Category Archives: Tomato

Julia’s Ratatouille

The Ratatouille harvest basket.

Ratatouille makings. Tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash.

An old fashioned vegetable dish, ratatouille is a combination of all the things I grow in my garden. Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer.

Once you master a great dish like ratatouille, you become confident enough to try variations.

I can hear Julia Child talking about this dish. The full name of the stewed vegetable dish is Ratatouille Niçoise. Her recipe is the classic, start there and then adapt it to your taste.

It’s time to make ratatouille when there is an abundance of eggplant in the garden. Usually the last main crop vegetable to produce in my vegetable patch, eggplant is the star of my version. If your don’t like eggplant then leave it out of the recipe. 

This dish very quickly uses up the seasonal glut of produce that happens in August. By now, I have all the zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant that I can eat. I grow every vegetable that goes into this simple French peasant dish.

This dish is a celebration of my garden bounty. It’s a thanksgiving meal at the peak of the growing season.

Cabin fever cure

Make a double batch because this stew reheats well for the next day or hoard it for your lunches. Make this dish and freeze it. This winter, when the snow is falling,  a reheated ratatouille meal will taste like a garden party in your mouth.

Reading seed catalogs while eating a steamy bowl of home-grown and homemade ratatouille is a ritual guaranteed to cure cabin fever. That vegetable casserole inspires my wintertime seed order.

Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer, A true example of your garden prowess.This versital vegetable casserole can be a featured entre, a side dish, lunch for many cold winter days.

I freeze it in portions for one or two.Serve it over noodles or rice for a heartier meal. Add a slice of crusty bread. Make plans to go to Paris some day.

Here is my version:

Ratatouille home-grown and homemade  IMG_2132

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A gardeners final day of winter.

A slow cooked pork stew on a snowy day tastes even better loaded with foods from last summer’s garden. One tasty stew addition to the stew pot is sweet potatoes. Loaded with root vegetables potatoes and sweet potatoes, plus garlic, onions and carrots. Mild and sweet yellow sweet potatoes and homegrown garlic are from the garden.

White and sweet potatoes make this rich pork stew an even hardier winter fare.

White and sweet potatoes make this rich pork stew an even hardier winter fare.

 

 

From the summer farmers market: locally grown shiitake mushrooms – dried in the dehydrator and stored in plastic ziplock bags.

Home made tomato soup, several versions of stew and chili are wintertime mainstays here at the Hobson Estate.

Home grown tomatoes, garlic and peppers enhance the flavors of pork chili.

Home grown tomatoes, garlic and peppers enhance the flavors of pork chili. photo PBH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we wrap up winter, it’s inventory time for the deep freezer and pantry. We ran out of salsa around the first of the year. So, I need to grow more tomatoes (plus, onions, garlic, peppers, herbs)

We need more salsa, crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, sun dried tomatoes, even more tomato soup.

We need more salsa, crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, sun dried tomatoes, even more tomato soup.

Today, I think, “I can never have too many tomatoes.” In August, that will be a different story.

Paste tomatoes, Arkansas traveler, Giant Martian, Gold Medal

Paste tomatoes, Arkansas traveler, Giant Martian, Gold Medal

August:

“What was I thinking!?”

Akk! First Frost

The killer hard freeze

"Italian Genovese" "Queenette" Thai basil, "Italian Cameo" L-R

“Italian Genovese” “Queenette” Thai basil, “Italian Cameo” L-R

First frost in fall is as nerve-racking as the last frost date of spring. It’s no surprise to a gardener that the first frost is impending. But dang, one more warm week and I would have had a dozen more one-pound golden-yellow tomatoes.

Gathering herbs before frost. I’ll pick all tomatoes with any hint of color, decent size peppers, and eggplant.

TOMATOES IMG_8656

A week or two more for fresh herbs and vegetables. Plus, I’ll make some casseroles to freeze. (Like the Court of Two Sisters eggplant casserole, Chunky vegetable soup, Ratatouille)

Then, this fall/winter, some home canned and frozen food we’ve accumulated all summer, will serve as comfort food on the coldest days.

Several fresh cut basil brought indoors before the frost. herbs in jars

Several fresh-cut basil brought indoors before the frost. herbs in jars

Bring in basil cuttings, even if is a possibility it might reach.

Learn more about Hardy Fall Vegetables  – Big beautiful leeks, leafy chard, sweet baby carrots are still in the garden.

"Pot of Gold" chard

“Pot of Gold” chard from reneesgarden.com

Where to find these recipes:

Court of 2 Sisters eggpla

  • Court of Two Sisters eggplant casserole – Next time eggplant starts piling up in the garden, make this recipe and freeze it. (Easy to double.)
  • Chunky vegetable soup
  • Ratatouille – Julia’s recipe!

Gazpacho is a garden celebration in a bowl

The taste of summer

When the vegetable garden goes into full production, it’s time for gazpacho. The best gazpacho is made with garden fresh produce at the peek of the season.

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Add pureed vegetables to the chopped vegetables.

Gazpacho is a cold vegetable soup. It’s a southern Spanish dish of blended fresh raw vegetables in a tomato base.

Use up a lot of vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, herbs.

 

When the garden explodes and the kitchen counter is covered with fresh produce, make gazpacho.

 

Don’t like  bell peppers? Leave them out. Add zucchini, roasted garlic, a few shakes of hot pepper sauce. The point is to make this recipe your own by adding the vegetables and herbs that you grow and love. Or, pick the best and most abundant produce at the farmers market.

Use any variety of sun ripened tomatoes.

Use any variety of sun ripened tomatoes.

Some gazpacho is served puréed until smooth. I prefer a chunkier version that includes chopped vegetables. Choose vine-ripened tomatoes and the freshest vegetables.

Use any variety of sweet peppers.

Use any variety of sweet peppers.

Use what you have and what you like. I will use extra cukes in midsummer. Later, when all the pepper varieties are producing, I’ll use more peppers and less cucumbers.

 

 

 

Basic recipe.

Start with the basic recipe, then make it your own.

Ingredients

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
tomato juice
1 or two cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium chopped red onion
1 small hot pepper, seeded and minced (your choice, jalapeño, poblano, banana)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (herb vinegar)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
mixed herbs 2 tablespoons of your choice
2 tablespoons fresh basil for garnish

tomatoes and cucumbers

Chop vegetables, puree in small batches with the blender or food processor.

Combine half of the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red and yellow bell peppers, onion. Mince small hot pepper and 2 garlic cloves. Add 2 cups of tomato juice, half the salt and purée. I use a stick blender.

Add the rest of the chopped vegetables to the purée. Stir in oil, vinegar, salt pepper, mixed herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate.

The important thing is to chill the soup. Refrigerating the gazpacho allows the vegetable flavors to meld. The most flavorful a gazpacho will chill overnight.

SERVE – in chilled bowls with chilled soup spoons, with a chiffonade of basil to garnish. Pass around extra chopped herbs or grated Parmesan cheese.

tomatoes peeling in waterPEEL Tomatoes:  To remove the skins, mark a small “X” on the bottom with a sharp knife. Slowly lower tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in ice water. The skins will slip off, and you can proceed with the gazpacho recipe.

chiffronadeCHIFFONADE basil:  Create ribbons of basil by stacking the basil leaves and roll them into a cigar shape. Carefully cut across the rolled basil with a sharp knife.

The taste of summer.

Your garden in a bowl. Even better the next day. For thicker soup, add a bit of tomato paste as you adjust the seasoning.

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Gazpacho and garlic cheese toast.

FINISH soup: add a splash of red wine vinegar, herb or balsamic vinegar, olive oil or extra chopped herbs.

ADD Herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme. Use roasted garlic instead of fresh raw minced garlic. Top with a dollop of pesto.

Grow vegetables – Make Soup

Grow your own soup. Garden fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and cost very little to make. If you don’t think you have time to make soup, make a double batch and freeze half for a busy day. Make soup in the crock pot. Soup usually tastes even better the next day. What could be faster than that?

Chili, chicken and noodle soup, vegetable soup and stews of any kind are better and usually have less salt when made from scratch. I love soup and will be sharing some soup gardening and soup making tips from time to time.

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Todays harvest basket 7/9/15

Todays harvest basket

July 9, 2015

zucchini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green beans

zucchini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green beans

Zucchini is coming on daily. So far, picking squash when it is 6 or 7″ long, is working. I see a chocolate zucchini cake in our future…

Green beans  are in a small patch we must collect a few pickings for a meal. In a couple of days, cucumber production will explode. For now, there are enough cucumbers for fresh eating.

There are plenty of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes for salad every day. The few red slicer tomatoes from My Garden Post were used for the first BLT of the season.

Summer harvest of onions and garlic.

Summer harvest of onions and garlic.

Read about the garlic and onions curing in the shade on the porch. Its garlic season

Best tomato plants for containers

is all about the first juicy red tomatoes of the season. Those early  full-sized tomatoes were grown on two foot tall plants!

Bush 506. First full size tomato to ripen, 5-oz.

Bush 506. First full size tomato to ripen, 5-oz.

 

 

Best tomato plants for containers

Perfect for My Garden Post

Choose dwarf tomato plants

I am having big juicy tomato success on My Garden Post. These are the tomatoes that I am growing.

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The best choice for My Garden Post are plants that are less than 2 feet tall.

Determinate tomato varieties grow to a limited hight and usually do not  need staking and caging.

Choose dwarf or bush type tomato plants. Look for plants bred for containers.

Extended release or slow release fertilizer applied when potting the plant will be one less thing to worry about.

Two foot tall tomato plants

Bush 506. First full size tomato to ripen, 5-oz.

Bush 506. First full size tomato to ripen, 5-oz.

  • Bush 506 Container Tomato plants are less than 24″ tall. The thick stemmed plants easily support the 8 ounce fruits. These container grown tomatoes are early producers. The Tasteful Garden advertises tomatoes in only 62 days. It was the first regular sized tomato to ripen in my zone 6 garden.

I bought Bush 506 as a plant from The Tasteful Garden

 

New Big Dwarf heirloom tomato. The heaviest producer of full size tomatoes so far.

New Big Dwarf heirloom tomato. The heaviest producer of full size tomatoes so far.

  • New Big Dwarf Heirloom tomato is not really new. An heirloom first introduced in 1915, tastes like the old-fashioned beefsteak. The plant is only 2 feet tall but the fruits are full-sized 8-12 oz. Expect early tomatoes in about 60 days.

I bought the New Big Dwarf tomato as a plant from The Tasteful Garden

 

 Oliver’s choice:

  • Bush Steak Tomato is an easy-to-find small tomato plant or grow it from seed.

“I often recommend the Bush Steak tomato and suggests planting in the large planters. The Bush Steak Tomato matures at 20 inches in height, and produce a medium size tomato in large numbers,” says Oliver J Gardner, Director of Sales and Marketing, My Garden Post.

 

Endless sweet cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes nonstop until frost

Cherry tomatoes nonstop until frost

  • Litt’l Bites Container Cherry Tomato – keep this early producer well watered and fed for tons of sweet cherry tomatoes all summer long. A compact, lush plant that is perfect for My Garden Post or hanging baskets. Litt’l Bites grows 20 inches wide and 12 inches tall.

Grown from seed. Exclusive. Renee’s Garden

photo by Renee's Garden

Litt’l Bites Container Cherry Tomato photo by Renee’s Garden

 

Learn more about My Garden Post here.

double_drip_with_caption__64178.1409012731.1280.1280My container grown tomatoes benefit from the easy-to-set-up and use My Garden Post irrigation system. It’s the best system I’ve used on the deck or patio. Adjust the timer to accommodate the season; longer daily watering when it is the hottest.

 

Today’s harvest basket – Salad greens

Today’s harvest basket,  May 25, 2015

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Thinning lettuce from My Garden Post (MGP)*

I’ve been snipping lettuce leaves and pulling radish and onions a few, each day, for a couple of weeks. But today I got a basket full. So, let this be 2015’s first harvest basket of the season.

 

There is enough lettuce for a sandwich or to add to store-bought lettuce. Radish and onion from our garden make it close to perfect.

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This little bunny, maybe the third generation so for this spring, is “hiding” by the kitchen door. I can only hope this one does not like green beans.

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I mix lettuces together when sowing. This allows for a beautiful variety when thinning and harvesting.

Slow to bolt and rarely bitter, Green Ice leaf-type lettuce, it’s wavy, fringed leaves are a dark green color and crisp.

Flashy trout back lettuce, a European heirloom Forellenschluse (Austrian for speckled like a trout’s back) romaine is a prized lettuce varieties. Soft, tender, juicy.

And so, without further ado,

IMG_8113

Today’s harvest basket, May 28, 2015. Lettuce. onions, radish. PBH

 

 

 

 Get off your knees! MGP_Logo_2Color_356K

My Garden Post best dwarf tomatoes

Vertical Gardening with My Garden Post.

My Garden Post (MGP)* Cool Season Crops.

MPG The best dwarf tomato plants

MPG Best dwarf tomatoes

My Garden Post

Dwarf tomato plants are ideal for small garden spaces and container gardens on the deck or patio.

MGP tomatoes. Dwarf tomatoes for My Garden Post. Tiny plants bursting with classic home-grown fruit and flavor.

Bush 506 Container Tomato produces 9 ounce fruit-growing 18 -24 inches tall.

New Big Dwarf tomato. Photo: http://www.tastefulgarden.com

  • This dwarf bush tomato plant will only reach 18-24″ tall and has a medium-large sized red juicy fruits. They are great for container growing as the plants stay compact and have thick, upright stems and they produce loads of 9 oz. fruit. One of the few full-sized tomatoes designed for container growing. 62 days Plant from The Tasteful Garden

 

New Big Dwarf Heirloom Tomato (This heirloom was “new” in 1915.)

bush_1773_general

The plants are “Dwarf” but the tomatoes are 8-12 oz. beefsteak. 60 days! (Plant from The Tasteful Garden The thick, sturdy stem of this small plant is strong enough to handle the weight of regular sized tomatoes.

 

“Litt’l Bites” Cherry Container Tomato

tomato-cherry_bites-02A sweet, cascading bite size tomato Early and compact, just 20 inches wide and 12 inches tall. (Seed from Renee’s Garden Exclusive.)

Dwarf tomato plants grow 24" tall.

Dwarf tomato plants grow 24″ tall.

Tomato success tips:

  • Keep tomatoes picked to encourage continuous production.
  • Watering schedule will need to be adjusted as the days get longer and hotter.
  • With little root space available in the planter, plants must be supported with good potting soil, once or twice daily water and regular diluted fertilizer or extended release fertilizer as recommended.

You might also want to try BushSteak Hybrid Tomato a Burpee Exclusive with compact (20-24″) plant. compact (20-24″) plant.

Get the best price here:

MGP_Logo_2Color_356K

  • You can buy My Garden Post from this Oh! Grow Up Blog. We both benefit. You save money and I get credit for your order. Use this code: 50offMGP at checkout to get $50 worth of savings for My Garden Post with Drip Irrigation.

My Garden Post sent the original post to me free of charge so I could demonstrate how easy it is to assemble, install the irrigation, and grow lots of food in a tiny space.

My Garden Post  $50. Off. Use the coupon code: 50offMGP 

MPG Diary May 6, 2015. Tomatoes. III PBH

MGP Advantages of vertical gardening

Cool season crops

My Garden Post is Easy Gardening

MGP is off to a good start. Look at this lovely lettuce and the other bug-free salad greens.

The top three planters in the My Garden Post are growing salad greens.

The top three planters in the My Garden Post are growing salad greens.

I am loving my new My Garden Post (MGP).

Vertical gardening doesn’t get easier than My Garden Post. I planted a salad bowl garden in the top three planters.

The post and planters are mounted on five casters that makes it easy to move in for cool nights and out on the deck in the morning to find best sun exposure. MGP is solid and sturdy, no chance of tipping or spilling.

Lettuce, radish, green onions.

Lettuce, radish, green onions.

The planters are positioned at a comfortable height for planting, maintenance and harvesting. The dwarf tomato plants are sturdy and green. I removed the first tomato blooms to encourage plant and root growth.

An assortment of colorful lettuces are thriving in the smaller pots. It will soon be time to thin the lettuce for a first spring salad. Consistent watering and extended release fertilizer will allow more plants and herbs to fit in each pot.

Merlot lettuce.

Merlot lettuce.

Tending MGP is the easiest of all container gardening. No stretching, bending or reaching, I’m happy for no dirty hands or knees. Planters are positioned for easy access when it’s time to replace the cool season lettuces.

All the plants have better air circulation, which makes them less susceptible to mildew and other fungi. There is far less exposure to soil born insects and diseases with container gardening.

Flashy trout back lettuce.

Flashy trout’s back.

You still have plenty of time to order a My Garden Post. The MGP Drip Irrigation System guarantees no worries about the drought and watering even in August.

 

 

The draft tomato plants in the bottom two planters are are green and healthy, just waiting for warmer weather.

The dwarf tomato plants in the bottom two planters are green and healthy, just waiting for warmer weather.

The First Thing

in the planter is, Better Than Rocks.

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Cut BTR to fit the planter and reuse it every year. For My Garden Post planters it will keep the soil from running out of the drainage holes and create lighter containers.

  • Use less soil,
  • prevent over watering,
  • buy it once and use it for a lifetime.

I have some Better Than Rocks product that I’ve been using every year for 10 years. BTR is eco-friendly, 100% recycled plastic. See their cool site. Order online at Better Than Rocks.

Get the best My Garden Post price here:

MGP_Logo_2Color_356K

  • You can buy My Garden Post from this Oh! Grow Up Blog. We both benefit. You save money and I get credit for your order. Use this code: 50offMGP at checkout to get $50 worth of savings for My Garden Post with Drip Irrigation.

My Garden Post sent the original post to me free of charge so I could demonstrate how easy it is to assemble, install the irrigation, and grow lots of food in a tiny space.

My Garden Post  $50. Off. Use the coupon code: 50offMGP 

 

MPG Diary April 30, 2015. Lettuce, radish onion.II PBH

Snowed in with home grown tomatoes

My front yard.

My front yard. Photo by Jeff Hobson

A foot of snow does not seem like a lot if you are living in the east. And we have only had a couple of snows so far. I was delighted to be snowed in, with heat, electricity and my sweetheart. We could have gotten out in an emergency. But it is fun to be snowed in.

Whole tomatoes were frozen while at the peak of ripeness.

I filled the crock pot with frozen tomatoes. It was so full, the lid couldn’t fit firmly. As the tomatoes cooked down, I skimmed off the peels and the cores.

To the thawing tomatoes, add a coarsely chopped onion and a couple crushed cloves of garlic. Add salt and pepper if you choose.

Next, decide where to go with the tomatoes. Mexican or Italian are my choices.

Turn the heat on high, leave the lid ajar to reduce the water content. Break up  tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Later, when the tomatoes have cooked down by half, use and immersion to blend as much or a little as you prefer. I decided to go for an Italian spaghetti sauce. As the tomatoes cooked down, I added a frozen cube of roasted garlic* and a couple of cubes of pesto.*

This is where I get creative and make this sauce Italian, by adding herbs and spices.

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil..

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil.

 

*Cube of roasted garlic* and a cube of pesto.* In the summer when we had a huge harvest of garlic, I roasted the cured garlic, mashed it up with a little salt and olive oil. Then, I put the roasted garlic paste in  a silicone tray of mini ice-cube shapes and froze them.

*Homemade pesto, minus the cheese, was made and filled plastic ice-cube trays and frozen.

These little frozen cubes of gourmet delights are stored in ziplock freezer bags, labeled and dated.

 

Tomato triage for too many tomatoes

When there is no time to can tomatoes in the heat of summer, freeze the whole tomatoes individually and store in a freezer. When tomato overload gets too hot and hectic in August, chill.

Slow cooked pasta sauce made by cooking your home-grown tomatoes and herbs on a cold winter day, priceless. 

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