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Use Up Some of Those Cherry Tomatoes

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in recipes, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized |

Cherry tomatoesGot a Bumper Crop of Cherry Tomatoes? Try…..

Sweet Million, Sungold, Black Cherry… All it takes is a few cherry tomato plants and you will mostly likely be overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes.  No matter how wonderful it is to munch your way through the garden, how many can you really eat at one time?

There’s that time, early in the growing season when I’m feeling impatient and yearning for a ripe tomato.  Too soon for most of the heirlooms to come in, I know I can at least count on having cherry tomatoes to eat. But, that was then and this is now. We’re at the height of the season and the kitchen counter is completely covered in big, meaty tomatoes. I sell them, I give them away, I freeze and I can them.  I can’t make salsas, sauces and salads fast enough. And, that doesn’t even begin to take into account the cherries…

So, today I’ve decided to focus on how to use up a bowl or two of today’s cherry tomato harvest.  Roasting cherry tomatoes in a really low oven is one of the easiest ways to use them up and the result is an incredibly tasty and versatile addition to almost any recipe.   Roasting them today will make you really happy in the winter when you’re craving a hearty tomato sauce. Here’s how to roast cherry tomatoes (or plum tomatoes) to use immediately in a multitude of recipes or to save for a later date. Note that I haven’t specified any quantities. That’s because you can adapt this recipe for any quantity of tomatoes. As a starting point I can tell you that for 4 cups of tomatoes I used ¼ cup olive oil and 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
cloves of garlic, unpeeled
extra virgin olive oil
chopped fresh thyme

kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 225°F.  Cut each cherry tomato in half crosswise or plum tomato lengthwise. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Place the unpeeled cloves of garlic around the tomatoes. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle with thyme and pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. The tomatoes will shrivel and dry out a bit, but some juice will remain..

Use the roasted tomatoes immediately or let them cool to use later.  If storing them in the refrigerator, cover them with some extra olive oil.  Your oven roasted tomatoes can also be frozen in airtight containers.

Now, here’s another recipe for a cherry tomato dish that I know you’ll love.  I made this one for dinner last night and it was really tasty.  I put the leftovers in the refrigerator over night and it’s even better. There’s not a bite left.

Herbed Cherry Tomatoes

 Ingredients

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
4 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan large enough to hold all the tomatoes in one layer. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over a medium heat for just a minute.  You don’t want the garlic to brown but to soften slightly. Canvases, finishing & tomatoes 048

Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to pop. Remove the pan from the heat when several of the tomatoes have popped and serve hot or at room temperature.

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Foliar Feeding for Tomato Plants

Posted by on Jun 4, 2013 in gardening, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized |

Garden shots May 29 011What is foliar feeding and why do you need to do it?

Simply put,  foliar feeding is feeding the leaves.  So,  if you fertilize the roots of the plant why do you need to feed the leaves?  Because feeding the leaves is another really great way to improve the health of your plants and provide sustenance.  That’s especially important when it appears that there’s something amiss with a plant.  Perhaps the vascular system has been compromised and it’s not able to take up nutrition.  Foliar feeding just may provide enough nutrients to get the plant back on track.

yellow flowersI foliar feed my tomato plants four times during the growing season.  This is in addition to the feeding that is done at the soil.  The first foliar feed is when the yellow flowers first appear and the second is when fruit starts to form.  One month later I give the third application and the fourth is one month after that.

Sometimes I use the compost from my worm bin to make a compost tea to feed the plants. Worm tea is the liquid concentrate of worm compost. Ideally, it is full of minerals and microbacteria that is incredibly valuable for your plants.  The tea is created by brewing the compost in water and using a pump or stirring rapidly to aerate it.  But that’s a lot of work and I’m not ever sure it’s as nutrient rich as I would like it to be.  I often tell myself, my compost is only as good as what I put into it.  And, I always worry that my worms get too many strawberries and not enough spinach.

It’s important to note that the liquid drainage that collects at the bottom of the worm bin is not compost tea. It’s actually liquid that leaches out of undigested food waste, and it can actually be toxic to your plants.

Bu's Brew Biodynamic Compost TeaI love to use the Compost Tea Bags from Malibu Brew for my foliar feeding. It’s a biodynamic compost tea made from dairy cow manure from dairy cows which has very unique properties that make it even more powerful than chicken or steer manure or bat guano.  Malibu Brew Compost Tea is really easy to make and easy to use.  I put one of the teabags into a bucket of water (2.5 gallons) and let it sit overnight.  In the morning I give it a really good stir and then stir it the other way.  Then, I pour it into a garden sprayer and lightly spray the tea over the foliage. The leaves will be refreshed and revitalized.

In case you’re wondering,  foliar feeding isn’t just for tomatoes.  Go to town and spray your entire garden.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

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When is the Right Time to Plant Tomatoes?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in gardening, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized |

Knowing the right time to plant tomatoes depends on your soil temperature.

 

I’m getting lots of phone calls and emails from anxious gardeners and tomato growers wondering if it’s time to plant tomatoes yet?  The answer is…it depends!

Where are you growing? What’s your average nighttime temperature?  Have you thought about taking the temperature of your garden soil? Soil temperature is the key to deciding when to plant tomatoes.  The soil must consistently be 55 degrees or higher for tomatoes to thrive.  My general rule of thumb for tomato growers in Southern California is to wait until the end of the  third week in March. Then, check your soil temperature (I use a meat thermometer!)  If it’s still too cold, give it another week.

If you’ve purchased tomato seedlings but it’s still too cold at night for them to be planted outdoors, let them enjoy the sunshine during the day. Be sure to keep them somewhat protected from the elements and give them a feeding of diluted liquid fertilizer once a week.  Bring them in at night, putting them somewhere away from drafts or the furnace.

tomato seedlings

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Did You Start Your Tomato Seeds Yet?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in gardening, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized |

An Update about Tomato Seeds….

Did you start your tomato seeds yet? If not, you still have time but not time to waste. Tomato Sseds that you start now should be ready to plant outside in 6 – 8 weeks.  That sounds like perfect timing, especially if your climate will allow you to begin planting in the next couple of weeks. Spreading out your planting means you’ll be harvesting tomatoes for a longer period and that sounds really good to me!

When your tomato seedlings first emerge they’ll have two tiny leaves called cotyledon.  In just a short amount of time they will develop a second set of leaves, called “true leaves”.  Begin feeding once a week with diluted liquid organic fertilizer.

tomato seedling cotyledon

 

tomato seedling with true leaves

When seedlings are about 1 ½” tall they are ready to be potted up into 4″ containers with organic potting soil. (This will be in about 30 days.)

tomato seedlings

You”ll need to “harden off” the seedlings before moving them outdoors. Start the process by moving the seedlings outside for a few hours every morning. Pick a spot where they get a few hours of gentle sunlight and are sheltered from the worst weather extremes (eastern exposures are great). Don’t take them outside if temperatures threaten to drop much below 60ºF or if rain is imminent. After a few hours, move them back inside. Extend their time outside a few hours at a time over the next two weeks. At the same time, gradually increase their exposure to full sun and the elements. It’s not uncommon at this stage to find your seedlings bending over as they adjust to harsher conditions outside. If they start looking sad, reduce the time outside or stake them up with bamboo skewers.

Transplant outside when day time temperatures are consistently between 70-75 degrees and night time doesn’t dip below 55.

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Meeting John Valentino of “John & Bob’s” – A “Dirty” Tale…

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in gardening, Uncategorized |

John Valentino, of “John & Bob’s Grow Green Smart Soil Solutions, and I met for a chat about….dirt!

 

Online relationships can be tricky and often misleading.  I’ve had an internet friendship with a man for several years. John always seemed friendly and cheerful.  I thought he seemed genuinely interested and committed to our friendship because he always replied to my emails quickly and with enthusiasm.  Our conversations often focused on our mutual interest, a passion for gardening.

From time to time we toyed with the idea of getting together to meet in person. We don’t live near each other so it just never seemed to work out. And so it continued, status quo.

Now, if you’re thinking this story doesn’t belong on a gardening blog because it’s going to get very dirty…well, it is. But, not the kind of dirty you might be expecting.  Read on.

As I said, John and I share a passion for gardening.  To say I have a “thing” for tomatoes is putting it mildly.  And, as crazy as I am about growing tomatoes, that’s John when he’s talking about dirt. But, don’t call it that.  It’s soil.  And, if he has anything to say about it, it’s healthy, vibrant, living soil that supports life from the microscopic fungi and protozoa to my eight-foot tall tomato plants.

John & Bob's rich, nutrient-filled soil

John & Bob’s rich, nutrient filled soil

 

As luck would have it, John and I did finally meet in January. He was an exhibitor at a local trade show so I drove over to meet him. I was beyond excited. I envisioned sitting down with this carefree guy, dressed in soiled jeans and work boots, chatting up a storm about all of our favorite tomatoes and the most delicious ways to enjoy them. I was thrilled to meet and have some face time with someone who plays such a huge part in my gardening success. You see, John is one half of John & Bob’s Grow Green Smart Soil Solutions.  I’ve been using their “stuff ” (as John refers to it) for years in my gardens and the results are outstanding!

John & Bob

John’s on the right.

So, that’s where the fantasy ended.  The effervescent exchange that I imagined didn’t materialize.  I arrived at our meeting location a few minutes early so I could stop by the ladies room before we met.  Of course, John was already awaiting my arrival, early and ready to get down to business.  He greeted me with a slight smile, dressed in perfectly pressed khakis and a crisp button down shirt.  This was not going to be the warm, fuzzy tomato talk I expected.  Without making my pit stop, John walked briskly and directed me to the John and Bob’s display booth.  I had trouble keeping up with my shorter stride.  John didn’t care.  He was a man on a mission.

John had something he had to show me.  To John, it wasn’t enough that I love, swear by and practically insist that my students use his products to grow great vegetables. John is a science and numbers guy.  I appreciated that he patiently explained to the importance of mycorrhizae (I can’t even say that) and the difference between the bad and beneficial nematodes.

Soil food web John & Bob's

 

More than that, though, he wanted me to see charts,  photographs and cost comparisons to further prove that the beneficial bacteria, fungi and protozoa that make up John and Bob’s product line make a huge difference in the overall health and production of  every garden and at a very reasonable cost.   My cursory glance and nod of acceptance wasn’t enough.  Look again, John insisted.  He showed me the impressive results of their field tests using the four John & Bob’s products, Optimize, Nourish/Bio-Sol, Maximize and Penetrate, at a residential garden, a university campus and a community hospital.  Yes, the landscaping looked spectacular. But John needed to be sure I saw the part about the cost of using his products in each situation compared to using bulk soil amendments.  It wasn’t just about the cost of the products, either. It was about the amount of time and labor (and cost of labor) involved in using the products.

You know how they say you have to hear something eight times to remember it?  Well, it might have been seven or it might have been ten times, but after saying it and showing me so many times, I got it!  I already knew that John’s products worked great.  I knew that I didn’t have to throw out my back to use it or pay an arm and a leg to get someone else to use it.  What I finally understood, though, was that ounce per ounce, John and Bob’s goes so much further than any other amendment I might use, that I’m actually using less product and I’m spending a lot less money!

John and I haven’t spoken since that meeting last month, but we have emailed a few times.  I had some questions about using John & Bob’s with  my seed starting mixture and he promptly and thoroughly answered my queries.  Yes, his stuff goes in right at the beginning.

It’s a safe and familiar relationship and it’s comforting, too.  I know if I need some info about making my garden beds even better, John will be right there for me.  Not the kind of dirt you might have expected, but just the kind of dirt this gardener needs.

 

You might also enjoy:

Laura Taylor in the Home Garden Reviews John and Bob’s

According to John: She’s A Little Odd!

Video: Amazing Tomato Comparison!

Laura Taylor Video - Tomatoes

 

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