Get More Tomatoes THIS Year!

It’s time to prune your tomatoes if you live in Zone 5 and almost time in Zone 6.  Sure there are great recipes (and movies) for fried green tomatoes, but you and I both know we much prefer red tomatoes ripened by the sun. So it’s time to take your pruners out to the garden. We now officially accept that tomato season is almost over, so we’re going to prune off the top of the tomato plant…even the cute yellow flowers that would make tomatoes if frost didn’t descend upon us. It’s going to feel brutal, but you need to cut off leaves that are shading the green tomatoes from the sun.

But if your average FIRST frost is about a month away and you notice that nighttime temperatures are a bit cool, you want to make sure that all those green tomatoes are getting sunlight. And you want the plant to focus all its energy ripening the green tomatoes currently on the vine and filling them with the sugar that makes a red tomato (or black or yellow or orange if you grew those) so yummy.

One more late summer tomato task.  Taste test your own tomatoes.  We pick the varieties we grow because we liked the picture in the catalog or because a friend told us we just HAD to grow a certain heirloom.  Now you can decide.  Make a note of the tastiest varieties in your journal or put it on next January’s calendar for seed ordering time. Make a note too of which tomatoes got too many diseases or did poorly in your conditions.  Some tomatoes will grow better and taste better in your garden than others. Your job as a tomato grower is to get a little better each year and have even more and better tomatoes next year!

 

Grilled Fish Taco with Heirloom Tomatoes and Roasted Jalapeno & Lime Mayo

From the Gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Grilled Fish

•      6 (4 ounce) fillets tilapia
•      ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
•      ¼ tsp. cumin
•      1 tsp. olive oil
•      sea salt and black pepper to taste
•      2 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes
•      2 cups chopped cabbage

1. In a small bowl, combine cayenne pepper, cumin, ground black pepper, and salt. Brush each fillet with olive oil, and sprinkle with spices.

2. Arrange fillets on grill grate, and cook for 3 minutes per side. Place fillets on a warm corn tortilla, add chopped cabbage, tomatoes, and drizzle with roasted jalapeño and lime mayo.

Roasted Jalapeño and Lime Mayo

**This mayo goes with just about anything. Try putting in on a grilled chicken club sandwich, turkey burger, or as a dip for crispy french fries.

•      2 jalapeno peppers or any mild to hot peppers
•      ½ cup of mayonnaise
•      2 cloves garlic
•      1 green onion
•      1 lime, juice and zest
•      1 tbs. cilantro
•      1 large basil leaf
•      sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place jalapeño peppers on a backing sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast for about 20 minutes, until the skin is slightly blistered. Remove from the oven, and place in a ziplock bag. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, and discard the skin, seeds and core.

2. Place all ingredients except salt & pepper in a food processor, or blender, and puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and pepper. You can refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, and sweet basil. 

 

15 Minutes to Better Garden Photos

I’m enamored of projects you can do in 15 minutes.  As my hero, Fly Lady (www.flylady.net) says, “YouArtistic photo of a rustic wooden bench. can do anything for 15 minutes.”  She’s often referring to cleaning up or decluttering, but in my busy life, sometimes I need to schedule 15 minutes to do something artsy or creative…because otherwise my day is just full of work and to do items.  So when I ran across this video about how to take better garden photos yesterday, I decided to take my new little Sony camera out to the garden for 15 minutes.

Here’s the video by photographer Gavin Hoey that inspired me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s66-vVCKtWM

The info is pretty standard:  change your angle, work with light or water, try close-ups, change yourPhoto of corn tassles against blue sky background. settings…my little camera has some automated standard settings like blur background. Don’t always center your shot. Take pictures of leaves or furniture…not just flowers. Etc.

So have 15 minutes of fun in your garden today…You’ve put a lot of work into your garden…you can spare 15 minutes just to enjoy how it looks. Here’s my quarter-hour this morning before coffee.

Photo credits: all by me in less than 15 minutes, Sandy Swegel, Sony Cybershot DSC-WX150

Close up photo of orange blossoms.

 

 

“Summer Pie” ~ Heirloom Tomato & Gruyere Cheese Galette

Heirloom Tomato “Summe Pie”

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

•      1 12” Pie Crust (store bought or your favorite recipe)Plate full of a variety of heirloom tomatoes.
•      4 cups heirloom tomatoes, preferably cherry to small sized
•      1 cup of grated gruyere cheese
•      5 large chopped basil leaves
•      2 cloves minced garlic
•      1 tsp. olive oil
•      ½ tsp. minced fresh rosemary
•      ¼ tsp. sea salt

1.   Place oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

2.   Slice tomatoes in halves and add to a medium bowl. Add a half cup of gruyere cheese, 4 chopped basil leaves, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. minced rosemary, and ½ tsp. sea salt to bowl and toss with hands.

3.   Roll out pie crust and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper, a greased cookie sheet will do. Spread the other (almost) half cup of grated gruyere cheese over the piecrust. Make sure to save a little cheese for the top of the galette after it has slightly cooled.

4.   Spread mixture over piecrust leaving about 2 inches on the sides.  Fold the sides up and over the mixture. I brushed the sides with an egg mixture and sprinkled a little sea salt on the crust. So good!

5.   Bake until crust is a golden brown. Usually 35 to 40 minutes. Let pie slightly cool. Sprinkle the remaining gruyere cheese and sweet chopped basil on top. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, and rosemary. 

 

Apple Windfall

by Sandy Swegel

Photo of the rosy-apple strewn ground under an apple tree.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/allotment/2010/oct/29/gardens-allotments

While I continue to have a good supply of huge zucchini from the four zucchini plants my neighbor is growing, the bounty and surplus this year is from apples.  Talk about a windfall.  Day after day there are dozens of apples that fall on the ground and they are starting to taste pretty good.  The first small immature apples aren’t really good for much besides the compost pile.  And the apples on the tree shouldn’t be picked until they’ve been sweetened by Fall frosts.  But the ones that nature is lobbing (wind, gravity, squirrels) on the ground every day are a true gift from above…if you process them every day.

The problem with a windfall is that the apples aren’t perfect, so you can’t just put them on the counter or in the refrigerator to use later.  These apples have split open when they hit the hard ground.  Or greedy squirrels ate one or two little mouthfuls before throwing them to the ground. Wasps are feeding on the juicy parts. Or, ickiest, codling worms ate through part of the apple leaving their brown crusty frass. Occasionally, there’s even still a codling worm in the apple.

One bad apple does spoil the batch.  One rotting place on an apple will soon spread to even perfect apples…so you have to keep processing the apples.

Here’s what I do:  I hold a formal apple triage whenever I have time.  Perfect apples without splits or bad spots get spread on a counter in the cool basement or in the refrigerator.  With a little humidity (a root cellar and a box of wet sand are traditional) the apples will last through late winter.

Not perfect but pretty good apples can be:

1. Eaten on the spot. Yum.
2. Have the bad spots cut out and made into sauce, cobbler or juice.
3. Pressed into cider.  Some people in town here had a big apple pressing last year where everyone brought apples and they pressed them all together.  That’s when I learned part of the rich flavor of apple cider comes from all the bad parts and cyanide seeds and occasional worms being pressed together with all the good apples.  The final cider is strained so there’s no chance of getting anything visible in your cider…

When I’m in a hurry and just want the apples not to go bad, I make the world’s simplest cider in small batches in my mighty Vitamixer.

I wash the apples.  I quarter them and remove disgusting and rotten parts.  I start with one cup of water in the Vitamix and fill the rest of the Vitamix to the top with apple parts.  I pulverize the whole container…having to use the plunger to keep the process started.  Then, the secret to this quickie cider is to pour the entire blender-full through a sprouting bag into a bowl.  Actually, I’m too cheap to use the sprouting bag and I buy the five-gallon paint straining bag from the hardware store.  Then with clean hands, you squeeze the bag, not too unlike milking a cow, until all the juice flows out. Repeat.  The pulp goes to the chickens or earthworms. The juice is good to drink or freeze or even let ferment if you want some old-fashioned hard cider.

Now if only I could develop a taste for zucchini juice, I’d have both abundances of food taken care of.

Vitamix recipes

Photo credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/allotment/2010/oct/29/gardens-allotments

 

 

Grilled Mahi Mahi Burger with Homemade Smokey Chipotle Aioli

from the kitchen and garden of Mike Scott

Grilled Fish Burger, Mahi Mahi, heirloom tomato, cheddar cheese, arugula, with my smokey chipotle aioli. Served with shoe-string fries tossed with olive oil, crushed garlic, and chopped fresh basil.

To Grill Mahi Mahi –

Brush Mahi Mahi with a light coat of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and other herbs you might think go well with Mahi Mahi. I used fresh lemon thyme from our garden. Place fish on a hot grill away from coals. Cook the first side of the fish down until the flesh changes to a white color. Turn over carefully and cook the other side. Total cooking time should not take more than ten minutes. Try not to flip the fillets more than once or the fillets make break apart. Squeeze fresh lemon over the top and place on bun.

Smokey Chipotle Aioli
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 clove garlic minced or garlic pressed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. of chipotle chopped fine
salt & pepper to taste

Mix in a bowl and serve on top of the burger. You might want to save some for the fries. 🙂

**Fresh Ingredients straight from Mike Scott’s summer garden – heirloom tomato, arugula, basil, and lemon thyme

Meet Mike Scott…

A gardener since childhood, professional garden designer and proprietor of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms. Mike, his wife and 11-year-old daughter enjoy farm living at their house smack in the middle of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl. The Scott’s have a large coop with 7 hens, a free-roaming rabbit, beehives, and vegetable gardens tucked into just about every corner of available sunny space. Mike Scott designs and installs edible gardens, drip irrigation systems and chicken coops and, in his spare time, likes to tool around his own yard and kitchen discovering new ways to use whatever’s fresh in his yard that day. It’s all about growing it yourself.

Mike says, “I am an edible garden designer, not a chef. The most important part of cooking for me is cooking with really fresh ingredients. I’m trying to make people aware that there is such a difference in the way food tastes when you use something just picked. Grow your own!”
Tune in on Recipe Thursdays for more fresh recipes from Mike Scott!

 

Get Your Diseased & Gnarly Tomatoes OUT!

It’s August and hot, not the most fun time in the garden, but you’ve got to go out and EVICT all the diseasedTomatoes showing effects of Mosaic Virus. and dying stuff out of your garden.  You’re not doing for this year’s produce…you’re doing to save your garden next year.

In Colorado with our warm winter and early hot Spring, we are inundated with pest problems.  Most on our minds today is the spotted wilt virus on tomatoes which makes pretty concentric circles on the tomatoes, but leaves the fruit tasteless and mealy…and kills the plant long before frost.  As depressing as it is to toss plants you’ve nurtured since they were just baby seeds, they’ve got to go. They aren’t going to get better and the virus will just get spread around your garden.

So get out there with your wheelbarrow and do some decluttering.

Tomato plants with spotted wilt virus or mosaic virus or even some nasty blight:  OUT! And not into your compost pile…they go right in the garbage.Tomatoes showing effects of Spotted Wilt virus.

Other plants with serious disease problems:  OUT!  You’re never going to eat those gone to flower broccoli covered with powdery mildew.

Weeds that have grown four feet tall when you weren’t looking are now going to seed.  Somehow huge prickly lettuce and thistles keep appearing out of nowhere with big seed heads.  OUT!

It won’t take long to clean up the big stuff….this is one of those 15-minute projects.  15 minutes now will make a huge difference later. 15 minutes now gives the good healthy tomatoes more light and space and water to make lots of fruit before frost.  15 minutes now means you pull all the diseased fruit and leaves out easily now instead of trying to retrieve dead rotting fruit and diseased leaves after frost has caused leaf drop.

And while you’re at it:  those big huge zucchini bats:  OUT.  Pull ’em off the plant so that nice tender young zucchinis can grow.  You’re just not likely to eat as much giant zucchini as you’re growing.  Let go of the guilt and send them to enrich the compost.

 

Ignoring what “they” say.

by Sandy Swegel

I visited a garden yesterday tended by my friend Lou.  Lou has gardened for other people for many years and the heavy shade garden I visited has lots of color despite being in shade and the fact that we’ve been in high temperature, drought conditions.

As we walked around and she told me some of the secrets of the garden’s success, I found myself thinking, “But “they” say not to do that.”  Things like “they” say native plants don’t want rich soil and shouldn’t be fertilized like other garden plants.  Hah. Her well-fed natives were twice the size of mine.  Or “they” say dahlias don’t do well in shade and need full sun.  She had twenty magnificent blooming dahlias that begged to differ.  And she used all kinds of plants the opposite of what the labels say:  Euonymous species, sold as shrubs, were tough interesting reliable groundcovers when kept short by pruning.

My favorite gardeners have always been the ones who don’t do what “they” say without thinking about what might actually work.  My first experience was an older gentleman who had grown tomatoes for 70 years by the time I met him.  He had tried all the tomato techniques I ever heard of.  “Epsom salts,” he guffawed…”don’t do a thing except make the tomatoes taste salty.”  “Water has to be consistent.”  He had watered every day with soaker hoses since they had been invented.  So as I watched him fertilize, I expected some down-home advice.  Instead, I watched in horror as he just spooned tablespoons of dry Miracle Grow crystals right next to the tomato stem.  “But, but…” I stammered, “Aren’t you going to burn the plants and kill them?”  Nope….they just got watered in slow-release-like with each soaker hose watering and he had the best tomatoes in town.

That still didn’t match the shock of watching my friend Barbara.  She definitely walks her own path and is agreed by all to be the best gardener we know.  She never fertilized with fertilizers. She composts and mulches and puts goat manure and earthworm compost on everything, but she has never bought a bottle of something and put it on her yard. Geraniums bloomed in containers for fifteen years with only compost and maybe grass clippings in the bottom of the pot for the earthworms to eat. The most startling part of watching her garden was that she never treated pests.  Sawflies came two years in a row and ate every single leaf on her six-foot-tall gooseberries. They looked terrible.  She made sure the plants were watered and had lots of compost, but said the plants needed to figure it out if they wanted to survive. It was up to them to figure out how to defend themselves.  She just made sure the garden environment was good.  To my amazement, the plants survived and put out new leaves, and the third year the beetles didn’t return.  Who knew?

I still do lots of things “they” say because much is based on someone’s research and experience.  But I keep an open mind. Every time somebody gives me a lecture about the right way to garden or what “they” say I should be doing, I ask myself, “Who is this ‘they’?” “And who gave them all the power?”

Photo Credits:

http://alliesinstitches.blogspot.com/2012/07/summer-gardening-and-sewing.html

http://www.hylandgardendesign.com/