Sunday, August 23, 2009

Garden Journal 8/23/09:
The First Tomato of the Year Is Finally Ripe!

Swaddled in a Bed of Fresh Basil (the biggest success in the garden this year)

Realization of the Day:
It's always a good idea to download your photo and check to see if it's in focus before gobbling up the subject in a fit of uncontrollable excitement.

When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs, our neighbor across the street always planted a big backyard vegetable garden, which we were sometimes called upon to water while he and his family took their summer vacation. A few years ago my foodie mom (aka Queen of the 100% Whole Grain Bran Muffins) and I were talking about ripening tomatoes in the garden, and she said, "Well you know what Mr. C. always used to say, don't you? That his first tomatoes were always ripe on August 1st. 'It doesn't matter when I plant them, it's always August 1st,' he'd tell me. 'I can plant my tomatoes on the last day of July, and I'll still have ripe tomatoes on August 1st.'" This cracked me up.

The 20th of August is definitely a ripe tomato record for me—I've never had to wait this long, and for just one tomato at that. And I thought last year's handful of ripe cherry tomatoes picked on August 17th was pathetic. But considering that my sorry little seedlings didn't go into the ground until June 17th, it's really not that bad.

I can't remember what variety this is (why does it seem like I make the most detailed notes about the plants that end up dying?), but I do know it's my favorite kind—ready to eat. Of course it was delicious.

For various reasons, most of my tomato plants have not been doing all that well, but I do have quite a few green tomatoes in various shapes and sizes out on the vines. Despite it being the end of August (and a blissfully invigorating 50 degrees this morning!), I'm hopeful; last summer I was harvesting ripe tomatoes into October.

Strange spring and summer weather has meant a bad year for both commercial and backyard tomato crops across the country, and then there are all the plants decimated by blight. My friend Jen at FarmAid (a fabulous organization whose annual fundraising concert is being held in St. Louis this year!) told me last month that her CSA farm was getting ready to pull up 4,000 tomato plants because of blight. Closer to home, my Amish neighbor said his first early tomato planting basically flooded from all our spring rain (which was very nice in some ways but terrible in others). Fortunately his later plantings did better (though not nearly as well as last year), and I've been getting my ripe tomato fix from his front yard produce stand.

Fast Farm Summer Food—Perfect for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

One of my favorite ways to celebrate summer's tomato bounty is by making BLTs. We had the first ones of the season for dinner last week (on freshly baked Farmhouse White of course), and they were so good we had them again for dinner the next night. I've always loved cream cheese and tomato sandwiches, which I ate on toasted English muffins when I was a kid and on homemade crusty baguettes now. The best cream cheese and tomato sandwiches I've ever eaten were the little ones I made with Italian Olive Cheek Rolls from Daniel Leader's wonderful book, Local Breads, but the open-faced sandwich pictured above on toasted slices of Honey Bran Whole Wheat was pretty darn wonderful, too.

So how are your tomatoes doing this year? Any new favorites? What about failures? And don't forget to tell us where you're located!

Do you have an abundance of ripe tomatoes in your garden? (Oh, I remember those years well!) Here are some of my most popular tomato recipes you might enjoy:
Homemade Tomato Vegetable Juice
Quick & Easy Gazpacho
Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip (and Factory Tours)
Savory Tomato Pesto Pie with an Easy Biscuit Crust
Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Tomato Pesto Pizza, My Basil Pesto Recipe, & A Simple Tomato Salad
Three No-Cook Summer Recipes: Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, Easy Vegetarian Tacos, & High Kickin' Tomato Dressing
Cream Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches On Italian Black Olive Cheeks
The Easiest Greek Salad Ever
My Seven Second Tomato Glut Solution
Saving the Harvest with No Sugar Green Tomato Relish
How to Freeze Tomatoes the Really Easy Way

© 2009, the slowly ripening foodie farm blog where anticipation doesn't just apply to ketchup.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Journal 8/14/09: Relaxing Retro Style in the Garden and Cooking It Up in the Kitchen

At Least Farm Boss Patchy Cat Hasn't Taken Over My New Chair Yet

Realization of the Day:
It's the weekend! Time to sit back and ignore the work and the weeds.

In between hanging out in my fun new chair this weekend (even though we technically don't have weekends on the farm, since Saturday and Sunday are just the same as any other day to the animals), I'm planning to start some brussels sprouts seeds in containers (I've never grown them before—it might be too late for a fall crop, might not, we'll see) and finally put some poor neglected thyme plants I bought last spring into pots. And there's a ton of weeding to do of course. Oh how the weeds have thrived with the (otherwise) wonderful rain we've had this year.

There's not a whole lot to be harvested in the garden right now, but I need to get out there and pick lots and lots of green and purple basil (leaving the snipped plants in the ground so they'll reward me with another harvest or two, like I demonstrated in this post) for my favorite lowfat but still delicious basil pesto which I'll freeze so we can enjoy it all winter long.

Tomorrow night we'll be celebrating summer with the first BLTs of the season—thanks to the juicy heirloom tomatoes I bought from our Amish neighbors, since I don't have a single ripe tomato yet!—on toasted slices of freshly baked Farmhouse White Bread. I see a pesto pizza with fresh tomatoes in our near future, too.

There's some beautiful Swiss chard still growing in the greenhouse (along with several tiny volunteer seedlings—it's so easy to grow Swiss chard from seed) and a couple small heads of cabbage from my Amish vegetable connection in the fridge, so hopefully there will be time to mix up some Swiss Chard Tuna Salad, Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Broccoli Stems & Cottage Cheese, and/or a platter of Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw Tacos with High Kickin' Creamy Tomato Dressing.

And for dessert? If I don't get around to baking the Just Peachy version (Missouri peaches are here!) of my Easier than They Look Blueberry Breakfast Bars I've been craving (both fresh and frozen blueberries work great for these), there's always that hunk of Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake I found hiding in the freezer the other day.

I think I'd better move my retro relaxing chair into the kitchen!

What are you eating—or preserving—from the garden, farmers' market, or your CSA box this weekend?

© Copyright 2009, the the surrounded by vintage treasures indoors and out foodie farm blog where I've always adored these classic motel chairs and was thrilled to score this new version—in one of my favorite colors—for the beat up and battered display model price of just ten bucks.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Garden Photo Journal: Wordless Wednesday

© Copyright 2009, the sometimes silent foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories, photos, and recipes from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.