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2018 Garden: Where the Heck are My Tomatoes?

17. September 2018

Well, this has NOT been a banner year for my garden. At least when it comes to tomatoes. We’ve had many wet days which don’t fair well for tomatoes. My plants have suffered from blight and cracking. Not to mention the fact that I got them in late, so my overall harvest will be short before the days get cold.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Heirloom Tomatoes

From top left to right: 
Top row: Black Krim, Sungold Cherry tomatoes with White Tomesol, White Tomesol
Middle Row: Heirloom mix, Goldman’s Italian-American, Dark Galaxy
Bottom row: Dark Galaxy, Heirloom mix, Sungold Cherry tomatoes


I planted three new heirloom tomatoes this season. My White Tomesol tomatoes were yellow and not white. I’ve seen photos of this fruit that are completely white and others that are a pale yellow. The two plants I grew provided slightly different colored tomatoes (see the photo below for comparison). Some were more yellow and others were a lighter cream. It's always interesting growing non-red 'maters! This one tastes a little more acidic than sweet though, so I’m not sure if I’ll grow it again. The plants put out a decent number of fruits. Most tomatoes were smaller, only slightly bigger than a golf ball. Due to the wet weather, nearly all of these were cracked open. Other varieties I planted held up much better than this one.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Heirloom Tomatoes

 

Dark Galaxy tomatoes are stunning! I'm nicknaming this "The World's Sexiest Tomato.” The tomatoes start out black and green, then turn red with orange splotches once ripened. How neat-o is that? My plants produced smaller tomatoes, but there were a decent amount of them. This tomato is good for slicing and roasting. I’ll most likely plant this one again since it was more prolific. And dang, it's pretty, right?

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Dark Galaxy Tomato

I planted a great paste-type tomato called Goldman's Italian American. This is the BIGGEST tomato I've ever grown. One tomato was a little over 1 pound.  I'm pretty happy with this variety. It's all meat, yo! The downside was that one plant only produced THREE tomatoes. The other plant withered and did squat. I’m always intrigued by the varieties that claim to produce whopping 5 pound tomatoes. But I’d rather have a plant that produces lots of small tomatoes as opposed to one that just spurts out a few big ones. I feel like I get more bang for my buck that way. 

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Goldman's Italian-American Heirloom Tomato

 

I also planted my all-time favorite tomato called Black Krim. It’s a variety that always does well in my garden. It withstood the blight better than the other varieties. Some of the Krims had minor scarring, but they didn’t crack bad like the White Tomesol variety. The few that did crack did so in an epic and amusing way! Despite the name, this isn’t a dark purple or dark black tomato. It’s a dark blended green and red color. It’s great for slicing or canning.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Black Krim Heirloom tomatoes

Attaaaaack of the Killer Tomatoes!!!!


Sungold cherry tomatoes are hardcore producers. I suppose most cherry tomatoes are. But this is the best variety of cherry tomatoes I’ve ever grown. I‘ve been roasting them and making small batches of tomato jam with them. Usually I have about 1,000 volunteer cherry tomato plants in the following year’s garden. If you grow cherry tomatoes, you know that’s just how it goes!

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Canned Heirloom Tomatoes
I’ve put up nine quarts of diced tomatoes and a few frozen bags. My garden didn’t produce enough fruit on its own though. I had to supplement with farmer’s market tomatoes. Nine quarts of tomatoes is a pretty piddly haul and won’t last long. Two small batches of tomato jam are also stowed in the freezer. I also made a batch of roasted sauce for spaghetti. It’s a quick and easy way to make something without having to peel tomatoes. I even got rid of handfuls of cherry tomatoes too. The tomatoes were roasted with basil, onions, garlic, sugar and spices for a few hours at 325˚. Then I used an immersion blender to puree it into sauce.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Roasted Tomatoes
I skin my stewed tomatoes by dunking them in hot water, then blanching them in cold water. The skins slide right off, usually straight into the compost. A friend told me she dehydrates her skins to make tomato powder. I’m all for using parts of fruits and veggies that normally get tossed. So I thought I’d give it a try. I don’t have a very fancy dehydrator. In fact, my dehydrator is 25 years old. Seriously. Now that doesn’t mean it’s bad. But I’m not sure how efficient or effective it was. It took about 14 hours to dry thin tomato skins. That seems like a tremendously long time. I do not want to think about how much electricity was used. I haven’t blended the dried skins yet. I have however been marveling at how they look like pretty stained glass windows. Once I blend the skins, it will probably amount to a few tablespoons of tomato powder. I’m not sure if it will be worth it or not. But it was worth a try. And right after I dried the skins, I came across this recipe for tomato skin togarashi. This seasoning condiment sounds like a great way to use dried tomato skins.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Dehydrated Tomato Skins

I harvested all of my carrots last month and planted a fall crop. I’m off to a bad start with the second crop though. My carrot container is on my porch surrounded by sunflowers. The squirrels have been wreaking havoc on the sunflowers daily. Every morning my crate has been torpedoed by flower bits. Carrot seedlings have been trampled and also chewed on.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Growing Carrots in a Container

I’ve resowed carrots a number of times now. This is my first time planting fall carrots, so I’m not sure if I got them in too late or not. The Cosmic Purple carrots were a winner in this spring’s garden. The flesh is the traditional orange and yellow, but the outer skin is a bright red hue. Once you scrub them up, some of the red skin washes off to reveal the orange core. They are psychedelic looking veggies.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Cosmic Purple Carrots

Most of the Cosmic Purple carrots had orange cores with a lighter center. But I had a few oddballs that had yellow cores with a purple ring. 

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Cosmic Purple carrots

I made a batch of spicy pickled carrots. The recipe is from Can It & Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow. If you aren’t familiar with Stephanie, check her out on Instagram. She also just published a second recipe book using Weck canning jars. This is my first time pickling carrots. The are seasoned with red pepper flakes, mustard seed, and garlic. They need to sit about a month to pickle before I pop a jar open. The farmer’s market gingham canning labels are available in our shop to purchase. These labels print with your text and color choice. I’ve been mixing and matching colors for all my canned goods this year.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Pickled Carrots

I grew a pumpkin called Kakai specifically to harvest pepitas (hulless pumpkin seeds). You know, those little green gems of goodness! I didn't realize until recently that there were specific pumpkins that had pepitas. Hulless pumpkins varieties have seeds without the hard outer shell. The squash vine borers killed my plants, as expected. But I did manage to harvest six pumpkins. So this was a semi-success. These are smallish, yellow-orange pumpkins mottled with green. 

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Kakai Pumpkins

Once I harvested the pumpkins, the green faded away after a few weeks. I wasn't expecting that!

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Kakai Pumpkins

So far I’ve only harvested pepitas from one pumpkin. It was a very small pumpkin, but I got about a half cup of pepitas out of it. Not bad! I have not done anything with the flesh yet. Honestly, I have never cooked with fresh pumpkin before. This variety isn’t known for good flesh, but they are supposed to be better than other hulless pumpkins.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Kakai Pumpkins Pepitas

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Kakai Hulless Pumpkins Pepitas

This was my first year growing pole beans. I was excited by the idea that I wouldn’t have to bend over to pick beans. That turned out to be a myth. There’s still been plenty of bending over, although not as much as with bush beans I’m sure. I have several complaints about pole beans. For starters, THE STRINGS!!! I feel like I’m eating my hair. I do my best to pull the strings out, but a few get left behind. The other thing I dislike about harvesting pole beans is the hunt. I have to dig through tangles of vine to find them. Handfuls often get missed, so then they just end up more stringy. I much prefer bush beans, but I'm glad I gave pole beans a shot.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Pole Beans

My trellises weren’t heavy duty enough for pole beans either. They leaned and one even fell over. I misjudged how heavy they would be. The three varieties I planted were Rattlesnake Pole BeansKentucky Wonder Pole Beans (Old Homestead), and Purple Podded Pole Beans. Of the three, the purple podded were the best. They are a flat bean with only a thin string. So they were the most palatable. But speaking of pallets, mine isn’t the most refined. All green beans have the same flavor to me. Texturally, there are differences though. The Kentucky Wonder beans were tough and had thick strings even when picked young. 

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Purple Podded Pole Beans

The rattlesnake beans were pretty, but also stringy. Many of my rattlesnake beans lacked the beautiful splotchy colors. Most of them only had a tiny amount of coloring. That’s ok though. All that prettiness disappears once cooked.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Rattlesnake Pole Beans

 

When I was a kid, my grandpap used to grow giant celosia cockscomb flowers. He called them Rooster Heads. I’m not sure if that was a specific variety or just something he coined due to their appearance. I wanted to grow them because they look like brains. Seriously, they look like brains, right?! I also grew them because these types of flowers are carefree. I don’t like to water stuff folks. The seed packet photo and description for Tornado Red Cockscomb were misleading. It indicated that the flowers would get huge. The largest one is about the size of my hand. They are still neat looking.

CanningCrafts garden 2018: Tornado Red Cockscomb Flowers

And our pup Tuna Fish Joe digs smelling them. Awwww, how cute. If anyone knows of an actual BIG cockscomb variety, let me know.

Garden 2018: Tornado Red Cockscomb Flowers

So how has your garden done this year? Was the weather your friend or foe? What have your successes and shortcomings been?

 

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