Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

July 22nd, 2010


Summer's Bounty!

Otherwise known as YUM.  This is when all of that hard work* pays off.  In tomatoes, which to New Yorkers in the summer are like squishy red cash**.   And I get to go to my bedroom window, throw up the sash and just pick them.  So cool.  Time for eating tomatoes fresh off the vine or in one of thousands of delicious tomato based recipes.   I’ll include my favorite below – In fact this is what I had for lunch today, and yesterday, and the day before that.


3 Tomatoes

2 pinches NaCl (kosher/fleur de sel)


serves 1, prep time: 2 minutes

Pick 3 tomatoes.  Core and slice tomatoes, then arrange flat on plate.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt.  Eat with your fingers while standing over the sink.   Gloat about fabulous tomatoes.

Wonder if Gwyneth would post that one on Goop?  Still, it’s a killer recipe and its guaranteed not to heat up your kitchen.  Plus, it’s very rich in lycopene and all kinds of other good stuff.

Anyway, lets look at some more tomatoes.

All in a day's work

These are the tomatoes that used to be on the vines at the beginning of the post.  The littlest ones are Black Plums from that plant I bought at the farmer’s market in May.  They’re good but with a little less sweetness than the others, although they hold up to cooking very well indeed, and may be better in a sauce – none of them have made it that far yet, though.  The others a mix of patio tomatoes and early girls, and to be honest I cannot tell them apart at all, either by eating or by looking.  I mean the plants look really different, but the tomatoes?  Not exactly full of distinguishing characteristics.  Red, roundish, about 2.5 inches in diameter, little green hat.  I’m just saying that it would be hard to pick one out of a line-up.  But delicious just the same.  Bon Appétit!  (apparently channeling Julia Child today.  worrisome.)

* Ha! Okay, what I really mean is patience.  I mean, except for watering every day and fertilizing every other week, this took maybe 1 day to do.  Oh, except for that time I had to go to New Jersey to buy 25 lbs of manure.  People in your building do look at you a bit differently after that elevator ride.  Good times…

**This is so untrue that I fear charges of criminal insanity.  But also, some tomatoes are $6/lb at the farmer’s market.  So who’s crazy now?

June 24th, 2010

First Fruits

It’s June and the garden’s first produce is, well, being produced. It’s so exciting to see the first of the big orange zucchini blossoms or those beautiful clusters of yellow flowers on my tomato plants.

But in order to get the most bang for your buck, or in this case, the most fruit for your flower you need to make sure those flowers get pollinated. Does anyone remember the breakout pop hit “Reproduction” from the cinema classic Grease 2?  If so you’ll doubtless recall that it’s so important to put the pollen tube to work and make that stamen go berserk.  The T-Birds of the film had some interesting ideas on how to do that, but most gardeners just let nature take it’s course. Meaning: Bees.

However, if you live in a high rise apartment, or if your plants are indoor specimens, then bees are in pretty short supply*. So what I do instead is take a small soft brush, like an eyeshadow brush or a watercolor paint brush, and very gently swirl it around in each of the flowers, starting and ending with the same flower, in order to transfer pollen from one flower to the next. Kind of like a manual application of what bee does when it rolls around in all of those flowers. Then, instead of lovely flowers, you’ll get delicious fruits and veggies, which are also pleasing to the eye.

*I hope! We do not recommend an indoor apiary at UrbanEGadener.

May 4th, 2010

Sweet Heirloom Seduction

The farmers* market is a dangerous place this time of year, especially when an 80 degree day pops up and makes one think it is high summer rather than the start of spring.  One goes in search of perfect strawberries or tiny tender zucchini, but since it’s only the first of May, you find wonderful lettuce and rhubarb which are fantastic but do not slake the desire for veggie goodness.  But, the farmers(‘) market in spring also has starter plants, hordes of herbs, flats of flowers, and a whole bunch of veggie seedlings.  I bought another tomato plant.  I am crazy – I have no idea where I’m going to put all of these.   But this one is so neat – It’s a new kind for me, a Black Plum heirloom varietal.  Indeterminate.  Very exciting.  I will have plum tomatoes for soups and making tomato paste and … and eating!  Fleshy plum tomatoes… mmmm… Yes.

How can I be expected to resist?   What, you say “This type of vine could get to be over six feet tall.”  Bah!  I’m sure growing it in a container will keep it a bit smaller.  You say, “Standing on a ledge and leaning out of a 21st story window to pick  tomatoes sounds foolish.”  Okay, that’s a good point.  I didn’t think of that earlier.  You say, “What is the terminal velocity of a tomato?” Fear not – the tomato can fall no more than 2 stories, which means an impact velocity of about 12 m/s and it will release about 8 J** of energy when it stops falling, so that’s sorted at least.  I will have to work on my harvesting plan, though.

* The lack of apostrophe here caused an intense debate.  I want it to be farmers’ market, indicating that it is the market of many farmers.  My debating partner is fervent in the assertion that he doesn’t care very much, but it is probably the possessive of a singular farmer.   He also says that leaving out an apostrophe will cause mass confusion – I mean really, a market that sells farmers – absurd!  I choose to believe this was said in earnest because these things matter (damnit!), but must concede that the market is probably not always owned by the farmers but put on for them.  However, a google search demonstrates that the common usage is no apostrophe at all and also that people are pretty free with their apostrophes (I blame the greengrocers).  Also, I am not the only one to ask, and this answer is much better than this aside.  And my debating partner is wrong.

** Kind of like dropping a smallish water balloon on to the ground from head high.

April 29th, 2010

In search of tomatoes, part 2

Last year, I was much too lazy to get any seeds started in time for a tomato harvest much before October, so I had to resort to Home Depot bought patio tomato plants.   But this year is different!  I resolve to be ahead of the game and start my own tomatoes from seed:  Early Girl, Super Bush, Ace – they sound like super-heroes, and I’m hoping they’re super-bearers too.  With a little bit of luck I’ll be cursing them for over production by July!  Check out how they’re proceeding so far:

outside after transplant

I think they got a little zapped by the cold nights we’ve been having lately but they look okay-ish for now.

Growing plants from seed is so satisfying – you can see them grow from tiny two leaf sproutlings until they have leaves that are readily identifiable as actual tomatoes.  Plus, I feel like a Master Gardener when something actually grows.  It confirms to me that the laws of the universe are still in working order.  Science.  Plus, it’s not that hard.  You have to do very little to see actual result, all you need is time.  Laziness rewarded.

Under the jump for my guide to starting  tomato seeds.

April 27th, 2010

In search of tomatoes, part 1

In the spring, a young person’s mind turns to tomatoes.  That’s the conventional wisdom in my tiny corner of the world anyway.   When I can no longer endure another cardboard-flavored, rock-hard tomato from the grocery store, deli, or bodega, I start dreaming of planting seeds:  little vessels full of hope and flavor and other literary cliches.

an assortment

I live in an apartment in NYC, and I want to grow my own tomatoes (and maybe some other stuff, too.)  Clearly I am the type to tilt at windmills.   But why not?  I have sunny windows.  And I sort of have a large window ledge.  What could possibly go wrong?  (hush, I can hear you laughing)

But what kind? 10 minutes of google usage shows there are two major types of tomatoes: determinate (or bush type) and indeterminate (or vine type).  The GardenWeb forums, which are excellent resources for beginning gardeners (me) suggest that you can grow anything in a container provided it’s big enough.  Seed packets are not always entirely helpful, but I’ve found that Botanical Interests and Renee’s Garden seed packets have a ton of extra info.   But are all tomatoes really suitable?  Can you grow heirloom tomatoes with the same results as hybrid ones?  Are ones called Beefsteak or Big Boy really as easy to grow on a ledge as tiny grape or cherry tomatoes?  Let’s find out!

There are lots of constants in my experiment, so we can mess around pretty freely with varieties.   Bush varieties seem easier to grow on the face of it.  They tend to be smaller plants and are described as not requiring staking, which is great, but they set their fruit all at once and then stop producing.   So we’ll try a couple of those: Ace (an heirloom type!) that’s supposed to be good for canning (I have no idea how to do this) and eating (this I can handle) and Super Bush which have a fantastic name, and are supposed to be good for containers.

Then there are the indeterminate tomatoes: big ol’ vines.  They bear fruit throughout the season, but they get HUGE.  You definately have to stake them, but you should get a ton of fruit!  I picked Early Girl for the representative of this variety.  Mostly because I am very impatient and Early Girl tomatoes are suposed to yield fruit the fastest.    I’ve got 3 different staking options in mind, so I do hope they get big.  Actually, I just hope they grow.