Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Easiest Way to Grow Tomatoes

Red and yellow tomatoes on a flowered tray.
Perfectly ripe tomatoes.

  My garden, if you want to call it that, is overridden with weeds and flowers. Tall green leafy things suddenly sprout over night.  The Black eyed Susans which actually grow as if they are weeds, take over everything else that I attempt to deliberately grow in that small patch along the side of my house.  I like the flowers since it looks somewhat intentional.  So, I let them do what they want along with the nasturtium and zinnia.  The flowers seem to be the most successful of my plantings.  The kale is growing pretty well, too.  But these are plants that don't need any special care aside from watering when they are seedlings, so I can't really take much credit there.
  Tomatoes are another story.  I do not grow these from seed.  I take care to tie them up when the plants get tall enough.  I watch them closely.  But somehow, they just don't ever yield that much for me.  This year, I thought it would be different.  I purchased a few plants from Tina, a woman who sells starter plants at the Falmouth Farmers' Market every spring.  I figured I couldn't go wrong.  It all began so well, the plants were hardy.  They grew tall.  I tied them up.  They flowered and then the tiny green fruit came.  The fruit grew.  I checked every morning in anticipation.  Then one day, I found that something had eaten half of one of the tomatoes.  GRRRR.  Definitely not a rabbit, it was too high up.  Val suggested a raccoon.  No, my set up is so flimsy that a fat thief like that would likely pull it all down with its weight.  I tied tin pie plates and pinwheels to the stakes, hoping to deter squirrels.  But whatever that tomato eating varmint was, it was brave and wily enough to eat around my attempts to thwart it.
  Never mind.  I can and do always go to Val's for the best tomatoes, anyway.  Her rows of plants are neatly tied to strong metal netting and stakes.  Not a weed in sight along the well mulched paths between plants.  No, instead she has bright yellow, red and multi-colored Dahlias marking the rows of tomato plants.  It's ridiculously gorgeous and instagram worthy.  Maybe this is why I gave up the annoying task of weeding sometime back in July.  Because I know just down the street there is a garden paradise that I can access whenever I want?  The place where I pick juicy, red, ripe tomatoes that are not half eaten by raccoons or squirrels or whatever.  And if I don't have any time to pick them myself?  Well, somehow a small pile of them may magically appear on my kitchen counter while I am at work accompanied by a clipping from the local paper that she thought may interest me and my empty container that held the cookies I made for her last week.  That is definitely the easiest way that I know to grow tomatoes.

Sunlight on garden rows in late September
The heavens shining light on perfect rows of tomato plants

Flowers and plants growing in a country garden on Cape Cod
Strong metal stakes and wire netting keeping everything in check.

Garden Fresh Salsa
(makes a small bowl)

3 medium size ripe tomatoes
1 small jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
1 small handful fresh cilantro or parsley leaves chopped to make about 1/4 cup
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
tortilla chips 

  Cut the tomatoes in quarters and gently squeeze out any excess juice and seeds.  Chop the seeded tomatoes into tiny pieces.  Finely chop the jalapeno, leaving out the membrane and seeds, unless you like a lot of heat.  Add the chopped cilantro or parsley.  Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and salt.  Allow flavors to meld for about 20 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas.

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