Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stocking Up!

A long time ago when we were first married we started our first organic vegetable garden. We grew lots of vegetables. We both came from country families who still had big gardens and preserved the bounty in various ways for consumption in the months when there were no fresh vegetables. Robin has always thought she was born in the wrong time. She believes she should have been a settler riding west in a covered wagon, wearing a bonnet and smoking a corn cob pipe.
Anyway, we bought a canner, a bunch of cases of canning jars and lids and "put up" our bounty of tomatoes, green beans, squash and pickles. We moved from place to place in pursuit of education and later jobs. We didn't always have a garden or a garden big enough to grow excess for "putting up" but we always carried those jars with us just in case...
Now 35 years later we need those jars! We are happy as we can be to be able to fill them up again with the fruits of our labors. Green beans, bread and butter pickles and what used to be called spaghetti sauce but which is now called marinara.
It is extremely satisfying to be able to make a great tasting, nutritious marinara using only ingredients we grew on The Funny Farm. I'm sure i've mentioned it before, I watch the food network way too much but i have learned techniques for making food taste awesome. Like fire - roasting tomatoes and peppers. That smokey flavor and caramelized sugars taste fantastic in sauces, stews, and salads. So fire roast we did. Peppers which we froze, tomatoes which we canned, both as ingredients in the marinara and all by themselves.
We love spaghetti so marinara was one of the only vegetable based things we bought. 
Now we don't have to do that any more. One less thing that has to be brought from halfway across the world.
Did I mention we have a gallon and a half of tomato hooch a-brewing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spreading the Gospel

I was working in the front yard garden today when a van stopped, a woman got out and asked if i had any vegetables for sale. Sure, I said we have lots of vegetables for sale. She said she definitely wanted tomatoes because she didn't trust the tomatoes from the grocery store. As she was deciding what else she wanted she told me that she has been following the progress of the garden since we first tilled it up and she was inspired to plant a small vegetable garden in her front yard.
That was the most exciting thing anyone has said to me in a long time. Our friends and neighbors, Rodney and Charlie said they too were inspired to plant a vegetable garden. They said that i shouldn't worry that they would still be buying vegetables from me in the future.
My thinking is that if everyone grew their own food and i never sold another thing i would be the happiest man in the world.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

tomato variety evaluations - The Rest

1. Rutgers - this tomato was developed in the 60's for disease resistance. It has good flavor, juiciness, and size. I will always grow a few of these for the sake of variety.
2. Taxi (pictured) - Taxi is a yellow medium sized variety. It is determinate which means that it eventually stops growing up so it works well in containers. The flavor is mild. It is juicy and attractive. When you cut it open there is a nice pink blush against the  otherwise yellow flesh. It ripens early. This year we had a lot of problems with the fruit rotting before it ripens. We have not had this problem in the past. We will grow a few of them in the future.
3. Arkansas Traveller- this is a medium sized tomato, dark pink in color. It has a mild, non-acidic flavor that some people don't care for. It does ok but not a star for us.
4. Tigerelle- This one has golfball sized fruit that taste good but they crack badly and the striping on the green fruit doesn't really hold up when it ripens. I find no good reason to grow it again.
5. Mortgage Lifter- a notorious heirloom but it doesn't do that great for us and there are other better tasting varieties.
6. Brandywine- I have never figured out what all the fuss is about.
7. Japanese Trifele (pictured)- This heirloom was much hyped in the seed catalogs this spring. As i said in an earlier post i had high hopes for it. What a disappointment. The fruit looks interesting at first but then it splits, gets disease, or is misshapen. Sadly it has little or no flavor at all. Tastes like water.
8. Tomato berry (pictured)- This is a new hybrid variety about the size of a golfball and shaped like a strawberry. It has good disease resistance  and it is very prolific. The problem is the fruits are hard and not very juicy . they are ok as paste tomatoes but will not replace Roma as a paste tomato nor grape tomatoes or sun gold as novelty tomatoes.
Next post will be about preserving the excess tomatoes. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tomato variety evaluations - The Best of the Best

This year we trialled many varieties of tomatoes we have never grown before to see which ones would do well here at The Funny Farm. We got most of them from our friend Daniel who farms at Gaia Gardens a few miles from us. - These are our favorites. The photos are in the same order as the following descriptions
1. Black from Tula - Everyone who has eaten this one agrees that it is the best tasting tomato they have ever had. Juicy, acidic, flavorful. It is beautiful as well. Dark red/black on the bottom with green shoulders. One slice covers a whole slice of bread. Good producer not too much problem with blight.
2. Amana Orange - Most people really like the flavor of this one too. Kind of fruity, not too acidic, juicy. Beautiful solid orange colored large, bread covering sized fruit. Prolific and not too much blight. The minor complaint i have is that it is hard to harvest. If you try to pull it off the vine the whole cluster tears off. The best thing to do is to cut the stem with pruners or a knife.
3. Eva Purple Ball - Don't know why this one is called purple ball because the fruit is pink. They flavor is really good. Medium acid, lots of flavor, juicy. The fruit rarely has blemishes.It is about the size of a baseball. Thick fleshy stems, good producer. Not much of a problem with blight.
4. Big Beef - This is a hybrid but it is very flavorful, juicy, and sandwich sized. It is a very heavy producer with little blight problems. This is our main crop.
5. Juliette - Small, oval shaped, meaty flesh. this a good tomato for making sauce. Flavor is good and it is amazingly prolific. We will always grow a few of these.

Next post will rate the middle of the pack.