right now

right now

Jul 20, 2012

Set It & Forget It Tomato Winners!

Yes, I have some tomato winners!  But first let's purge the events of the week, namely canning 70 lbs of tomatoes...

The currant tomatoes were squeezed and dried in the oven at 170º for most of the day.  If you have never squeezed your tomatoes before drying, do it!  It cuts your time significantly.  These were put into pint jars and kept in the fridge or freezer, they will last all winter and are perfect for sun dried tomato hummus or reconstituting and tossing with pasta or on top of pizzas in the winter.

The Romas were all oven roasted, skinned and pressure canned.  The Brandywines were stewed and pressure canned.  If you are wondering why I pressure can it's because it's easier - less water in the canner is easier to heat up, I have a glass top range... that's why :)  

All those tomatoes and they shrunk down to this!

Also pictured above are steam canned pickled jalapeños, the oven dried tomatoes on the left (uncapped so you can see them), and bell pepper strips ready for the freezer.  I can steam can the short jars in the pressure canner since I don't need a high water level for the little jars.

Now, lets talk about those tomatoes!

After a few years of trying out different varieties, I am finally ready to "officially" award permanent yearly bed space to 4 varieties of tomato!  I can wholeheartedly recommend these for any of my readers that garden in heat, humidity, have had blight issues, and wish to try raised bed gardening without watering.  

My specifics:  I am in a zone 7b/8 coastal climate with a 7-12 ft deep water table, I garden in raised beds filled with 100% compost that is about 4 years old and rarely fertilize or amend anymore, in short, I'm lazy.  Our summer temps average in the 90's with heat indexes common of +100, humidity is a constant companion here in the summer.  With that heat and humidity summer thunderstorms are not uncommon, and I have relied solely upon them this year to provide water, although we are in a drought this year it is not as bad as some others are experiencing.

And the Winners are...

The vines were a mess, almost ripped them out due to the yellowing and symptoms of disease that is running rampant in our area, BUT... once these started producing they were unstoppable, several pounds a week of tasty, meaty tomatoes perfect for canning.  Skins come off easily.

Nice, medium sized tomato, didn't crack as much as the larger heirlooms.  At first I thought they looked a little whitish/mealy (but not as bad as a grocery store tomato!) but the taste rivaled that of my Brandywines so I was sold quickly.  That texture makes them easy to slice and not as much to squeeze out as the big heirlooms for canning, almost a roma interior on a larger slicing tomato if that makes sense.  Highly resistant to disease in my garden and apparently insects too, since I have only found a few holes here and there, nothing like the massive bites regularly taken out of my big heirlooms.

Of course, the Brandywine

I'm still operating on a 5 year old Baker Creek seed packet, but these are readily available at the usual seed companies we all do business with.  I know many have issues getting these to produce many fruit but here they are the bulk of my canning.  4-6 plants of Brandywines will easily give me 100 -200 pounds of tomatoes each weighing between 1-2 lbs.  Hands down the most beautiful and tasty tomato for eating plain, and nothing beats a Brandywine sauce chili in the winter!  I'm sorry if you are one of the ones who live where these don't do well, but if you are ever in my area I'll load up your trunk :)


These are the little ones in the center of the photo above.  One word - awesome!  I ordered this one as a fun "something different" impulse buy.  These are tiny, blueberry sized bursts of happiness :)  We have 2 of these plants and they produce way more than we can consume, so one is plenty for both fresh eating and dried tomatoes to get you through winter.  I try to pick these daily and just leave them in a bowl on the counter, we grab handfuls as we walk by to snack on like peanuts.  When the bowl starts overflowing I squeeze and dry them in the oven for use in hummus and winter pizzas.  The flavor is INTENSE, very tomato-ey.  Although they are indeterminate, the leaves are small and these would do well in a container or basket I think, good to have near the door so you can pick them daily for a snack.

 So there you have it, my picks for permanent citizenship here in Tidewater Virginia!  If you hate watering the garden, try these!  I found the no watering thing to be difficult, but if you make a conscious effort to not go outside in the garden every day it's easier, ha!  If you go out there in the heat, you will feel sorry for them and water but if you are lazy like me and go harvest once a week and instead tell the plants how awesome they are for putting up with such nonsense I think you build up the plant's self-esteem and "I can do this" attitude... yep, time to go - I've obviously been spending too much time in the sun :)

Jul 17, 2012

Nuclear Test Site?

or is it my garden?

Brandywines over 2 lbs in 100º heat and no water?!

Haven't watered this year, haven't even had the energy to harvest in this heat, I haven't even been checking for insects or even stepped into my shed all year to fetch any amendments for the soil.  Hubs went out there last night and was gone for almost an hour, this is what he brought back:

That's 69.5 pounds of heirloom tomatoes on my table, along with another 7 pounds of bell peppers, jalapeños, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.

all these tomatoes were grown in just three 4x8 beds... that's just 96 sq ft!

God help me today.

 I'm gonna need a bigger boat canner.