“Mother, There Are Entirely Too Many Tomatoes in This Kitchen!”

…said my sixteen year old daughter one day last week as she was trying to get ready for school.

It was hard to argue when the counter looked like this…
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and then when she went to get some cereal she had to move this…

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I knew she had a point.

So I got busy, and started processing tomatoes.

The tomatoes in these green and orange bins came from my friend Betsey.

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Guess which opalka tomato Betsey and Ed grew?  Yes, the one on the left. Their compost must be incredible!  Ed gave me the plant that produced the puny tomato on the right that I grew, so it’s the same variety and batch of seedlings.

Anyway, I got busy and did some canning.

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Which was fun, but I’m still struggling a little.

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I did manage to can eight quarts of tomatoes, and I have plans to work on some apple butter this week.

It’s all about babysteps..
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Freezing tomatoes is definitely the easy way out so my freezer is quite full.

I just wash and dry them, put them in freezer bags and suck the extra air out with a straw before I seal the bag shut.

The skins come right off after they defrost for a few minutes. I also like to put them in the food processor, with skins, seeds and all, and puree them to  make tomato or pizza sauce. I cut them into pieces while still frozen for stir fry dishes, salsa and things like that.

Yes, that is Michael’s Dove bar to the left, clearly not mine 😉
IMG_9693On Saturday the frost forecast was looming so I picked as many green tomatoes as I could and decided to try storing some in newspaper to ripen.
IMG_9690I washed and dried them…
IMG_9699Wrapped each one in quarter sheets of newspaper.

IMG_9701And tucked them in a box, with the pinker tomatoes on top.

We’ll see how it goes.

Today’s project involves what to do with this guy…

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He weighs 2 or 3 pounds and looks just like a little pumpkin.

What do you think?

I’m going to have to force myself to cut him up later for dinner…

Or maybe I can carve a face, just like a real pumpkin.

This is Salem after all!

What did you do with your tomatoes this year?

Michele

A Few Thoughts About Growing Tomatoes From Seed

I’ve really gotten in to starting seeds this year. I have three varieties of tomatoes growing (Rutgers, Matina and Supersweet 100) and I think it’s safe to say that their doing quite well.  I spent a lot of time reading about seeds over the winter so I’ve approached the project from a different knowledge base this year.

I’ve made a few simple adjustments:

–I started the seeds on damp towels in sealed plastic bags and planted them in seed starting mix as soon as they germinated. This is one of my new favorite approaches with seeds of all kinds. When I visited my friend Betsey (the onion lady) in January she showed me that her husband often starts “harder to germinate” seeds in plastic bags. I’ve also experimented with forcing germination at work lately with great success. Betsey recommended a blog called Tomato Dirt  and as I read over their many tips for growing tomatoes from seed, I’ll be darned, this method was mentioned again. I tried it and the extra humidity got things going and before I knew it I had beautiful seedlings that had been transplanted into potting soil.

–I’ve kept the lights very close to the plants, about two inches above the tops of the seedlings. This keeps them from getting leggy and encourages them to grow stronger and sideways, rather than upward and spindly.

–I’ve brushed them gently with my hand once a day which also encourages a stronger, stockier plant.

–The lights are on a timer, twelve hours on, twelve hours off.

–I used one florescent bulb and one plant bulb in a regular shop light.

–I water from below encouraging strong root formation.

–I used seed starter containing vermiculite to encourage root formation.

–I talk to them, love them and spend time with them as I work on other projects.

I’d be growing well too if I were these tomatoes!

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Here they are today. I’m thinking about moving them away from the lights and up to my sunny office, maybe even into larger pots.

Are you growing tomatoes this year? How’s it going? Share your tips in the comments!

and of course, enjoy everything!

Michele

What’s Happening in the Garden-September 8

Good Morning! We’ve made it through the first three days of school here. That always feels like a huge accomplishment to me. All of my kids seem to be happy and settling in well in all of their new environments.  I think we’re off to a great start for the school year. Out in the garden things are still perking along. As much as I wanted to have a great fall garden going, our August activities took over and I didn’t get much planted. One of the things that I love about gardening is my hope and plan for next year. Next year there will be brussel sprouts at the very least! Since I just shared that with the world I’ll be feeling very accountable next summer and I’ll find those plants or grow some!

okay, so… here’s the potatoes. I’m waiting for that last plant to die back before we pull them out. Will there be potatoes?? We’ll find out soon!

The pumpkins are ready and just in time… see that dying foliage? I think the squash borer got to them but the pumpkins can be picked so we made it!

Here’s the other one. They really are beautiful!

I’m still picking tomatoes. Roma, roma, roma… really the best tomato to grow if you want to do lots of cooking with them.

More basil! I cut it back hard a month or so ago and now there’s more to freeze and dry.

And the mesclun is ready! I’ll try to add another little bed of this somewhere. If the temps stay warm we’ll have it for awhile!

Peppers are coming along. I never grow enough to really “process and preserve” them the way I’d like to but we’re enjoying them as we pick them.

I cut the oregano way back too. I’ll cut it before it flowers and dry it in the oven. I hope it turns out as nicely as my basil did in August.

Kentucky pole beans. I keep saying that they needed poles, poor things..

A little tiny foxglove peeking out. I love foxglove! It’s nice to see a hint of it in September.

The liatris that I planted are being eaten by bunnies. Enough said. 

This guy keeps an eye on everything.. 

Here’s a view in over the fence. Please notice my complete lack of perfection.  Will someone please pull out those cucumber plants on the left? Really!! It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, just loved and enjoyed.

And it is!  Off to a kid’s dentist appointment and then the first game of the season for my little guys’ soccer team. Go Tornados!!

Happy Saturday!  Love you all!

Michele

What’s Happening in the Garden — July 14th

July is kind of a funny month in the garden. It’s in-between in terms of blooming and beauty but it’s so hard at work!

I love watching things grow and change at this time of year.

Our potatoes are flowering! I didn’t know that potato flowers were this pretty.

I have to apologize for the less than clear shot, my camera focus has a mind of its own and this is what it was doing for potatoes this morning.

The Black-eyed Susan are ready to pop!

This is Scarlet Runner Bean climbing on the trellis. It’s ornamental and so pretty.

If you live locally give me a shout if you’d like some seeds for next year.

We have peppers!  There are lots of buds… I hope they make it! I’d better reign that cucumber vine in if I want that to happen.

The dill is ready for pickles. 

Here come some Kentucky Pole beans that I planted as the  peas were winding down.

I hope they make the little leap over to the fence/trellis and start climbing.

This Rosemary plant wintered over. We covered it with a bucket on the coldest days. I usually pot Rosemary up in November and bring it in. It makes it until the middle of January, then I forget to water it just once and it dies immediately.  I had the great pleasure of hearing Adelma Simms speak about herb gardening at Caprilands many years ago. I still remember her saying “a dry rosemary is a dead rosemary”.  I find that to be true almost every winter.

In the coop, the younger side of the chicken flock is still favoring the corner.

They do come forward to eat and drink and their all interacting a little bit more every day. It just takes time.

The tomatoes look happy!

Balloon flower is blooming… such a fun plant!

Kids really enjoy it.

The Liatris bulbs that I planted in June popped up.

They went in kind of late but I think we’ll see some blooms.

As I looked through these photos I saw one common denominator… can you guess what it was? Here’s a hint, there’s some weeding to do  🙂

Thanks for stopping in! Have a great weekend!

Michele

Zucchini Rotini

The zucchini is growing faster than we can eat it all ready.

Here’s a quick and simple dish that I made for dinner on Sunday. It was delicious!!

The Rotel tomatoes made it quite zippy. My family likes that but if yours is more conservative I’d suggest using fresh tomatoes, diced tomatoes or even the mild Rotel.

Michele’s Zucchini Rotini

1 Lb Rotini pasta

3 T butter

2 T Olive oil

2 T minced onion

1 pinch of sugar

1 t Garlic powder or 1 T chopped fresh garlic

1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips. I left the skin on half and pealed the other half so as not to overwhelm anyone with too much good nutrition

1 can of Rotel Tomatoes

1 handful of chopped basil

½ cup of half and half, or light or heavy cream

grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente. While pasta is cooking melt butter and olive oil together in skillet. Add onion and sugar and sauté until onion starts to brown. The sugar helps the onion to caramelize a little bit. Add the garlic and zucchini and sauté until it starts to soften. Add the can of tomatoes and the basil. Cook for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain cooked pasta.

Pour the zucchini sauce over the pasta, then stir in a little half and half (if your not worried about fat content go for the cream instead) just  to moisten the dish and add some extra dimension.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

What’s Happening in the Garden

It’s always fun to return after a good amount of time away from the garden to see the changes.

Here’s what we came home to this week after our twelve day road trip.

Our pot of potatoes took off!

The bee balm had bloomed

along with the lavender

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The cucumbers had come along nicely.

Maybe this will be a good year for cucumbers since I only planted a few?

The carrots needed  weeding and thinning asap.

There were plenty of peas for the 4th..

Did you know that in the state of Maine salmon and peas is the traditional Fourth of July dinner?

It was time to pinch back the basil!

And the zucchini had done it’s thing

along with the Roma tomatoes!

It really felt like magic to come back to this.

What are you growing?

How are things in your garden?

Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Michele

Sweet Peas, Veggies and Herbs!

First of all, thank you, thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions yesterday about what to do with the Green Monster! I’m newly energized and I’m  working hard on pulling that area together. I was feeling quite overwhelmed before I asked for your help.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share a photo of our progress soon. It’s such a shady, private spot. I love to sit there for a minute first thing in the morning or when we take a break during the day. It’s going to be a little oasis in our oasis.

Here’s an update on how things are going out in the garden this week:

The sweet peas are almost ready!

Here’s a beautiful post about sweet peas that  AmySue at A Healthy Life for Me wrote last week

http://ahealthylifeforme.com/2012/06/05/peas-peas-everywhere/

Her recipes and photos are wonderful!

The basil and tomatoes are coming along (notice that the bunny food/poop grass is still trying to surface). I decided to try  salt marsh hay as mulch this year to retain moisture and keep weeds and wilt away. We’ll see how it goes. I’d better get cages around those tomato plants soon.

I planted  few red cabbage plants in this  extra space and we’re enjoying the lettuce. Better get it while we can because lettuce is happiest in cool weather, once it gets hot it will bolt and be gone! The zucchini has settled in nicely and I planted a treat just beyond the lettuce… zinnias to cut and enjoy in August

Lemon balm, thyme and lavender…

And here’s our first purple coneflower blossom of the season! There will be many more to come..

It’s very rainy here  but it’s supposed to clear up over the next few days. Perfect weather for growing everything!

Thanks for stopping!

Enjoy Everything today!

Michele

A Little Glitch

A few days ago one of my cousins asked me to share some gardening failures. There are plenty and I started thinking about where to start with that post. Then Michael came in from the garden a few hours later and asked “what’s that growing in the basil and tomato plants?”   I went out there to look and found this beautiful sight:

Seriously? what is that popping up all over the bed?  I think it’s probably some grass from bunny food that had made it’s way into  the rabbit compost that I added before I planted these last weekend. I had to laugh because before I could even take a photo Michael had started digging it all out.  I’m going to add some straw mulch today after another round of weeding. That may help to keep the weeds down, moisture in and wilt away from the tomato plants. 

It happens, it’s okay, hang in there! It can be a long road but it’s so worth it in a month or so when we’re enjoying fresh tomatoes and pesto. There’s nothing else like that!  Have a wonderful day! Enjoy everything!