Bobbing for Tomatoes! - How to Grow Juicy Tomatoes in Your Garden
Growing tomatoes is a fun and rewarding gardening activity that anyone can partake. Tomatoes can be grown in the yard or in pots for those that do not have any outdoor space. With a few tips, beginners can easily grow these tasty fruits and yes, tomatoes are fruits! Tomatoes can be grown from seeds or seedlings and growers can enjoy fresh tomatoes throughout the tomato season for meals or to can for later use. Tomatoes are very nutritious and can be beneficial to the heart and other parts of the body. In particular tomatoes contain lycopene and carotene which are natural antioxidants. Lycopene has been found to prevent prostate cancer and also provides skin protection against UV rays. There are some varieties of tomatoes that contain double the amount of vitamin C and those that have two to four times the amount of lycopene, 40 times the normal amount of vitamin A and those with very high levels of anthocyanins. The tomato is actually the food that is the richest source of lycopene of all fruits and vegetables.
When to Plant
It is best to plant tomatoes based on the weather rather than on a specific date. In order to produce plenty of tomatoes, the plant will require about three months of frost free, warm weather. If the plants are properly protected then they can be grown from March onwards. Tomatoes can be planted out of doors from May onwards. It is important to plant tomatoes in a spot that receives plenty of sunshine. The soil should be free draining and if possible, mix in plenty of compost before planting. Very tall types of tomato plants should be protected from the winds and using a trellis, fence or wall is appropriate. Tomatoes that are grown in containers will need to be staked. The pot should be filled with soil specifically for containers and it is important to water the tomatoes regularly and provide liquid food every two weeks. Smaller varieties tend to grow the best in pots. Tomatoes in pots can be started indoors should the weather be too cool or a chance of frost occur.
The best time to harvest tomatoes are before they are fully colored. When gently squeezed, the tomato will still be very firm. Picking at this time will allow the fruit to keep longer and will allow the plant to produce even more tomatoes. If you should miss picking the tomatoes they pick the fully colored ripe tomatoes so that you use them as quickly as possible. During the peak tomatoes days during the season, you will need to harvest tomatoes every day. During the fall months if you are left with tomatoes that are green or only partially ripened these can be ripened indoors, as they will not ripen on the vine. Store the unripened tomatoes in a dark but warm spot indoors and cover them with one sheet of newspaper. Leaving the tomatoes on the vine will encourage disease and may contaminate the rest of the tomato crop.
Storage and Preparation
Ripe tomatoes can be stored for 2 to 3 days at room temperature before they begin to turn soft. Keep them out of direct sunlight with scar from the stem facing up. Under ripe fruit can be stored for as long as 5 days. The best storage conditions for tomatoes are to place them in a paper bag and then placed in a cool room. However do not store the tomatoes in the refrigerator as this causes the tomato flavor to decrease. Tomatoes can be prepared in many ways. They can be puréed, chopped, sliced or frozen whole. Additionally they can be frozen when they are raw or uncooked. Thawed tomatoes can be used in any recipe that requires cooked tomatoes. Tomatoes can also be dehydrated or canned. Wash tomatoes thoroughly with clean water and sort them, removing any that are spoiled. Cut the tomatoes as required. Removing the seeds during preparation is a personal preference. Completely dry tomatoes can be stored in plastic bags, airtight jars and other types of containers that are suitable for storage.
There are several types of common problems that may occur when growing tomatoes. Cat-facing occurs when lines and irregular shapes occur due to incomplete pollination or temperature shifts. Unfortunately this cannot be fixed but it will not affect the taste of the tomato. Blossom-end rot occurs because of insufficient calcium uptake. Remove any fruit with this rot and make sure that the soil is properly mulched. Cracking and split skin occurs when the tomato has accelerated growth such as a sudden increase in moisture after the soil has been very dry. Make sure to provide constant moisture or plant varieties that resist cracking. If flowers form but they fall off because the weather changes then little to no fruit will grow. Make sure that the soil is properly moisturized and use Blossom Set on the plants. This is an all natural product that helps blossoms set fruit no matter the weather conditions. Use it early in the season. Late blight occurs when the weather is very wet towards the end of the season. Avoid overcrowding the fruit by picking regularly and remove and destroy any plants that are affected by blight.
6 garlic cloves
12 slices thick crusted bread, ½ inch thick
Extra virgin olive oil
8 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes 8 to 12 fresh tomato leaves
Preheat a broiler. Grill the bread under a broiler until it is golden brown on both sides. Mash up the garlic with a heavy knife handle so they are split and the peel is loosened. Remove the peel. As the bread comes of the grill rub one side with the mashed garlic. Place the bread on a platter and pour the oil over the slices. Sprinkle with some ground black pepper. Wash the tomatoes and split them in half lengthwise and pick out the seeds with the tip of a paring knife. Dice the tomatoes. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Top the grilled bread with the diced tomatoes and sprinkle with basil.
Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Pancetta
2 pounds ripe, fresh tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
5 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
½ cup pancetta chopped
Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute. Drain them and the minute they care cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut them up into coarse pieces. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan and ass the onion, butter and salt to taste. Cook uncovered at a slow simmer or about 45 minutes. Stir every now and then and mash up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. While the sauce is cooking add some olive oil to a pan and turn the heat to medium high. Add the rosemary and pancetta when the oil is hot. Cook for one minute and transfer the contents of the pan to the sauce. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
4 tomatoes, sliced
12 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
16 fresh basil leaves
Olive oil or balsamic vinegar
Place the sliced tomatoes on a platter. Top each tomato slice with one slice mozzarella and one basil leaf. Drizzle the olive oil or balsamic vinegar over the slices and keep cool until serving.
Triple Tomato Tart
Store bought puff pastry
3 tbsp sundried tomato paste
9 ounces vine ripened tomatoes, sliced
5 ½ ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 egg yolk
4 ½ ounces Italian sliced salami, chopped
Salt and pepper
Handful thyme sprigs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the thawed puff pastry sheet until it measures 14 inches by 10 inches. Lift it from the counter and slide it onto a well greased heavy duty baking sheet. Spread the sundried tomato paste over the dough leaving a 1 ¼ inch margin at each edge. Arrange the sliced ripened tomatoes over the paste and sprinkle with the cherry tomatoes. Top with rosemary and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg yolk and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salami and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme.