and growing a cow for 2 or 3 years is no longer required. Click picture to zoom-in.

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10 Easy to grow garden crops

The Old Farmers Almanac Has a lot of Useful as well as fun information for farmers and Gardeners no matter how big or small your farm / garden or your age.

Mother Earth News What mother earth news about says the 10 Best Garden Crops for Beginners.

If you’re a beginner, consider starting with the 10 crops discussed below. All are easy to grow, and this combination offers lots of possibilities for cooking. Some of these crops are best grown by setting out started seedlings, but most are easy to grow from a packet of seed planted directly in your garden soil.

1. Radishes. Radishes do well even in not so great garden soil and are ready to harvest in only a few weeks(3-5). Plant the seeds anytime the air temperatures remain above freezing.

2. Salad greens (beet and turnip tops, lettuce, spinach, arugula and corn salad). Pick your favorite, or try a mix. Many companies sell mixed packets for summer and winter gardening. Plant the seeds in spring and fall, and you can pick salads almost year round.

3. Green beans. Easy to grow and prolific. If you get a big crop, they freeze well, and they’re also delicious when pickled with dill as dilly beans. Start with seeds after all danger of frost has passed.

4. Onions. Start with small plants, and if they do well, you can harvest bulb onions. If not, you can always eat the greens.

5. Strawberries. Perfectly ripe strawberries are unbelievably sweet, and the plants are surprisingly hardy. Buy bare root plants in early spring. Put this perennial in a sunny spot and keep it well watered and weed free.

6. Peppers. Both hot peppers and bell peppers are easy to grow. Start with plants and let peppers from the same plant ripen for different lengths of time to get a range of colors and flavors.

7. Bush zucchini. This squash won’t take up as much room in your garden as many other types, and it’s very prolific. Start from seeds or transplants. You won’t need more than a few plants for a bumper crop.

8. Tomatoes. There’s just no substitute for a perfectly ripe homegrown tomato, and it’s hard to go wrong when you start with strong plants. If you get a big crop, consider canning or freezing your excess tomato’s.

9. Basil. Many herbs are easy to grow, but basil is a good choice because it’s a nice complement to tomatoes or any tomato dish. Basil is easy to grow from seeds or from transplants.

10. Potatoes. An easy-to-grow staple that stores well when kept cool. A simple and low maintenance approach is to plant potatoes in straw rather than soil. ‘Seeds’ are whole or cut sections of potatoes, sold in early spring.

Lifehacker has a lot of good useful information for the novice gardener, even if some of it is a bit on the wacky side of gardening.

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Mama And Doctors

Eat Your Vegetables – Mama Said and Mama was right ‘again’.

Some vegetables, flavors intensify as the plant matures, which is why the so called baby versions have a wide taste appeal with just as many health benefits.
Experiment with baby artichokes, beans, beets, cucumbers(2-4 inches long), okra(small is better), peppers, turnips and squashes(4-5 inches long) and carrots (the ones sold in bunches, with greens still attached not those sold in plastic bags, which are simply regular carrots, trimmed down.

You can find the babies at larger supermarkets, specialty grocers, and farmers’ markets such as younger brussels sprouts, can even be bought frozen. Not only do many people find baby vegetables more flavorful and less bitter, but they prefer the texture, too. Young vegetables are tender and require less cooking time.

Brussels sprout salad:
Slice vert thin, add a small amount of vinegarette dressing, toss well and let set for 20-30 minutes. Toss again to coat sprouts with dressing and add a few roasted pine nuts just before serving.

Oil them up judiciously using fats especially heart healthy ones like olive oil can go far in helping you love your veggies. When fat binds with seasonings and spices, it can transform vegetables from a duty diet item to something downright yummy. The link between vegetable avoidance and certain cancers is strong enough to justify a few oil added calories.

Raw veggies probably aren’t the first thing you crave when a snack attack strikes, but you’ll be much more tempted to eat them when they’re dunked in hummus, low fat dip, or your favorite salad dressing. Try munching at work, in front of the TV or when surfing the internet. Snacking on veggies away from the dinner table makes eating them feel like less of a health chore.

The poor lonely onion family, which includes leeks, shallots, and garlic, is rich in compounds suspected to fight cancer, says nutritionist Valerie Green, MPH. But for onion haters, the sharp flavors and strong smells can be almost nauseating. Try slow roasting plants in the onion family, which brings out the sweetness and cuts the sharpness. Brush leeks, shallots, garlic or thick sliced onions with a little olive oil(or ‘real’ butter) wrap in foil packets, and toss on the grill to mild down take the sting.

Tomato’s little secret is making sure you buy those that are vine ripened which eliminates almost all the bitter flavors, says Autar Mattoo, PhD, a molecular biologist with the USDA.

Over mature eggplants are bitter, but the size of this fiber and potassium packed vegetable isn’t your best clue. If your thumb leaves an indent that doesn’t bounce back, the eggplant will be spongy, tough, and bad tasting, even if it’s a little one. To further improve taste, check out its “belly button” at the blossom end, eggplants have either an oval or round dimple. Buy only the ovals.

To reduce eggplant’s bitter tendencies even more, after you slice it, sprinkle it with salt, then wait about half hour, rinse, pat dry and proceed with your recipe. Salt draws out water which contains the bitter tasting compounds.
Eggplants are worth the trouble. The insides of these veggies are high in polyphenols the same chemicals that make apples so good for you.

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Town & Country – Farm & Ranch Stores

I reside in USDA zone 7. My last average last frost date is about the 10th of April.
Armed with that trivial information and my nifty little computer generated calender, I have determined that it’s only 61 days until it’s relative safe to plant frost sensitive vegetables.

Fruit trees are breaking bud and will be in full bloom in a week or so. Ornamental shrubs, trees and spring flowering plants will soon burst into full bloom.

Guess what gang. Stores that sell things like vegetable seed and seedlings, things like tomato’s, peppers, onion sets, potato sets are putting out displays of nice looking seedlings for gardeners that don’t have a clue about last frost dates and those that truly believe that because we have had a week of frost free weather, winter has come to an end.

Gardeners thinking with their eyes and an over whelming desire to plant this years vegetable garden will invest a lot of money in seed and seedlings. In a week or so weather will return to it’s normal temperatures, seed will fail to germinate because the soil is to cool for most seed to germinate and seedlings will be killed when temperatures fall below 32%(0% C) for several hours or even several days.

Don’t fall for mother natures winter tricks.

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