Harvesting delicious tomatoes from the Garden

It’s the time of the season to begin harvesting what you’ve worked so hard towards: beautiful, delicious, juicy tomatoes from the garden.  I’m like Goldilocks when it comes to a tomato I want one that’s “just right”. In my pursuit of the perfectly ripened tomato, I have learned an important lesson this year: don’t wait too long to pick them.  I’ve found that if you pick a tomato just as it is beginning to show color it will ripen to perfection on the kitchen counter.

The sugar content of tomatoes is set well before it starts to show color – so you’re not losing anything there by picking a little early.  On the Harvesting Tomatoescontrary if you leave them on the vine too long, they tend to get too mushy or cracked.  This is particularly true when rain is a constant factor. Or even worse eaten by something, like squirrels, birds or worms, before you get the chance.  Insects and other critters are more attracted to tomatoes once they fully ripen.

So, when you’re out in the garden scoping out the next tomato to be put in that salad or on that sandwich, don’t be prejudiced against those just starting to show color.  Once they sit off the vine a couple of days, you’ll be enjoying tomato bliss.

To water or not to water, that is the question

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Hey guys!  This is my first year gardening and I love watching my plants grow.  But with gardening comes MUCH to learn about watering.

And this is what I’ve learned this week…

Watering is as simple as giving the plant enough to drink when it wants it.  How do you know when it wants water? Basically a droopy plant is a sure sign that the water level has gone down too far for the plant to reach with its roots.  You need to water to raise the water level to where the active roots are spreading out.  You never want to keep water on all the roots, all the time.  The roots will grow deep to access the water that is just below them.  Deep roots are great for making the plant strong and able to feed itself, drink lots of water,and hold itself up.
If the roots always have access to water, they will not be able to “breathe” in the soil and may suffocate and drown. 

Watering for Containers

In containers, the same situation applies but you water more infrequently as water tends to stand in pots and take days to dry up.  Good drainage will prevent standing water. Watch for drooping in the leaves which will tell you when is the right time to give them a drink and check the weight of the pot overall for how much water may be in there already.  Yellowing of the top new growth is a sure sign of too much water as well. Using soaker hoses, sprinklers or watering cans help water the plant more softly and allows it to soak into the soil without running off.

Products which may be helpful:

Watering Cans for evenly distributed water

Colorful Watering Cans makes watering easy to control

Rain Gauge for water measurement

A rain gauge will tell you how much rainfall you have had

watering timer for setting a limit on water

Setting a timer is helpful to keep from overwatering

Checking pH for successful vegetable gardening.

Checking pH for Successful Vegetable Gardening

Soil pH in the vegetable garden

Checking your Soil pH in the vegetable garden

Checking the pH of your vegetable garden is one of the most important parts of growing a successful garden. Normally for grass and shrubs we don’t have to spend too much time worrying about pH levels, they are not that sensitive and will not show signs of distress from being a bit too far in either direction.  In the vegetable garden, it can make a very big difference and will actually prevent your plants from taking up nutrients which allow them to grow, sometimes stunting their growth or even killing young tender plants.

Soil Test Kit

These Soil Test Kits let you know if you need lime or gypsum added to your garden soil to correct your pH as well as the NPK content of your soil.

It is always a good idea to check your pH before you plant your garden and even better is to check it in the fall or early winter so you can add Lime or Gypsum to correct pH well before you plant anything.  Here is a great article on soil pH in the vegetable garden and best methods for correcting it.

Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC: Raising and Lowering the pH Levels of Your Soil

These simple test kits can help you to determine the pH of your garden beds and even how much to feed your plants. Tomatoes need to have the soil pH between 5.5-7.0 in order to produce good fruit. With these simple to use kits you can test your soil up to 10 times.

Compost is the best soil additive

Adding compost to your garden every season is really the best way to keep your soil pH in the neutral range.  If you can do it regularly, it will keep your soil happy and in the perfect range for your vegetable plants.

Lime and Gypsum what do they do?

These two products, Lime and Gypsum primarily, help you with correcting soil pH to bring it back to neutral.  Generally if you are in an area that gets lots of rainfall (or snowfall), your soil will eventually go more acidic over the years and require Lime to bring it back up, in dry climates, your soil will generally be more alkaline as years go by and will require Gypsum to flush the alkaline from the soil.

Lime and Gypsum

Lime and Gypsum are great for soil correction

Cherry Tomato recipe-Small fruit with powerful punch.

Why are there so many cherry type tomato varieties? They are great in any recipe but especially the one below!

Sugary cherry tomato

A cherry tomato sweet as sugar called Sugary!

Because they are so sweet, very easy to grow and so fast to mature, you can eat some every time you go out to the garden!   This one is called Sugary and we have 9 more varieties in our catalog for you to grow.  Sun Gold, one of the sweetest, is bright orange and so prolific!  You can even grow “mini” Roma types such as Juliet and Blush, best for holding up to cooking and are perfect for roasting or drying. Order our combo of tomato plants called Bowl of Cherries for a treat of 6 different varieties!

Here is a great recipe for a quick pasta with these lovely treats:

1 lb.  pasta such as Bow Ties, Penne or other fun shape
1 lb. cherry “Roma” type tomatoes, sliced in half
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 large leaves of Basil
1 cup of Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine ( the fresh little balls in water) drained or cut larger size pieces to bite size.
good extra virgin olive oil
Spinach, broccoli florets, asparagus, zucchini or any type of vegetable you like and have on hand.  Quick cook to just tender, fresh spinach can be added without cooking.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water cook your green vegetables until just tender, drain and set aside.  Bring water to a boil again and add pasta to cook according to package time.

Black Cherry Tomato

Black cherry has the flavor richness of larger Black tomatoes

While cooking pasta, mince garlic cloves and add to olive oil in a large skillet over low heat for 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, vegetables, basil, fresh ground pepper and sea or kosher salt and toss together gently until tomatoes just begin to get very hot and juices come out.

Add a large spoonful of pasta water and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes.  Drain pasta and add to skillet cooking a minute or two more.  Pour into a large pasta bowl along with the cheese balls and toss well.  Serve with Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top and good bread for soaking up the juices of those sweet tomatoes!

Fall Vegetable Gardening! Yes, fall!

Fall Vegetable Gardening!

Swiss Chard plantsHere at The Tasteful Garden we are always one season ahead of you and believe it or not, we are getting ready for Fall. We have selected our varieties and are seeding now to have plants ready for shipping during mid August through mid October.

We have also updated our Fall Vegetable Gardening page to give you tips on when to plant, what to plant and what to do with the plants you have in now. Continue reading

New Videos from Garden Fork

New videos are now available from our Growing Tips page which include some from our friends at Garden Fork. They make the most creative videos which feature their two Golden Labrador Retriever puppies that run all over the place. New topics include Mulching and Composting Leaves, Tomato Hornworms, Using Wall-O-Waters, and Japanese Beetles. These videos are informative and are fun to watch. Check them out on our Growing Tips page.


Gardening in Wintertime

This time of year many of us are under a foot of snow and can’t really do much in the garden but there are a few things we can all do. Composting is one of the easiest things to do this time of year since we eat so many vegetables and we also have lots of leaves around. Adding your leaves to a compost heap or basket, along with all those wonderful kitchen scraps, (don’t forget the eggshells and coffee grounds), will make for yummy spring loamy compost for your garden.

On warmer winter days you can actually get outside and do cleanup chores in the garden. Getting rid of any weeds and basic clean up of dead plants is a good start. Also working on building raised beds and pathways is a great chore for wintertime. All that hard work is much easier to do while the weather is cool.

Sitting by the fire drawing garden plans is my favorite wintertime chore and planning how much to grow of everything is so much fun and makes me want to cook soup! Tomato bisque with a little rosemary and garlic foccacia.

Tomato Bisque is made with homemade marinara sauce, pureed and add 1 cup half and half, heat over low heat to a simmer until hot and steamy.

Here is my recipe for Marinara which we made last summer and froze several containers.

5-6 cups tomatoes, cored, diced and seeds removed if you prefer
2-3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
fresh herbs, Basil, parsley, oregano or marjoram, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper flakes if you like heat

Add a little olive oil into a large skillet and add onion, cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add garlic and herbs and cook another minute or so. Add tomatoes with their juices and cook for about 20 minutes until tomatoes are soft and turn from light pink to deep red.

Tomato Selections for our 2009 Season!

Choosing tomato varieties for you is what we do best. We sort through the pages and pages of information about every tomato we can find and try to determine which ones are going to grow the best, most importantly taste the best, and make all that work worthwhile. Our new selections every year are limited to only about 8 varieties as we only drop that many every season. We evaluate each variety for not just what sells best (although that is important) but if we have disappointing results consistently with a tomato variety, we will replace it with something new.

Many of our varieties are so popular that we will never drop them…here are just a few.

Cherokee Purple

The best tomato we have ever tasted! This tomato will convince you to grow Heirloom varieties. They are from the Tennessee Cherokee Indians, discovered over 100 years ago and have a thin skin and soft texture. When fully ripened they have dark reddish-purple color, full acidity and a rich, old fashioned, sweet flavor. Make sure to mulch for best results and hold back on the watering. Our best results were during an 8 week drought with minimal drip watering. 80 days

Orange Russian 117

This is truly a WOW tomato which was a standout in our tomato testing this year. It is a bicolor heart-shaped tomato with smooth golden flesh marbled on the inside with streaks of red. A cross between Russian 117 and Georgia Streak this 1 to 2 lb.yellow-orange tomato has a pink blush, is very meaty with flavor that is well balanced, somewhat fruity in flavor and has very few seeds. 85 days.

Persimmon

Fantastic, huge, golden orange variety with fruits that range from 1 to 2 lbs and 5″ across! Rich color, meaty texture and good acid content make this a great selection which melts in your mouth. Has a wonderful fruity flavor and smooth flesh. 80 days

Green Zebra

One of our most popular tomatoes for its spectacular flavor, these beautiful small fruit start green with dark stripes and ripen to a yellow color keeping the green stripes. The amazing sweet and tart flavor makes this one great in Salsas and Salads. Plant early as it does not produce well in summer high temperatures 75 days

Pineapple

An old-fashioned, gorgeous, yellow heirloom with red-orange stripes, this plant will not produce a huge quantity of fruit but what you get is very sweet and extremely large, up to 2 lbs. Rich flavorful tomato that is the most amazing size and texture. These are great to eat sliced and have exceptional color and sweetness. 85-90 days

Box Car Willie

This old prolific heirloom variety is the best producer of red, smooth 10-16 oz. fruits. Don’t be thrown by the name because you won’t believe the incredible taste. Old fashioned flavor with high yields for an heirloom tomato is great variety for an all purpose kitchen tomato or delicious sliced on a sandwich! 80 days

Italian Sweet Beefsteak

Huge, luscious red beefsteak tomatoes on tall plants can grow up to 3 lb fruits! Potato leaf heirloom plants produce tomatoes with excellent sweet, juicy Italian flavor. 85 days

Rose de Berne

One of our very favorites! This is a delicious Swiss heirloom variety has beautiful quality, looks, and taste. They are pink skinned with deep rose colored flesh, round and uniform. Simply excellent flavor. Originally discovered in a market in Arles, France from a farmer growing a number of old tomato varieties. Very rich flavor, good acid and sweetness. 75 days

Brandywine

This is the most well known Heirloom variety for good reason. It has huge fruit with incredibly sweet flavor. It originates from the Amish in the late 1800’s. It is always a staple in our garden because it is so reliable. Starts out pinkish, and turns slowly red, and then slightly purplish as it ripens. Very large vines, they can grow up to 12 feet if the soil is kept somewhat cool with mulches. Ripens in 80-90 days

Arkansas Traveler

Also known as “Traveler” this Southern Heirloom variety is known for producing well in hot weather. Beautiful dark Pink tomatoes are 6-8 oz. and very flavorful and sweet. They are always a reliable producer of large bountiful crops even during the heat of summer. Late season 85 days

San Marzano (Redorta) Heirloom

This is an authentic Italian heirloom tomato used all over Italy for canning. We chose a variety from Tuscany, named for a mountain in Bergamo. Huge plum type tomatoes grow to 4 1/2″ long and 2″ across. They have a meaty texture and full acidic flavor along with excellent sugar content for the best sauces. 80 days

Mortgage Lifter

One of our most popular tomatoes, this old fashioned variety of well-shaped, large fruit has very few seeds and a fantastic meaty interior texture. This one is extremely sweet and delicious in tomato sandwiches. Many are over 2 lbs! 85-90 days

Thanksgiving is coming soon!

Don’t forget fresh herbs for Thanksgiving. Now is the time to stock up on Sage, Thyme, Oregano and Parsley for all those great recipes for the big meal of the year. Stuffing and dressing just can’t be the same without fresh herbs. Roasting the turkey with herbs under the skin is a wonderful way to add flavor. We always brine our turkey and include Thyme, Oregano and Sage. Our turkey is always moist when we soak it in a salt brine solution the night before Thanksgiving. Our recipe also has honey for a golden color and sweetness.

Mamaw’s dressing is always cornbread dressing with fresh sage and chicken stock (with the pieces of chicken cut up into it). Tradition is the best part of this wonderful food holiday.