Ah, the tomatoes are coming in. I am particularly excited because I seemed to have at least partially beaten the blight/fungus that so often affects my plants.
This fungus kills the plants, but doesn't affect the tomatoes. The problem is, if the plants are infected early, the tomatoes don't have a chance to grow, such as with a small patch of nine plants I tried to grow in the main garden. The blight arrived there first, so the plum tomatoes are hardly any larger than a cherry tomato.
This year I did my best to try to outsmart the blight. My nearly 40 tomato plants are planted in three separate locations, far apart from each other. The garden patch of nine got the blight first and pretty much devastated each plant. My second location is far away from the garden. Twelve plants are growing in 12 five-gallon buckets in front of the house. The fungus arrived there several weeks later so most of the tomatoes – traditional, cherry and plum – had a chance to grow to nearly normal size.
The third spot is a new raised bed, located almost at the edge of the woods. Those 18 plants have done the best. With heavy doses of pigeon poop, the plants grew quickly and strong. The blight just arrived there a couple of weeks ago so I have bushels of green and red tomatoes on the plants. That's where most of this year's crop for preserving and eating immediately has come from.
I am already trying to devise a plan for next year's tomato locations. The amount of rain we receive also affects the prevalence of the blight. This year was bad – too much rain, leading to a very quick infection. All that aside, I am busy picking tomatoes in various stages of ripeness in preparation for canning. So far, 34 jars of tomatoes and 18 jars of hot salsa are lining my pantry shelves. I'm in hopes of at least doubling that number by the end of the canning season.
And of course, we are eating those wonderfully flavorful tomatoes almost every night in traditional salads, tomato salads, almost uncooked on angel hair pasta, and simply sliced with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. No store bought tomato that we must eat during the rest of the year comes close to the tomato-ey flavor of homegrown tomatoes.
The canned tomatoes will be used in soups and stews, sauces, and a myriad of other dishes during the winter months. But for now, we are able to use these fat, red, flavorful tomatoes in an abundance of dishes.
Here are two that I frequently make.
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes (serves two)
2 large ripe tomatoes
6 to 8 tablespoons low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
one-quarter cup fresh, chopped spinach
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
one-quarter teaspoon dried thyme
sprinkling of salt and pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
sprinkling of fresh, chopped flat-leafed Italian parsley
Cut tomatoes in half and place in a vegetable oil sprayed casserole dish, cut side up.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, chopped spinach, salt and pepper, garlic and thyme. Spoon equal amounts atop each tomato half. Top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Roasted tomato slices, with herbs, is one way to prepare and freeze for later use in sauces or other dishes. They are all ready to use when needed.
Cut large tomatoes into quarter-inch slices
Place on olive-oil greased cookie sheets in one layer
Finely mince as many garlic cloves as needed for the amount of tomato slices to be roasted.
Sprinkle each slice with a few drops of olive oil, minced garlic, freshly ground black pepper, salt, and chopped, fresh basil leaves.
Bake at 300 degrees for about 2 hours, or until juices have evaporated.
Let cool completely. Then freeze in serving- or recipe-size portions.
I may be reached at email@example.com.