As The Garden Grows….

I realized as I was tying up my second self-watering box of tomatoes yesterday morning that I had not written about the garden much recently.

There have been ups and downs. Right now, mostly ups–as in, the first box of cherry tomatoes I planted keep growing up, up, up, as if they are attempting to reach the moon. They are now officially taller than me, and even if you take into account the extra height afforded the plants by the planter, they are taller than Zak, too. They are, in fact, working on being taller than Bryian, our tallest friend.

These hybrid “Jellybean” cherry tomato plants are unreal–the original stakes I had for them were not sturdy enough and during one of our rather violent thunderstorms, the stakes were broken, and knocked over. The plants were somewhat mangled, however, we only lost one main stem out of the three plants. Zak and I fashioned newer stakes–about seven feet tall–out of heavy dowels, and after tying them back up a week ago, they have nearly climbed to the tops of those stakes.

At this point, I am planning on training the growing tips downward, doubling them back on the stakes. When they reach the deck railing, I will probably train them laterally along it.

As you can see, these gigantic tomato plants are also loaded with tiny green fruits. About three weeks ago, I counted something like sixy-three fruits on one of the plants; I have no idea how many are on all three of them.

The other box of younger tomatoes is also doing well. There are two plants in it; one is a hybrid miniature plum tomato named “Juliette,” and the other is an open-pollenated heirloom variety called “Mr. Stripey.” Juliette is the more vigorous of the two plants; however, I did not know how prolifically she had fruited until I was tying the plants up yesterday and saw large clusters of plum-shaped green tomatoes.

The basils planted in with those two tomatoes are also doing very, very well; they are the most vigorous growers of all of my many basil plants. You can kind of see them peeking out from the sides of the bushy tomato plants. Not only are tomatoes and basil classic flavor combinations in the kitchen, they are good garden companions as well.

Mr. Stripey–so named for its smallish red and yellow streaked fruits–even though it was the smallest and spindliest of the tomato plants I put in, has several round, fluted fruits.

If all of these fruits ripen well, I have a feeling we are going to be inundated with small tomatoes within a month or so.

Which is fine; I am looking forward quite eagerly to making fresh tomato sauces, salsas and just eating them right off the vine!


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  1. I year I grew cherry tomatoes, I only put in one plant, and I don’t know that ANY made it into the house. Cherry tomatoes and carrots were like my gardening hors d’oeuvres. “Here, have a cherry tomato while you water the peppers.” “Thank you, I will!”

    So I also have a cooking question for you. I made borscht last night – see here – and the oddest thing happened. The color’s all gone out of the beets! Yes, they were red/purple when I started. Now they are not. It tastes fine, but any ideas what happened there?

    Comment by Bomboniera — July 3, 2006 #

  2. Bomboniera–the color from the beets comes from compounds called anthocyanins, and if any vegetable that contains those colorings, such as red cabbage, blue potatoes or beets, are cooked for a long time in boiling or simmering water, all of the color will be lost.

    I consulted with a Russian cookbook, Please To The Table by Anyan von Bremzen and John Welchman, and all of the borscht recipes have the beets cooking in the soup no longer than fifty minutes, and almost always in the presene of a large amount of acidic ingredients. In fact, many of the recipes cook the beets separately by -roasting- them, and then they are added near the end of the cooking time, after the meats are done and many of the rest of the vegetables have gone in, -just- to add color to the soup.

    The idea seems to be to bleed -just enough- color from the beets into the soup to color the soup, but to also leave color in the beets.

    Acidic ingredients will help preserve anthocyanin color–which is why you will see beets and red cabbage often cooked with lemon juice, red wine or vinegar. Luckily the acids also -taste- good with these vegetables.

    My solution–don’t cook borscht in a crockpot again. Or, if you do, don’t put the beets in at the beginning of the cooking process. Add them about an hour or so before the rest is done–and I would roast them ahead of time and dice them before adding them.

    I hope that helps clear up your mystery.

    Of course, now I am wanting borscht, thank you very much. 😉

    Comment by Barbara — July 3, 2006 #

  3. It is fun that different kinds of tomatoes really do perform very differently. The one yellow tomato plant I put out this year is producing like not tomorrow.
    Now, I’m wanting beets also.

    Comment by tanna — July 4, 2006 #

  4. Thanks for the info! I appreciate the help. I know the color will boil away into the water, but I never realized it would go away completely – I assumed, in a pot of soup, it would just stay in the broth. I’ll definitely follow your advice next time. I’ve made borscht on the stove before, but I wanted to go with long, slow cooking so the buffalo wouldn’t dry out, and it did work on that account. Like I said, it tasted good, just wasn’t the right color.

    Comment by bomboniera — July 4, 2006 #

  5. I hadn’t seen the tomato plants in a while. The last time I saw them, they were almost my height. I was expecting the nasty storms we’ve had over the last couple days to have caused some damage to them.

    Incidentally, have you seen “Attack of the Killer Tomatos”? Should we start to prepare?

    (The image of Bryian running down the streets of Athens in his motorcycle goggles with a parachute trailing out behind him is just too good not to share.)

    “Buffalo Borscht.” Now THAT is a great name for a band!

    Also, I’ve gotta ask Barbara. Did the whole thing about anthocyanins come from you going, “You know, I’ve read about that somewhere, I think it was in this book…” at which point you go, look up the relevant information and kindly pass it on, OR did that whole post come directly out of the vast library of epicurian brilliance that’s folded so neatly into your gray matter?

    Comment by Dan — July 4, 2006 #

  6. Tanna–beets are delicious straight from the garden. I have some in the fridge from the CSA I need to use up….probably will roast them and have them with chevre.

    Bomboniera, you are welcome. I am glad that the soup tasted good–and you are right–low and slow is the way to cook buffalo!

    Dan–yes, the bit about anthocyanins is from the top of my head. Yes, I know, I have all sorts of food facts crammed up in my head. Probably more than is generally for my own good.

    I don’t think that even if my cherry tomatoes attacked, they would do much damage. They are much too wee. But, I do like the picture of Bry and the parachute–too funny!

    Comment by Barbara — July 5, 2006 #

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