2016.08.27 Saturday.

Here are the before and after pix of my cherry tomato drying experiment. Instructions courtesy of Susan Mulvihill and her blog Susan’s in the Garden, specifically her page on Preserving the Harvest.

I don’t have a dehydrator, so I lined a baking pan with baking paper (not wax paper, I guess it is also called parchment paper) and put them in an oven overnight at the lowest temp — mine starts at 170 degrees. They were definitely dry by morning. As suggested, I put the dried tomatoes in a canning jar and am storing them in a dark stairwell pantry-like place.

Yesterday’s garden surprise was this scene:

A Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) sucking the juices of a fallen Brandywine Pink tomato.

2016.08.23 – fresh tomato salsa

2016.08.23 Tuesday.

Another nice summer day. I opened all the windows and started processing tomatoes. My hope is to find ways of preparing them with minimal cooking and preparation time (not to mention clean-up).

The first recipe I tried was tomato salsa, and it was/is a hit.

I started from this recipe: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Easy-Tomato-Salsa-Recipe-3829048 and made the following adjustments:

  • Instead of four large tomatoes, I used three ginormous tomatoes (all Cherokee Purple).
  • Instead of the juice of one lime, I used the juice of half a lime.
  • I used a little less cumin.
  • Did not add any salt.
  • Instead of cilantro, I used parsley, about six leafy sprigs, chopped.
  • Instead of a small white onion, I used about a third of a cup of diced Vidalia onion (a sweet onion — maybe that’s what was intended).

That maybe sounds like a lot of substitutions, but really it’s not much. I followed the other instructions.

After processing, because the tomatoes were so juicy, I strained some liquid out (which I drank!), and I also added more chopped sweet onion to make the salsa chunkier and crunchier.

It’s really good. Even my mom likes it (and, like Mikey, she hates everything). I will definitely be making this salsa again.

Next time I’ll use more than one jalapeno, or some combination of hot peppers to make it a little spicier. I might also try pureeing the peppers, spices, garlic, and herbs with a cup of tomatoes in the food processor first, and then add in the rest of the tomatoes, the lime juice, and the onions. Maybe also add in some diced bell pepper along with onions for more flavor and crunch. Also, I have to try it with different kinds of tomatoes.


2016.08.22 Monday.

A glorious day. For weeding. And vacuuming out the car. Hey, whatever gets you outside!

I focused on the imminent flowering of many mystery weeds. Like these:


I don’t know what they are, but the larger ones are easily five feet tall with one-inch stems. The stems are thick-walled and rigid, but hollow, and this plant does not ooze sticky milk when you cut the stem. It’s not in my European weed atlas (the only one I have). I have no idea what it is. But with all these buds, it sure looks dangerous.

Also pulled a bunch of spiny plants and plants that promise/threaten dandelion-type flowers. Here are two examples:

With a few nights of rain, everything is growing again. I picked another dozen tomatoes, a small bell pepper, and a couple of zucchini.




2016.08.20 Saturday.

This has become more of a trophy blog than a garden blog. Or perhaps a garden trophy blog. I’ve been focusing on the successes lately, but believe me, there have been failures as well. Mainly failures of omission or dereliction, that is, not getting to things soon enough. Like not netting the hazelnuts and ceding them all to the squirrels. Here are a few in pictures.

Letting weeds get away from me is the biggest problem. But not getting outside every day to harvest is another. Not dispatching the mushroom soil in a timely manner is resulting in some very interesting new plants, and I think I will regret letting these flower for so long.

Other problems this year include pests in the broccoli and cauliflower, mildew in the squash, overcrowding the beans, and giving up on pinching the tomatoes back. But these are annual, or should I say, perennial, problems. With me, at least.

Today, however, my biggest problem is what to do with all the bounty?



2016.08.18 Thursday.

Finally got some rain last night, which seemed to refresh the flora and fauna.

There’s a tree on the property line that had six empty cicada exoskeletons on it. They were loud today.

In other news, more Fourth of July tomatoes, another Brandywine tomato (reserved for tomorrow’s lunch with a friend), a few very small heads of broccoli, and a worm.

And no backyard scene is complete without a mourning dove on an overhead wire.



2016.08.16 Tuesday.

Yesterday I gave away ten tomatoes and two zucchinis to colleagues at the Delaware Translators and Interpreters Network monthly luncheon meeting. Today I gave away about 30 tomatoes and three giant zucchinis to the Claymont Food Closet, an affiliate of the Food Bank of Delaware. I love giving away fruits and vegetables to friends and neighbors, but another reason I plant extra is so I can give fresh produce to a food pantry or community kitchen a couple times a season.


Destined for the food pantry

It isn’t hard to give away when you have so much more about to ripen.

We had enough variey today to do the first tomato taste test dinner. Five varieties of tomato and a couple of fresh baked rolls from Big Sky Bakery, your cheese of choice, and  we’re ready to go.

The consensus is that the Brandywine was the best. Tart-sweet, could almost be a peach. This Cherokee Purple was pretty bland, slightly acidic. The Big Boy was good — if that’s all you can grow, it’s worth it for the real tomato taste. Fourth of July is more tart and I’m glad it’s a heavy producer. The cherry tomatoes are also tart, and I haven’t gotten tired of them yet even though I’ve eaten them every day for the past month. I’m no expert, as you can tell by my limited vocabulary, but growing my own has turned me into a tomato snob — I won’t buy them from the grocery store except maybe in the dead of February when I’ve forgotten what a real one tastes like.


2016.08.13 Saturday.

Starting with yesterday’s photo, zooming in to the Brandywine Pink:


Here’s a cross section of that tomato, a distinctive pattern of flesh and seeds:


Brandywine Pink heirloom tomato

What y’all might not realize is that this is a hyperlocal phenomenon. We live in the Brandywine Valley, in Brandywine Hundred (an administrative/tax subdivision, established in 1682), I went to Brandywine High School, etc., etc. So a Brandywine Pink grown from seed in my front yard is about as local as you can get. This iswas a good tomato!

Oh, and it was 99 degrees in the shade here today — just a minute before I took this picture (it dropped half a degree in the time it took me to run for the camera).DSCN3580


2016.08.12 Friday.

Now we’re talkin’.


  • 5 zucchini
  • Quart or so of cherry tomatoes
  • 6-8 Fourth of July tomatoes from the back yard
  • 2 Fourth of July tomatoes from the front yard (first two, shown on top)
  • 1 Brandywine Pink from front yard (not quite ripe)
  • First green bell pepper
  • One banana pepper, sweet long, smells wonderful

It is so hot. More than 90 degrees at 7 pm. Oppressive. Veggies like it.

And look: a watermelon! Came up from my compost mulch.



2016.08.09 Tuesday.


The unbearable lightness of bean.

Garden beans are still going strong, but because of the heat and humidity, I have not been harvesting regularly and so many have grown past their prime. At this big bulgy stage, the pods are too tough to eat, but they can be shelled and the inner seed can be steamed and eaten like peas. Or they can be left on the vine to ripen into seeds, which can be dried for planting or cooked as any other dried bean.

Unbearable? Maybe. But inedible? Definitely not.


2016.08.05 Friday.

Following up on two days ago, here’s what the dogwood transplants look like:

Like I said, twigs poked into the ground. Three of them stayed upright, but the fourth was floppy, so I have it held up with a stake.

Here’s today’s harvest and tonight’s dinner:

You can see that something was pecking at the tomatoes. One was half-eaten (did not bring that one in).

Another zucchini recipe: Cut a large zucchini squash into approximately 3 inch long sections and hollow each one out to form a cup (I used a grapefruit spoon). Place in greased/oiled baking dish. Preheat oven to about 400 F. Sautee diced onion, diced zucchini, diced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and herbs (e.g., basil, parsley, arugula, minced garlic if you like) in a separate pan. When vegetables are tender, spoon the mixture into the zucchini cups, reserving liquid. Top each cup with shredded parmesan. Toss the scooped-out insides of the zucchini in the baking dish as well (just because it’s delicious baked, plain). Bake uncovered about 40 minutes or until zucchini shells are tender enough to eat. After about 30 minutes, you could remove the baked insides of the zucchini and eat that while you wait for the rest to finish cooking.

Substitute anything for anything and adjust cooking time accordingly. For instance, add cooked rice or serve over rice; pour some tomato sauce in the baking dish and bake covered (it will cook faster covered); slice the cylinders to make round sections and use for pasta topping. It’s all good.


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