Monday, August 29, 2011

You CAN Teach Old Tomatoes New Tricks

Hey all - I know it's been a looong time. Apologies. Lots has been a-happenin' - one thing is that I have relocated.

Of course not before I planted and nurtured 10 tomato plants.

Let's start with the fact that the sheet mulch from earlier posts did not break down as quickly as hoped, but the tomatoes seemed to do well as long as I kept them well fed with fish fertilizer and old milk. They were smaller sized than I had hoped (the tallest one being about 3' tall), but were producing at a lovely rate that kept me in tomatoey goodness daily without overwhelming me.

But this move...

The person who moved into the duplex behind me is the daughter of the people in the other 1/2, so I hoped perhaps I could leave my babies there and come back to harvest. The folks next door are sooo nice I figured that would work out. But alas - the daughter was planning on taking out all 4 beds and putting in a trampoline (she's 19 so I can't be too upset, but all that work!). So since the tomatoes were going to be ripped out anyhow, I figured I would see if tomatoes that are well established could survive transplantation.

I started by watering them and giving them fertilizer the day before I uprooted them. I also took off all of the fruit - red or green - beforehand. I figured it might fall off anyhow so why not? On the day I made sure that I was going to be able to dig them up and get them back into the ground in less than 30 minutes. I was sure to keep as much soil around the roots as possible, and packed them loosely into tupperware tubs. I put them into my car and covered the windows to avoid burns through the glass. I buried them as deeply as they had been before, staked them well, and gave them more water and fertilizer.

The first two days it seemed touch and go. The plants were severely wilted and sad looking. I watered them every evening, and gave them another feeding. Two weeks later 8 of the 10 are perked up with minimal dead leaves. The other two are yellowing and might die. Am still working on them. Of the 8 that are looking good, 7 are producing more fruit, and 5 have new flowers on them. Not sure how the fruit will be, but I am pleased to know that this is possible if necessary. I don't recommend it!

Sorry for the poor quality photo - the camera is out of batteries

I had a HUGE number of green tomatoes. I have been letting many of them ripen over time, but I did put up three quarts of pickled tomatoes. I used a modified recipe from Joy of Cooking, and used a technique for fridge pickling that I learned on NPR. Here is the recipe:

To make 1 Quart of Bread and Butter Fridge Pickles (I used green tomatoes)

- 1qt. loosely packed veggie you want to pickle
-1/2c. salt
- 1c. white wine vinegar
- 1c. sugar or honey
- 1t. mustard seeds
- 1t. turmeric
- 5-6 cloves or a small cinnamon stick
- 1/2t. celery seeds

I made 3 quarts. I took a large number of green cherry tomatoes and just punctured them with a paring knife to get the brine into the tomato. I also chopped 2qt worth of larger ones into bits.

- Soak the tomatoes overnight in a large bowl with the salt. I filled the bowl with water until the tomatoes were covered and then set a plate on top to hold them under.
- take the tomatoes out and rinse them at least twice
- loosely pack the tomatoes into quart jars (or whatever size you like)
- bring the sugar/honey and vinegar to a boil
- pour the hot mixture into the jar leaving about 1/4 inch at the top
- add turmeric, mustard, cloves/cinnamon, and celery seeds
- screw on lids tightly and turn over a few times to mix in spices
- place in fridge and let sit for two weeks before eating. these should be refrigerated for the duration.

I also added a bit of a twist to two of the jars - one got freshly chopped lemon balm, and another got a sprig of parsley. You could also add garlic if you like (I forgot).

They are tasty!

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