Tomatoes (not enchiladas)

gibbily francis
gibby is waiting for the enchiladas…

I sat down to talk about enchiladas. Tasty enchiladas. Tasty, authentic, homemade enchiladas. Enchiladas from the fabulous Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. That will come someday, because they were really *really* tasty enchiladas!!

This morphed into a garden post. It’s mostly about tomatoes, with a wee bit of my outlook on life. The good, the bad, and the ugly πŸ™‚

A riddle:

Q: What do you get when you cross a man with a disappointing tomato crop and a lady whose glass is half-full in spite of the tomato vines dying too soon?

A: I’m not sure what you would get, but around here we got a mess of watery, tasteless tomatoes tossed on at the compost heap.

That is sure to make some raccoon very happy tonight πŸ˜‰

the little tomatoes that could
little tomatoes that could — left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and a generic beefsteak

Ahhh, garden tomatoes. They can make your heart leap with joy, or they can crush it like a vise. How we yearn for them in the winter. We gaze longingly at the colorful pictures in the catalog, and after much discussion, choose and order the seeds. We watch for the postman, and worry that the package may arrive to an empty house and oh — horrible thought — freeze if we aren’t home! It may sound crazy but it’s true. That’s how we think up here in the north woods.

Then comes the happy day when the seeds arrive, to be safely carried into the warm house. There is much oohing and aahing over the pictures on the packets. We feel like pioneers. The garden is everything, and the tomato is king. Surely our tomatoes will look just like those pictures, and taste even better. We get out the calendar and talk about the last frost date.

From tiniest seeds planted with care by the warmth of the wood stove while the frigid February wind blows, the emerging seedlings are tended as one would tend a child. As winter wanes, we watch them anxiously — are they too leggy? too wet? too dry? It’s all in the hands of the garden gods. When spring finally arrives, the hopeful little babies are set out in the garden. If it’s a good year, we are rewarded with more fruit than we can handle — jam and chutney flow through our veins. Other years, the vines struggle and the fruit we harvest may not be as tasty as we’d dreamed way back in the chill of February. Still, any tomato plucked from the garden is a thousand times better than the hard, waxy balls from the grocery store.

If the tomatoes aren’t great, one could argue that it’s an off year for the garden. I respectfully disagree.

In the spirit of my lately-completed law class (with a hard-won “A”, too!), I offer the following evidence πŸ˜‰

corn in silk and tassel
Corn is in tassel and silk

The peppers (hot and sweet varieties) are a success as usual, and there will be carrots for weeks to come. Papdi beans are coming on now. Pole beans are flourishing among the sunflowers and we are entertained by the bees (finally!) visiting.

sunflowers reach for the sky
sunflowers growing heavy with seed for the birds

Brussels sprouts plants are standing tall. The winter squash and Korean radish have exceeded even my optimistic expectations — with the latter literally vaulting out of the ground! Who knew?

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts plant ~ waiting for the autumn chill to form the sprouts along the stem

korean radish
korean radishes average over a foot long ~ can’t pick them fast enough

The herbs are growing nicely — some already dried for winter use.

fresh basil
yes, that is the outdoor garden sink full to the brim with fragrant basil ~ I made pesto with that πŸ™‚

It’s true: with the notable exception of those pictured here, this year’s tomatoes have been something of a bust.

Still I can’t complain!

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes grow in various sizes and shapes

amish paste tomato
amish paste tomato showing few seeds

For years I dreamed of attending the Carmel Tomatofest in sunny California — not for the California sunshine but for the amazing array of heirloom tomatoes on display. Check out the photo on the link above — it’s good enough to eat, and lucky attendees could try each and every one! The classic Tomatofest has since merged with another festival featuring even more good things, but its tomato-only avatar lived on in my mind. I always wanted to have a mini-version of my own. Today, thanks mostly to dear G’s hard work, I finally made it happen. Only four varieties were featured — all the testers could handle πŸ˜‰

mini tomato fest in my kitchen
lined up for the taste test from left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and beefsteak — tomato fest in my kitchen!**

We may not have a huge tomato-canning venture this year, but nevermind. There is plenty of tomato bounty left from last fall, and crop is not a total loss. There are some ripening yet, and the cherry tomatoes are doing well. If the garden gods smile upon us, we’ll have tomato fest part two in a few weeks with a few other varieties — either way I have a feeling that tomatoes will be simmering before September is out. Besides, I managed to make a small batch of ISG’s tasty thokku the other day. And that made me very happy.

ISGs tomato thokku
ISG’s tasty, spicy tomato thokku

We take the bitter with the sweet in this life.

I firmly believe there’s no great loss without some small gain (though I am not sure dear G would count attracting raccoons as a gain). πŸ˜‰

For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be happy with and thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy, or choose to be unhappy.

I choose to be happy, and I won’t let anything stand in the way πŸ™‚

**For anyone interested (and for my own journal!) the results were:
Park’s Whopper (7.6 oz) — tartest taste, my #1, G’s #4
Mr. Stripey (9.2 oz) — sweetest taste, a little spicy, unanimous #2
Golden Jubilee (5.6 oz) — a little sweet, peachy, unanimous #3
Beefsteak (5.9 oz) — G thought “pretty good” I thought “bland, watery”, G’s #1, my #4

Amish paste was not rated — it’s more a mealy cooking tomato.

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3 Comments »

  1. That Brussel Sprouts plant looks beautiful. As for the thokku it looks great. It is fantastic as a spread or even for cooking Pasta. Those green tomatoes can be made into thokku.

    Yes life is all about choice and I like yours! Happiness! πŸ™‚

    Hi ISG, hope I don’t end up with green tomatoes — most are off the dead vines now and ripening inside. Only thing left outdoors is winter squash. I can’t wait for pumpkin with black eyed peas! Hope you are all well — and happy! πŸ™‚

  2. Sra said

    Have been meaning to visit … congrats on your A grade, and the wonderful bounty from your garden. I miss having a garden, even potted plants will do, but I have no direct light coming into my apartment!

    Hey Sra, glad to see you here! I hear you on the lack of light indoors — seedlings are impossible here in winter. I would miss the garden, but not the hours cleaning it up in October πŸ˜‰

  3. shyameds said

    You are so lucky, Linda! πŸ™‚ Good to read a nice chatty long post from you,. And oh, heartiest congratulations on your A πŸ™‚

    So happy to see you Shammi! I’m being lazy with the blog again (back to school and garden and all) but winter is coming, more time to cook rather than play outdoors, yes? πŸ™‚ Hope you’re well!

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