Tomatoes – Goodbye, Farewell, Adieu – At Least Until Spring

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I finally called it quits with my tomatoes yesterday, December 25th. You’d think I lived in Australia with how the tomato plants have done this year. I actually have some volunteer seedlings that are about 4-5 inches tall that have not succumbed to the little dab of cooler Houston temperatures.

My Juliett variety was loaded with green tomatoes, a few beginning to show signs of changing color as well as some that had ripened naturally. I brought them all in to the house and will attempt to ripen the green ones. I used to work at a produce warehouse in my student days. The trucks would come in and deliver boxes of tomatoes called breakers – the tint of pink color was just beginning to break. We would stack the boxes 5 or 6 high with room for air to circulate around them and them shut the room up tight and introduce ethylene gas to speed the ripening! A few days later the tomatoes are red but I wouldn’t call them ripe! That is why the store-bought tomatoes are so firm…..they haven’t been allowed to really ripen!

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

I decided to try to ripen the green ones here at home. I don’t have an ethylene gas ripening room so it is off to plan B! Two good natural sources of ethylene gas are ripe bananas and apples. No bananas on hand but I had some apples. An internet search shows using a container, a banana and a few green tomatoes to ripen. I used brown paper sacks, apples and the green tomatoes…..I will publish an update on the process in a week or so.

The plants are all pulled up and disposed of….I try to keep the tomato plants out of the compost heap but may try running them through my shredder and just live with any of the volunteer plants….My best cherry tomato plant this past year was one of those volunteers that did very well.

Let’s see, today is the 26th of December and I hope to have my 2013 tomato transplants in the ground before March 1st!

My daughter wanted my famous fried potatoes this morning so I included Poblano peppers that I stepped out and picked while the potatoes were cooking…..Yum!



A Hint of Fall in the Air

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It is so nice to be back in the garden again. My daughters and wife do a very nice job in maintaining the garden in my absence. I like to get some dirt under the nails, pull some weeds – a never-ending task here , stagger plant a few more so everything doesn’t ripen all at once and thin out some of the new seedlings. I always tell myself that I will thin the rows so they are spaced appropriately but I seem to fall down on that task with great regularity.

As I worked through the  beds today I did my thinning, pulled my weeds, pinched off the terminal ends of a few blackberry vines and snacked on some very fresh veggies. The asparagus ferns are huge, heavy and falling forward. The lean exposed some new shoots that begged to be picked and sampled. Asparagus snapped off and enjoyed in its ultimate fresh state is incredible. It is sweet and very tender. I found some blossoms ready to pick on my squash….not my favorite to snack on but not enough to add to a salad. I picked a few handfuls of the pole beans and enjoyed a few alfresco as well. I will steam some to go with the BBQ chicken tonight. (Kathy already had asparagus planned – not as fresh as mine but still good)

The Carmelo tomato plant looks like it will ripen up a dozen or so tomatoes before it gets too cold. In the past week the grape tomato has sent forth many dozen blossoms but I am afraid time is running short for them to mature. They may behave like me, flirt with maturity and stay in the vicinity for appearance sake. I may have to age but I can choose whether to behave or misbehave – it is my choice. PS – The right answer is always – “Yes Dear!”

The Meyer Lemons are turning yellow… I will have to quiz my urban farming friends, Jane and John, on how to determine the time to pick them. I saw them down at Starbucks this morning. We chatted about all things growing except for the lemon talk….

The Kale has really taken off and so many articles I’ve read say that it is so good to eat and a healthy choice. I sampled some way back in the days when I worked the docks for Anglen Produce in Bakersfield. My memory says that the flavor was quite unremarkable. But then again that was commercially grown kale and not the homegrown, naturally raised plants – mine must be better……. we’ll see. Did I ever tell you the story about packing up bags of Serrano and Jalepeno peppersat  the produce warehouse and absent mindedly going off to the men’s room – Kathy says I can’t tell that story….sorry.

Pulled some radishes for tonight’s salad and added another two dozen seeds to the row. Staggered in two more rows of beets for spring harvest. The volunteer cucumbers look to be doing well and I should have some to pick soon. I am also feeling like a neglectful farmer…. I have not checked in on my worms nor fed them for nearly two weeks…. Not good! They have consumed everything in the bin and needed some attention. I prepped the new bin and placed it over the well worked mass of worm poop. They should now start the upward migration into the new clean home…..Sorry little guys!

Less gardening on my list for this Tuesday – On my list to do is boiling the wort for a new batch of beer. I am trying a clone recipe for a Northwest US brew called Dick’s Danger Ale. http://www.dicksbeer.com/brews/brew_1.php?key=1 Dark but not nearly a heavy as a Porter of a Stout. Should be yummy – is yummy a robust enough word for a beer? Hmmmm. Maybe- “hearty and satisfying!” – yes that sounds better.



Too many green Beans!

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Too many green beans.

I returned home to my garden, my refuge, my place of calm and inner peace after two weeks in California. My wife took very good care of the veggies and berries in my absence, save for the green beans. The beans went wild.

I had planted poles in such a way as to lean forward from the fence to the front of the raised bed. I had hoped it would make picking a lot easier. In theory it looked like a success in the days before I left. I had lots of blossoms, a good number of early beans and many more on the way. In my absence the growing conditions must have been ideal. The vines hit the end of the 7  foot poles and still wanted to reach for the sky. The result was a mass of twisting and twining vines that drug the support poles down and snapped several off.

I picked a load of beans my first day back, had tons that went well beyond the stage to eat or can. I also had some bush beans planted in the area. They too were loaded. I have more beans than I can possibly eat fresh. I hope my worms can process large tough bean pods.

 I was thinking back to what my gardening friend Jane had told me about fresh green beans…….she got $8.00 per pound for them. I probably had 8-10 pounds, excluding those that were no longer tender eating size. I can see how a market grower could have a great cash crop with beans…….as long as they manage them well.

So, why the picture of my son Joe holding a nice fresh caught Speckled Trout? Last night I grilled the trout after marinating in a mixture of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, fish rub with garlic and some sea salt. We had the grilled filets with my wonderfull fresh green beans and broccoli. A simple yet an elegant meal. I paired my meal with the Imperial Stout Ale I recently brewed.. I was joined for dinner by my daughter Lisa. We had a nice visit and spent the evening watching the Mavericks put the Lakers into a deep hole. Kathy was off to New York City and Joe won’t eat what he catches.

I am planning a new technique for a bean tower. Last year I made a teepee structure and it worked well. So, why mess with success? I guess I have a need to know firsthand what doesn’t work so well! Hmmmmmmm, what can I come up with next? Maybe I need to consider the concept of “design of experiments” and use a control to test against…..the teepee? No that would take the fun of failure away!

TTFN Folks


Freshen up the Pizza

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Pepperoni size Juliet slices
Juliet, Roma tomatoes and Pizza

Brought in some fresh tomatoes this morning. The Juliet tomatoes are making a statement – using a President Obama term – this one plant wants to "Kick some Ass" and is loaded with tomatoes….. was that a bad political joke? Yes it was- just couldn't resist.
So, back to the freshened up pizza. I am a bachelor for another week – I do have my 15 year old suffering through my attempts to keep him fed, the dishes washed, floors swept, laundry done – Kathy I sure do appreciate ALL that you do for me…. wink, wink! It does not seem to ever slow down! So, Joe went off to soccer tryouts at 5:00 PM and I had to fend for myself.
I had a California Kitchen frozen pizza – they are thin crust, pretty tasty and relatively low cal! This one was spinach and cheese – BORING! – I had some turkey pepperonis in the fridge but I looked over at all "them maters"  – those Juliet tomatoes when sliced are pepperoni size and probably better for me. Looks pretty good doesn't it. Well it surely was!
So, what can I freshen up tomorrow? – I have a ton of cucumbers – hmmmmm – Google recipe search coming up!
 Bishop – TTFN

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