Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Finally! Tomatoes!

So instead of commenting on how long it's been since I last posted and how I hope to get back to it soon, blah, blah, blah, I'm just going to post like I've been doing it regularly, okay?


Good news from the garden! After all the angst and drama, we're finally getting tomatoes!

First there was the heartbreak about the tomatoes contracting some sort of fungus. But I removed the diseased leaves and hoped for the best. Then the blossoms were dropping without setting fruit. Too hot and dry too fast? I'm not sure.

After that, the plants got quite large and things started looking up again. After that they finally started to set some fruit but then all of them proceeded to fall over on top of each other and sprawl out all over the ground. Not pretty, but they were basically intact, so I just let them be.

Then the green fruit just sat and sat and sat, showing no signs whatsoever of ripening. It was a bit maddening. I then began to worry that we'd start getting chilly fall air blowing in and be stuck with tons of green tomatoes sitting on the vines. Fried green tomatoes are quite tasty, but I wasn't much interested in eating pounds and pounds of them, especially thinking about all of that unrealized potential.

If the weather was not our tomato-ripening friend during other parts of this summer, it definitely came through for us the past week or two - it's been dry and in the high 80s. While it certainly didn't feel like we were nearing the end of summer, it sure was terrific for spurring along those reluctant tomatoes. So, finally, after much eager and not-so-optimistic anticipation, against all odds, we have started getting tomatoes. Tomatoes generally start coming in in late July or early August, but this year I didn't see much red until closer to the first of September.

From the garden this past Friday (9/5):
peppers, green beans, basil and tomatoes.

After talking to other gardeners in the area, it seems that we were not the only ones to experience a late tomato harvest. This leads me to think that it was not anything we did or our location, it was just the weather, the luck of the draw. Thinking back to July, we did have a number of unusually cool, foggy, cloudy mornings where we didn't see the sun until mid to late morning. I have a feeling these cool wet mornings are at least partly to blame. That and the late frost around Memorial Day seem to have made for slow going for tomatoes this year. But that's just a beginner's theory.

Even with all the problems, I would consider it a pretty successful tomato season. The tomato plants still look like they are going quite strong - normally by now my tomato plants look quite pathetic - all yellow, brown and shriveled. While some of the plants look like they are finally starting to wither a bit, many of them are STILL putting out new growth. Quite amazing, really - I think the lasagna method of gardening really agreed with them. Had a few other things gone our way, I think we'd be drowning in a sea of red by now.

As it is, we have dispatched upwards of about 20 pounds of tomatoes with probably close to 10 still sitting on my windowsill/countertops and hopefully more waiting to be plucked from the garden. Temps are supposed to be in the 70s this week with some 40s at night, so the late season ripening will likely slow down quite a bit. Even so, I plan to leave them on the vine until the first threat of frost. Only THEN will I be ready to think about fried green tomatoes.

We were getting a bit tired of cucumbers and zucchini and green beans and were definitely ready for a different color! Now it's all about red. We've been eating tomatoes for lunch and/or dinner every day. But whereas I found it hard to find clever ways to use up our plethora of cucumbers, I have no problem finding ways to use up tomatoes. So far we've made a tart, a pasta dish, a couple of salads, salsa and two tomato soups.

Tomato-Basil Soup
This first recipe I'm going to share is an old favorite that I've not made in a while. I've posted it here before, but apparently didn't have much to say (and no photo either). It's a nice, basic tomato soup with the added flavor dimension and splash of color from fresh basil. Adding a bit of creaminess as well as a nice calcium boost is a bit of milk and reduced-fat cream cheese. I made a double batch to put away in the freezer for later this fall/winter when tomato soup and grilled cheese becomes a favorite weeknight staple around here.

I won't pretend to make promises about when I'll be back to post more, but hopefully it won't be too long...........I've got quite a backlog of recipes to share..............


  1. I'm just glad to see you back! :) I also have a plethora of tomatoes from my CSA - what do you do with them all. I've been stewing and freezing them. Any other recommendations?

  2. Sandy - Thanks. I'm planning to mostly make soups to have on hand for dinners this winter/fall. Soups and marinara are generally the fastest way to use up tomatoes that I've tried. My son suggested ketchup! At this point I don't have so many that I want to try that, but I'm sure it would use up tons of tomatoes. :)

  3. Late tomatoes are the story everywhere! I didn't have the fungus you had, but everything else you wrote I was nodding up and down at. While other things in the garden are looking anemic and worn, the tomato plants are still gorgeous and vibrant- and massive! I can only imagine what would happen if we had an extra month of growing time, as I have more blossoms showing up every day.

  4. Erika - Here's to hoping we both get a little more ripening time. You never know! I picked 7 more pounds today. :)