Nothing satisfies the gardening cook like the pleasure and
satisfaction of harvesting big baskets of richly ripe, juicy
tomatoes. Their tangy-sweet full flavor and jewel toned colors are
one of the main reasons lots of us got started gardening. It is
really true that freshly picked, home grown tomatoes beat anything
you can buy by a long country mile, and these natives of
South America are vigorous plants available in varieties that
grow well for gardeners all over the US.
Tomatoes were carried to Europe as early as the 1500's with the Spanish conquistadors.
Southern Europeans began enjoying their fruits early on, but in
England they were viewed with suspicion because of their membership
in the nightshade family, and mostly grown as ornamentals until the
first part of the 19th century. While a few adventurous American
colonial gardeners grew tomatoes to eat - Thomas Jefferson is
certainly the most well known - most Americans didn't start
cultivating tomatoes for the kitchen until the end of the Civil War.
By the first part of the present century, wonderful regional
varieties were developed, yielding up a rich heritage of delicious
diversity that is being rediscovered as the century draws to a
close. Recent decades have produced many new hybrids with superior
adaptability and needed disease resistance, enabling gardeners even
in marginal climates to enjoy fresh harvests from their own kitchen
just a few years ago, most of us grew up thinking of tomatoes as round and red.
Now, with the expansion of local farmers markets, interested young chefs with
new focus on fresh produce, and the revival of regional favorites, gardeners are
blessed with a much expanded range of tomatoes to choose from. Whether you love
tomatoes with real punch and a big flavor that includes a high acid to sugar
balance, or a more subtle custardy, creamy smooth taste and texture or the
superbly sweet taste of garden candy-like cherry tomatoes, there are varieties
that will fulfill all your cravings and then some.
To view our complete selection of Renee's Garden Seeds,
Try these great recipes from
Baked Stuffed Fresh Tomatoes
Tomato and Apple Spice Pie
and Red Tomato Sauce
Green Tomato Mincemeat
A complete range of
fabulous flavors awaits the kitchen gardener, and a glorious
cornucopia of colors, including red, pink, orange, gold,
yellow-cream, striped, emerald green, chocolate, purple, striped and bicolored. Tomato sizes range from grape-like clusters of tiny
currant tomatoes as big as the tip of your finger to giant beefsteak
varieties the size of plump grapefruits. Shapes include the classic
smooth, perfect globe, to elegant egg shaped beauties, craggy
flattened scallops, fat, long sausage-shaped sauce tomatoes or
petite pear shaped cherry tomatoes.
Tomatoes are ready to pick when their
color is even and glossy and texture is soft but resilient. They ripen
from the bottom or "blossom end" to their tops or "shoulders" where they
are attached to the stem. Many older heirloom types ripen unevenly, so
keep an eye on them and pick even if their shoulders are still a little
green if they are heavy with full, smooth flesh.
Don't worry if your long awaited first
ripe fruits don't meet your expectations, as flavor improves after the
earliest fruit ripen. Once the harvest really gets going, you can make
it more manageable by picking some fruit a day or two before fully ripe
to mature easily in the kitchen. Don't store ripe tomatoes in the
refrigerator as cold temperatures mute and dampen their flavor and
sweetness. (If you must do so, be sure to bring them to room temperature
before eating). In midsummer, you'll find ripe tomatoes will keep just
as well at room temperature and their beauty and abundance piled in a
basket will give you as much satisfaction as any colorful flower
bouquet. Besides big slicing and sauce tomatoes, plan to grow 2 or 3
colors of cherry tomatoes and keep a little bowl of mixed colors at hand
like a bowl of candy for delectable and healthy sweet snacks.
As the summer fades, extend the harvest
into cooler nights by covering plants with ripening fruits with row
cover or old sheets, but be sure to keep the covers off the fruits
themselves and remove the covers during the day. When temperatures get
harvest fruits with a good blush of color on their bottoms to ripen up
in the kitchen and enjoy the remaining green ones in green tomato pie,
pickled green tomatoes and green tomato and apple relish, or try a
recipe for tomato sauce that uses the complimentary flavors of both red
and green tomatoes.
Using Ripe Tomatoes
Having an abundance of ripe tomatoes
need not be an embarrassment of riches. Don't forget your gardenless
friends and work mates. Unlike the case of endless zucchinis, most
people truly relish a constant supply of ripe tomatoes and will be
unendingly grateful for your extras.
Dry some of your cherry tomatoes because they're the easiest to prepare. Slice them in halves then put on
racks in 140 to 160
oven or food dehydrator for 6 to 7 hours or until they are leathery.
Store them in jars or zip lock bags, in the refrigerator for longest
storage. They make deliciously low calorie sweet snacks all year. To use
them in cooking, rehydrate in warm water, wine, or broth to cover for
about 10 minutes until they plump up. Drain well, then toss into green
salads, or add generously to pasta or rice with olives and capers or
blend with olive oil, garlic and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of
your favorite herbs for a wonderful spread.
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Hill Rd. Felton, CA 95018