Browsed by
Tag: tomatoes




Hi folks — the heat finally broke and since my sweetheart has been longing for a Lasagne! for a while, and since yesterday I had a big pot of brand spanking new tomato sauce on the stove, I took a flyer at it.

This lovely lasagne was brought to you not by any of the many authentic Italian cookbooks I have on my shelf, not by Mario or Marcella or even Patricia Wells (Trattoria), or even by my beloved Dom DeLuise (Eat This .. It’ll Make You Feel Better). No, this gorgeous, gooey, wavy lasagne that is all brown on top — this lasagne was brought to you by the recipe on the back of the Barilla Lasagne noodle box.

Yes folks, here is another recipe like the Toll House Cookie recipe. One you’ll never have to remember because there it is, right on the back of the box. I did fiddle with it a little bit — I added some finely chopped parsley, oregano and basil from the garden to the egg-ricotta-cheese filling mixture. But that was it. I just followed the recipe.

The other thing you need to know about this fabulous recipe, is that it’s specifically designed for noodles you don’t cook beforehand. I was skeptical, I must admit. I thought it would be weird, or leathery, or just bad. But this is a great recipe. Easy. Delicious. Infinitely variable.

And it makes a lasagne so yummy that your sweetheart will come up and kiss you, and thank you for making lasagne, and eat another hefty portion for breakfast the next day, and leave for a day of work a happy man. Good all around. Lasagne!

Seed Saving: Tomatoes

Seed Saving: Tomatoes

Galina Tomatoes, saving seed
Galina Tomatoes, saving seed

I was picking tomatoes this morning when it occurred to me that part of my problem with seed saving is managing to remember which tomato is which. I planted nine varieties this year, and many of them are a lot alike — Perestroika and Grushovka, for example. And I tend to pick in a big basket, where they get mixed up.

So tomorrow, I have to pay more attention, because it’s time to start putting some seed aside for next year. This morning I did Galina, this yellow cherry that I love, and Mountain Princess, which gets mangled by the flea beetle but which is my most dependable early producer (yes, I realize it’s September, hardly anyone else’s definition of “early” but we had a cold summer this year).

Seed starting isn’t difficult but you have to be willing to put up with some uckiness. The seeds need to ferment, and mold, and get sort of disgusting in order to break down the gel packs in which the tomato encases them. My method is generally to squeeze out the seedy part into a jar, add enough water so they won’t dry up, and stick them in a corner until they start to do their business. For a good step by step guide to this process, check out this link.

Last year I saved my favorite, Jaunne Flammé and it was really fun this spring when instead of a few tiny seeds in the bottom of the package I had a whole honking bunch of them. And not only do I have enough seeds for several years, but I have seed from tomatoes that have already done well in my own yard, in our weird climate. I like the idea of saving seed across the years, and winding up with personalized seed that is uniquely adapted to my particular microclimate (now if I could only get them to grow out of the reach of chickens).

At any rate — it’s September, but I’ve finally got tomatoes, and zucchini, and even a few green beans. It’s been a very odd growing season this year, and because I was so busy early in the summer trying to save my job, I didn’t spend as much time out there as I’d have liked, so it’s all a little odd. But every summer is a new learning experience (like who knew that marigolds and calendula get so bushy? I didn’t — next year, space them further apart).

First Tomatoes of the Season

First Tomatoes of the Season

Jaunne Flammé, Grushovka, Galina, Prairie Fire
Jaunne Flammé, Grushovka, Galina, Prairie Fire

Here are the first tomatoes of the season.

Yes, I realize it’s the end of August. It’s been a long cool summer here in Montana, and the tomatoes have only just now started getting ripe. Just in time to be swathed in plastic sheeting.

The romas are looking good — I planted two kinds, Borghese and Milano Plum, both from Seeds of Italy. They’re just starting to pink up, but I’m beginning to see homemade sauce and salsa in my future.

The Siberians are coming in nicely. I couldn’t remember the difference when I was planting between Perestroika and Grushovka, and from what I can tell, there isn’t much. Theyr’e both nice medium-sized early tomatoes, with a good sweet-acid balance. After three or four days in the bowl though, the ones I ate for lunch today were a little bit mealy.

Jaunne Flammé is probably my favorite tomato I grow. You can only just one in this pic — it’s the orange tomato hiding beneath the basil. They’re about the size of a large egg, grow in clusters, and taste wonderful.

The only real problem I’ve had with the tomatoes this year, aside from the weather, is the chickens. I’ve draped that bed in bird netting, but a couple of them have managed to sneak in underneath it somehow — and my first few ripe tomatoes had been cannibalized from the inside. Alas.

So, it was a late start, but looks like tomato season is here … and I’m eating ginormous bowls of tomato and cucumber salad for lunch these days …

Tomato Seedlings for Sale

Tomato Seedlings for Sale

For all of you in the Livingston area — I have tomato starts for sale. They were started from seed on March 15, and although you could put them in this weekend (the traditional start time) I’d suggest using Wall o’Water’s if you do. We’re more than likely to get another snowstorm before it’s over, and I’ve had great luck with the Wall o’Waters in the past.

Seedlings are $5 per plant, and all of them are cold-hardy varieties. They’ve been in the cold frame for about 3 weeks, so they’re hardened off and although they’re small right now,  a week or so in a nice warm weather in a wall o’water and they should sprout right up. (Plus I transplanted them deep for better root growth.) Also, since I started them myself in sterile soil mix, you shouldn’t have to worry about picking up verticulum wilt.

I have the following varieties available:

Milano Plum: this is a determinate plant (bushy, not viny) and last year it gave me a bumper crop of heavy plum style tomatoes (about 4-6 inches long). These tomatoes were fabulous for salsa.

Mountain Princess: Another determinate plant that sets nice round mid-sized tomatoes (about 3 inches in diameter).

Marmande: From Seeds of Italy. This is an old French tomato that I’ve had great success with the past few years. It ripens fairly late in the season but sets bunches of slightly flat, ridged tomatoes. Great flavor. Semi-determinate plant (responds well to heavy pruning).

Grushovka: A Siberian variety from High Altitude Gardens. Determinate plant that sets clusters of rose-colored, oblong fruits. Very productive.

Olga’s Round Yellow Chicken: A Siberian variety from High Altitude Gardens. I admit it, I plant this one for the name. Indeterminate plant that sets bright orange, very round tomatoes.

Galina: A Siberian variety from High Altitude Gardens. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. It’s very indeterminate, and will sprawl up and across any trellis you set it on, and it’s also highly productive. This plant sets large yellow cherry tomatoes that have a wonderful balance of sweetness and acid. I’m not a fan of very sweet tomatoes, so I love this one. Kids love it too …

Black Cherry: another sprawling indeterminate plant that bears dark purple cherry tomatoes. Again nice acid-sweet balance. Not quite as early as Galina.

Marglobe: From Seeds of Italy. Old heirloom variety, indeterminate, clusters of medium-sized deep red fruits. Great taste, mid-season.

Principe Borghese: From Seeds of Italy. A classic. Semi-determinate plant, not too sprawly, that throws clusters of small, thick-walled, delicious plum tomatoes. These are the tomatoes that they make sun-dried tomatoes from. I like them for sauce.

Jaunne Flammee: This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Indeterminate and sprawling plant that throws clusters of bright-orange, egg-sized fruits. These are delicious tomatoes that come in about mid-season and continue to ripen all the way through.These seedlings are from seed I saved myself, so they’re acclimated to Montana.

Perestroika: A Siberian variety from High Altitude Gardens. Indeterminate plant that throws nice round medium sized tomatoes. Red-orange fruits with nice flavor.

Prairie Fire: Bushy determinate plants. This is historically the first tomato of the season. Nice round orange-red fruits, on the smaller side but taste really delicious. Plant is prone to flea beetle damage, but that never seems to affect the tomatoes much.

Tomatoes in the Basement

Tomatoes in the Basement

pb190024 This weekend I started seeds — tomatoes and leeks right now. I’ve blogged before about my seed starting setup, and nothing’s changed since last spring, so I’ll simply send you to this older post if you want to know the mechanics of how I get things rolling every year.

This year I’m going to give leeks a shot. I love leeks, and they’re so expensive in the store. I tried them once by direct sowing and they didn’t take, so I thought I’d give it one more shot. For the leeks, I simply filled one tray with seed starting mix, then made several trenches in it with a ruler, and sowed the leeks. I bought one of those fancy onion/leek seed starting trays at the garden store the other day, the kind that instead of having cells has long narrow slots, but the slots weren’t very deep, and it looked like I was going to have to transplant them earlier than I’d like to, so I went with direct sowing in a tray. I think I’m going to start the lettuces this way as well. (And next time I’m in Bozeman, I’ll just return the unused tray.)

I started many tomatoes this year, in part because I’m planning to sell seedlings at the Farmer’s Market. Here’s hoping that people will want Siberian and Heirloom varieties instead of boring old Early Girl. I planted 12 cells each of the folowing:

  • Mountain Princess from High Mowing Seeds
    This is a new variety for me. I picked up the seed packet at the local food co-op last summer.
  • Marmande from Seeds of Italy I love this tomato. It’s a slightly flat, delicious French heirloom.
  • Grushovka Siberian from High Altitude Gardens I’ve had good luck with the Siberian tomatoes in the past — they come in at 3-4 ounces, nice red, round fruits and are adapted for short seasons.
  • Olga’s Yellow Chicken from High Altitude Gardens (which they no longer carry so I’d better save seed this year.) This is a nice yellow tomato that I grow as much for the name as for anything else.
  • Galina Siberian from High Altitude Gardens A fabulous yellow cherry tomato. Huge indeterminate vines that will grow up and over anything (they’d be terrific in an arbor) and delicious fruit.
  • Black Cherry from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden SeedsThis was a nicely-flavored black cherry tomato that I grew for the first time last year. I wish it had come in a little earlier than it did, but once it started producing it was prolific.
  • Marglobe from Seeds of Italy Another Italian heirloom — great flavor in a compact round fruit.
  • Principe Borghese from Seeds of Italy The perfect canning or drying tomato. Ripens in clusters like grapes.
  • Jaune Flamee from Shepherd’s Garden Seeds  (originally, this year I started seeds I saved myself, which is good because they don’t seem to be carrying them anymore.) This is a delicious orange tomato that also grows in clusters. I had great luck with this one last year and I’m so glad I saved seed!
  • Perestroika Siberian from High Altitude Gardens My goal this year is to take better notes on the Siberian tomatoes — I can never remember which ones were better than the others.
  • Prairie Fire from High Altitude Gardens This was my earliest tomato last year — produced a good three weeks before any of the other non-cherry varieties. A Montana native with compact and delicious fruits.

It’ll be about a week or so before anything much happens downstairs on that bench. I’m hoping that things will thaw out enough that I can get the rest of my beds turned over (and cleared of the wheat growing from last summer’s straw mulch). I’d like to start some spinach and onions — I’m growing weary of eating last year’s frozen greens and would love something new and fresh …

Tomatoes and Slavery

Tomatoes and Slavery

Way back in my youth I worked in New York for a company that repackaged magazine material into cookbooks — our biggest client was Gourmet Magazine. So I’ve watched with great interest as Ruth Reichel has taken that hoary old magazine, run by women from the suburbs who at least in the late ’80 were still known to come to work in plaid skirts and knee socks (knee socks! I remember my shock that grown women would go out dressed like old girls — oh, and in blouses with those big floppy bows that women wore in the ’80s in lieu of men’s ties. Sigh), at any rate, I’ve been thrilled to see the magazine move into the modern world.

The past year or two they’ve even started added a regular feature on food politics. This month’s article is particularly worth reading: Politics of the Plate: Florida’s Slave Trade, Tomatoes, Migrant Workers: Food Politics :

The article is truly appalling — but having grown up around migrant workers in the landscape and horse business, I know how easy it is for such a vulnerable population to be taken advantage of — go take a look. It’s a really interesting article.