Sunday, November 8, 2009

End of the year wrap-up

Okay, it's not the end of the year but as I'm still riding the high of thanking the Earth Goddess for the wonderful harvest this year and I'm starting to plan next year's garden I thought I'd do a little recap of the year's garden winners.
First, I should say that we've finally got the soil conditions almost correct for the tomatoes we grow. Before planting we tilled the soil and seeded each hole with bone meal and epsom salts. The additional calcium from the bone meal and sulfur and magnesium from the epsom salts made a HUGE difference in the amount of blossom end rot we experienced and may have contributed to the amazing size and volume of tomatoes we harvested.
Without a doubt, this was the year of the Roma tomato. I purchased real heirloom Roma tomato seeds from Tomatofest and we harvested them into October. While they are a small tomato and not generally known as being particularly tasty these were very rich with an old-fashioned tomato taste. These meaty tomatoes probably made the best tomato sauce it's ever been my privilege to make and the plants just kept setting fruit and setting fruit until you almost couldn't see the foliage through all the little oblong red tomatoes.
An unexpected huge hit was the Thessaloniki Oxheart. Another seed buy from Tomatofest, I loved these tomatoes because of their big size and thick walls of meat. The taste is milder and they weren't the production factories that the Roma plants were but pound for pound they probably out produced the Romas.
Once again, my beloved Mom's Paste did not let me down. Each plant set hundreds of giant, udder-shaped, excellent tasting pastes that gave each batch of tomato sauce a slightly sweet, fresh tomato taste. If I could only choose one paste tomato this one would the one.
Now for the regular slicing tomatoes my requirements are a little different though they still generally end up going into my sauces. I want taste that makes me moan with pleasure with no mealy or mushy texture. Seeds and skin can't be bitter or tough and if they're pretty it's a huge bonus.
My Kellogg's Breakfast tomatoes are always a favorite. I love those two pound orange tomatoes with their sweet, distinctly tomato flavor. We didn't get a huge amount of them this year but Kellogg's seems to prefer a warmer growing season and we had a cool year this year.
Caspian Pinks and Serbians are wonders of the world to me. These European tomatoes still remember the salty sea and robust soil that originally bred them and the taste reflects that. There's a salty tang to the rich, almost heavy taste of tomato in each bite that makes them the perfect compliment to any sandwich.
The Stupice tomatoes, small and perfectly round were fantastic. We enjoyed very heavy production from these milder but tasty tomatoes that were made for salads.
Another surprise hit for me was the Costuluto Genovese. Another VERY flavorful, rich tomato, these were big tomatoes that begged to be roasted, grilled or stir fried because they had enough flavor to go it alone.
An honorable mention should go to my Mr Stripey and Paul Robeson tomatoes. As much as I adore the smokey, meaty flavor of those tomatoes they simply didn't produce as many tomatoes this year as I'd like. It may have been the weather that didn't agree with them so they'll be in the garden next year anyway and I'll be trying a few more blacks just in case.
I continue in my never-ending quest to grow melons. Every year I say "next year will be better." Next year will be better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Samhain and more

October 30th was national candy corn day and I missed it!!?? How can that be? My favorite Halloween candy and I didn't pay homage to it in an appropriate manner (which of course would have meant glutting myself on a two pound bag). Oh well, there's always next year.....or the after Halloween sales....hmmmmm.....
My Bourbon turkey hen Jefferson came to find me today. Yes, she loves me. I saw a little face looking in the window and thought it was the cat but there was something strange about this face.....almost looked like a BEAK on that little face. There was my baby Jefferson checking to see if I could come out and play. I ignored her in favor of my nacho lunch and diet pepsi only to see her fly up to the porch railing so she could stare at me mournfully through the big picture window. Then she started hen calling and I just had to smile and go help her out. I got some turkey and chicken treats together and went out to feed everyone. Jefferson jumped into my arms and I put her back in her house after a little cuddle. Who says turkeys are stupid?
We had a pretty good Halloween. Greg took the kids into Castle Rock while I stayed home with a headache, a bowl of popcorn and a bunch of "b" horror movies. I did a little ritual thanking the goddess and asking grandma a few questions and then the kids were home with about 20 pounds of candy. They had a blast. Several people tried to scare them and that was almost as much fun as seeing the wondrous variety and sheer quantity of candy.
And now we move to one of my favorite holidays-Thanksgiving. I so love the planning and cooking and feeding family that traditionally goes with this day. I wish we could ship in a few more family members but I'll make do with whatever people I can get here. My cooking will start the weekend before Thanksgiving. I plan to put some cookies and sausage biscuits in the freezer for Adam to take home with him. I'll make some caramel corn in a couple of batches so Adam can have his without peanuts. The turkey will have to start thawing so that I can brine it for a day or two before we cook it. I'm so glad I'm feeling better so I can truly enjoy all the culinary joy.
Good and bad news: The girls pulled up the tomato cages for us but then they left the greenhouse door open. A few days later "Mommy's deer" got into the greenhouse and the boys saw them and decided they go see them so the deer tore down my plastic greenhouse walls in several places. That plastic is expensive and visions of trying to grow my wondrous tomatoes without the greenhouse flashed through my head. Now Greg thinks we may finish putting the remaining hoops up and enlarge the greenhouse since we'll have to buy new plastic anyway. Woot! Even MORE tomatoes! Can I stand this much joy? Better try to keep my excitement down because with our luck we still might not be able to afford it. We'll see but I'll be hoping.
I think we're over the worst of the flu finally. Greg is off oxygen, my headaches are getting less bothersome and the endless coughing seems to be diminishing. I actually got a little work done today around the house and went for a walk outside. Life is good.