Clockwise from Top Left: 1. This is a view of half of one of the raised beds, situated about midway down the garden on the west side. This bed housed an assortment of crops last year, but this year it holds several determinate (bush) and dwarf tomato varieties that have quickly turned into a jungle of foliage, flowers, and now some fruit are on the way. The stake at the back is empty as that variety was mangled by the squirrels and has never recouped. I haven’t claimed the space for something else because I was so determined that it would bounce back. The poor thing is clinically dead and here I am still rooting it on.
There is a ‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant at the front of the bed (already full of adorable little fruit), and in front of the actual bed is peppermint and thyme. I have since planted a dwarf tomato variety in the open spot next to the thyme. It was floundering in its pot so I decided to give it some space in the ground. I’m completely out of pots now, and potting soil, too for that matter. I don’t suggest transplanting tomatoes once they’re making flowers (as mine was), but it can be done if you are careful not to disturb the roots.
…is ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate.’
In a surprise upset, this pretty little dwarf plant beat out the usual top competitors, ‘Whippersnapper’ and ‘Ditmarsher.’ It’s a true winner as I started the seeds at the same time and planted them out together, too. I am amazed.
Both of the other varieties have fruit that are VERY close to ripe so we should be enjoying them any day now.
Did you buy ‘Hahms Gelbe’ seed from me this year? How are your plants doing? Are they fruiting yet?
I’ve got tomatoes on the brain these days. Last weekend I had a table at Seedy Saturday at the Brickworks here in Toronto and the highlight was trading for some new tomato varieties. I walked away with at least ten new varieties feeling like a kid in a candy shop. That giddy feeling hasn’t worn off. I love tomatoes! The hard part comes next in deciding which to grow.
Later, when I got home from the event I took stock of my total tomato seed collection and was shocked to discover that I have collected over 130 varieties. I had never bothered to count before now. No wonder I have a harder and harder time narrowing down the list that will end up in the soil each year!
Last year was my best tomato season ever. By the time the hard frost hit we had harvested 110lbs of ripe fruit (NOT including cherry or currant varieties) plus another 30 or so pounds in green tomatoes. I don’t think I grew more plants than I have in the past as there were years when I was able to split the plants up between 3 gardens, and I recall one year just under a decade back when I was able to fit 16 plants into the community garden plot, plus the same on the roof. I think the windfall came down to even better, sunnier growing conditions and a really hot summer.
The tomato season is ending quickly. As of today, I don’t foresee many more ripe tomatoes coming off of the vine. I’ve had a good run: 110 lbs of ripe fruit in all! This was my first year weighing the harvest, so while I can’t make an accurate comparison to previous years, I think it is safe to say that it was my best year, ever.
It’s time now to focus on the unripe, green tomatoes. In an attempt to squeeze a few more ripe fruit from the harvest I’ve been nestling those that are nearly there inside paper bags. This sort of treatment isn’t exactly necessary, but with fruit flies still around, I find it easier to keep them off of the goods this way.
In my experience, not all green tomatoes will ripen by this method. The fruit that is really young and underdeveloped tends to go wrinkly and rot rather than ripening, so I reserve this process for the tomatoes that have a blush of colour and save the darker green fruit for eating fresh and preserving.
Eating & Preserving
My favourite way to eat green tomatoes straight off of the plant is batter fried. They are also delicious roasted in the oven. When it comes to preserving, my go-to is green tomato chutney. Everyone loves this condiment, and there is never a lack of friends available to take the surplus off of my hands. If you’re not interested in canning or only have a small batch to work with, you can cut the sugar (and some of the vinegar/acid) from my recipe and store it in the fridge short-term. My no-sugar added, short shelf-life, small-batch version is available in my first book, “You Grow Girl” (see page 154).
The concept is so simple I wish I had thought of it: take the throw-away tomato skins that are left-over in the preserving process and make them into something useful. Something other than compost.
With over 80 lbs of tomatoes (and counting) harvested from my garden this year, it is safe to say that I have been knee deep in canning these last weeks. While I am experienced and adept at canning tomatoes in many forms, I had never heard of drying the skins into a powder until I came upon it a few weeks back in Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.
Drying the skins is easy. Simply lay the wet skins out onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and slow dry in the oven at the lowest temperature setting until they are crisp. I recently ran out of parchment (and my Silpat is too big for our tiny oven. Long story) and used a paper bag cut open. That works in a pinch, too. You can do this in a dehydrator as well, but I put mine away recently and have been too lazy to lug it back out to test.
Once the skins are dry, grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. I have one exactly like this that is reserved for grinding herbs and spices only. A food processor will work, but it will turn out something more like tomato flakes than powder.
The result is a colourful and tangy flavouring that you can sprinkle on top of your meals. So far I’ve used it on breakfast eggs and in ricotta cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms. I’m sure I’ll discover more applications in the coming weeks as the possibilities seem nearly endless.