Monday, July 11, 2011

Tomatoes and summer pickling

I have been waiting and waiting ... and waiting and waiting ... and waiting and waiting for those tomatoes to get ripe. I didn't realize how much of a tomato plant's life cycle is spent festooned with green tomatoes, none of which are remotely near getting ripe. But last week I saw a flush on one tomato, on Saturday I picked an almost-ripe one for a friend, and on Sunday we ate the first truly ripe tomato. I've picked four more since then!

These Cherokee Purples are pretty sweet, and not tart at all. That was a bit of a disappointment to me, because I like a bit of tartness in tomatoes. But they were still delicious, and John liked them too. They're big tomatoes -- good slicing, sandwich, caprese salad tomatoes. Next year I'll add some good sauce tomatoes to the mix.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes have green shoulders, even when they're ripe, and a pink-to-purple body.

My prize tomato, the biggest of them all, will be ripe soon:

I'm quite sure it's over a pound. Can't wait to get into it ... it will serve the whole family.

Speaking of which, the baby loved them too. Kept running back for another bite, and another bite, and another bite...

Whatever would I do without his help in the yard?

In other news, I've been doing a bit of lacto-fermentation again. Summer is really the ideal time to start, when the produce is coming in and there are fresh herbs to use. Lacto-fermented vegetables last a good six months in the fridge, so if you put up a lot, you can be eating your summer produce clear through Christmas. And they still taste fresh!

Last week I made this corn relish with some corn cobs that I didn't feel like eating just then, but would go bad otherwise. (When lacto-fermenting, it's really best to use the freshest produce you have. The results are much better. This time they turned out fine though!)

For the first time, I didn't have any whey, so I doubled the salt and also added some juice from last winter's kimchi. The home-grown cilantro from my garden is what really made it great. The baby ate a ton of it this morning, and even begged to drink the sour juice! I let him ... hey, it's better than sugary fruit juice. He claimed to like it and want more.

Here are some preserved lemons, leftovers from my birthday pie. Preserved lemons are the easiest thing ever. Just cut the lemons any way you like -- I sliced thinly, but many like to quarter them -- and add one tablespoon of salt per lemon. Squash them down a bit to release some juice, and top off with water. Leave out for a month.

You can see a black plastic lid in there ... I put that in to keep the lemons from floating up out of the brine. Anything that comes up over the brine is in danger of molding. So do what you have to do to keep everything submerged! A ziplock bag full of water or brine works fine too.

I have a gardening confession/tip. That is to say, if it was the right thing to do, it a tip. If it's totally disgusting, it's a confession.

Last month, someone gave me some basil and cilantro to transplant into my garden. I pulled up my (useless) Russian sage at the corner of my tomato bed and plopped the basil and cilantro into that space. (The Russian sage did survive, though I thought it wouldn't -- it now lives in a pot by my front porch.) I should have realized, though of course I didn't, that this wasn't going to work very well. The sage and the tomatoes had spent all spring depleting that soil, so it was very barren. They had deep roots, though, and were flourishing fine on the deeper soil. My new transplants, though, had barely any roots, comparatively speaking, and began to wilt after a few weeks. They were showing the characteristic paleness and yellowing of nitrogen deficiency.

I racked my brain for days trying to think of a cure I had available at home. What I really wanted was some organic fertilizer, maybe seaweed emulsion, available at the store ... but I have no car most of the time and couldn't get out to go get it. Besides, my garden goal is to spend as little as possible on my garden, because I'm doing it to save money, not just as a hobby. Especially when it's just a matter of a few herbs.

Manure would have been nice, and I found some sources on craigslist, but again, the lack of car constrained me. I didn't really want to wait for the weekend with them looking so poorly.

And then I thought of one nitrogen source everyone has. People, after all, use a lot of nitrogen. We go through it so much, we get rid of it all the time. Can you guess what I'm thinking of?

Yeah, I used the diaper rinse water. Normally I just dump the diapers in the wash, but this time I poured water over them first, diluted that water, and carefully poured it around the plants' roots.

Can you believe it? Those plants revived in a couple days and have been sending up luxuriant, dark green growth ever since. Amazing!

Now my only problem is to figure out how to keep my tomatoes from toppling over. They are getting pretty tall, and our soil turns to clay pudding when it rains. The tomato cages just don't seem to be enough. Each rainstorm, I have to go out and prop the tomatoes again. The beefsteaks, in particular, look very, very sad. Next year I'm building a better trellis!


Heather said...

Love the diaper water tip! If it works, then it's fine, I say. Cow manure really isn't much different than human ones, unless the human has eaten a lot of crap, which Marko hasn't, so I don't see a problem. =)

Tomatoes! Yay! Congrats! Me, I still am getting my tomatoes from the farmer's market since I haven't grown them yet.

Oh, for basil, a friend suggested blending 2 lbs strawberries with 10 or so basil leaves, a teaspoon of balsamic, and some ice water, then freezing with popsicle sticks. Really tasty! I should post those later today, actually.

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't know if you'll appreciate this comment, Sheila, but I just had to say that I'm watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes right now! =P

Someone Who Makes Every Plant She Waters Want to Die . . . Except That One Cactus

Sheila said...

Hahaha, Enbrethiel. That big tomato sure does look like the killer type. Except that we ate it in insalata caprese tonight.

I thought I had a black thumb, too, because I kill all the houseplants. But I barely water the tomatoes and they do fine. I'm sure they're not reaching the full potential they could get to with good soil, full sun, and the right amount of water, but they are giving me tomatoes and that's good enough for me!

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