The Mission of the Capital City Organic Gardeners is to collectively share, learn and teach organic vegetable gardening methods to each other. That is what we did at our last meeting. We took some time to share our ‘Tomato Wisdom” and here is what we learned…
Favorite Varieties of Tomatoes:
• Juliet is Laura’s favorite tomato. It is a small oval shaped tomato like a paste tomato, but not fleshy. It cooks down well into sauces, tastes good sliced up and dries well in the dehydrator. It is a great tomato for roasting in the oven. The plants are very prolific and bear tons of fruit throughout the season.
• Claudia loves her Garden Peach tomato. It is a small, yellow tomato that has a velvety skin much like a peach! It is a low-acid paste tomato that is blight resistant . The best thing about the Garden Peach is it’s beauty, it’s simply gorgeous! Claudia also made a pitch for the heirloom, Cherokee Purple because of it’s beautiful purple color and great, rich taste.
• Steve enjoys his German Johnson heirloom tomatoes because they rarely split before you are ready to pick them.
• Nikki claims that Brandywine heirlooms are scrumptious and her personal favorite.
•Everyone agreed that no cherry tomato tops Sun Gold. Sungold tomatoes were developed at UNH at the Kingman Farm. Claudia dries her Sun Golds by simply cutting them in half and putting them in the dehydrator. They dry down to wafer-thin disks that are crunchy and taste like tomato candy. Simply amazing!
• Nikki plants her tomatoes very deep. She digs down about 1 1/2′ and puts a quart of composted manure at the bottom of the hole. She takes off side leaves and plants the tomato as deep as she can leaving a few leaves above ground. The tomato will make roots all along its buried stem.
• Steve takes some chicken wire or hardware cloth and makes a circular cage. He puts rotted horse manure in the cage and then plants tomato plants around the perimeter of the cage. He waters the manure and the water washes down through the manure to water the tomatoes and fertilize them at the same time.
Unfortunately, there are so many tomato diseases that it was hard to pinpoint any one treatment for a particular disease. However, we did come up with a strategy for combating diseases. First, at the first sign of any sort of disease on the plant, cut off the bad parts and throw the diseased parts away (do NOT compost). If you think you have blight, then spray the plants with a copper fungicide. If the tomatoes seem to be rotting before ripening, then pick them at the first hint of red. They will ripen up on their own. Next year, plant your tomatoes in a new spot. That helps lessen diseases from being spread year to year.
-Here is a link to identify Tomato diseases: Vegetable MD On-Line
-Here is a link for common tomato problems and some solutions: www.colostate.edu
-Here is a link for planting tomatoes: Organic Gardening Magazine
Dealing with excess tomatoes:
– Lorna doesn’t have much time to process her tomatoes during the summer so she simply throws them whole into big plastic bags and puts them in the freezer. Then, in the cooler weather, she just pulls out the tomatoes and let’s them defrost a bit. The skins slip right off and she can make a sauce or throw them into soups and stews. Easy!
• Laura shared a recipe for Crockpot Tomato Sauce which is easy to make and uses up a lot of tomatoes all at once. The Crockpot does not heat up the kitchen and the sauce freezes well. Here it is…
Crockpot Tomato Sauce for the freezer
An easy way to process a ton of tomatoes without heating up your kitchen or slaving over the stove all day!
1. Saute one onion and two or three garlic cloves until soft. Put into the crockpot.
2. Deglaze pan with about a half a cup of water and add to crockpot.
3. Cut tomatoes in half. Squeeze out seeds. No need to peel. Throw into crockpot until crockpot is full or you have run out of tomatoes.
4. Optional: Add in diced carrots. Two or three.
5. Cook all day. Puree sauce with a stick blender or regular blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like a sweeter sauce, add in a touch of brown sugar.
6. Freeze. This is a good basic tomato sauce to use as a base for your winter recipes.
So there you have it! Lot’s of “Tomato Wisdom” shared with the group. Collectively, we all learned something new!