web analytics

Tag Archive | "tomatoes"

Grow your best tomato yet


Plant tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”   

Plant tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”

By Melinda Myers

Nothing beats the flavor of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Make this your biggest and tastiest tomato harvest yet with proper planting and care.

Reduce pest problems and increase the harvest by growing your tomatoes in a sunny location with well-drained soil or in a quality potting mix for container gardens. Improve your garden soil by adding several inches of organic matter to the top eight to twelve inches of soil prior to planting. Compost, aged manure, and other organic materials help improve drainage in heavy clay soil and increase the water holding ability of sandy soil.

Add a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer according to label directions at planting. Slow release fertilizers provide a constant diet that is better for your plants and less work for you. Save yourself more time by mixing the fertilizer into the soil when incorporating the organic matter. Then give your plants a midseason boost as needed.

Once the soil is prepared, wait for the air and soil to warm to plant your tomatoes. Planting too early when the soil is still cool and the nights are chilly can stress the plant and delay your harvest.

Plant your tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Trench tomatoes by digging a shallow trench about 3 to 4 inches deep. Remove the lower leaves and lay the plant on its side in the hole. Roots will eventually form along the stem. Carefully bend the stem, so the upper leaves will be above the soil. Fill the trench with soil and water.

Stake or tower your tomatoes to reduce insect and disease problems and make harvesting easier. The type of tomato and your schedule will help determine the training system that works best for you.

Determinate tomatoes (look for the D on the tag) grow a certain height and stop. They work well in towers, containers or even hanging baskets. Indeterminate tomatoes, labeled with an I, keep growing taller, producing more flowers and fruit until the end of the growing season.  These do best when grown on tall sturdy stakes or extra tall strong towers.

Towering tomatoes is easy. Simply place the tower over the tomatoes at planting. Tomatoes grown in towers produce a larger, but later harvest than staked tomato plants.

Allow a bit more time if you decide to stake your plants. Place the stake in the ground at planting. Be careful not to injure the roots. As the plants begin to grow, prune off all side branches, and suckers that develop between the main stem and leaves.  Loosely tie the remaining one or two stems to the stake. Cloth strips, twine or other soft ties work well. Keep tying up the plants as they continue to grow. Staked tomatoes produce the earliest and smallest harvest.

Check new plantings every few days and water often enough to keep the developing root system moist. Reduce frequency as plants become established. Water established plants thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist. Mulch the soil with evergreen needles, shredded leaves or other organic mulch to keep the soil consistently moist and suppress weeds. Consistent soil moisture encourages more flowering and fruiting, while reducing the risk of blossom end rot, cracking and misshapen fruit.

Harvest your tomatoes when fully colored. Leave them on the plant an extra 5 or 6 days for even better flavor. Unfortunately, the animals often move in and feast on the ripening fruit. In this case, you may need to finish ripening tomatoes indoors.

And once you taste that first red ripe tomato, you’ll be looking for more sunny spots for containers or to expand your garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments (0)

Tantalizing Tomato Tidbits


Appetizers to get the party started

 

(Family Features)

Great appetizers are full of flavor to stimulate the appetite, but not so rich that they spoil it. To get that balance, look to fresh, flavorful ingredients like Florida tomatoes.

Ripe tomatoes add beautiful color, great taste, and a host of healthy nutrients — like vitamin C — to any appetizer. Chef Justin Timineri, known as the Florida Chef, and Florida Tomatoes have created some mouthwatering appetizer recipes using the versatile, tantalizing tomato.

—Tomato Cobb Salad Wrap — Turn a favorite salad into a tasty finger food by wrapping up Cobb salad ingredients in a flour tortilla.

—Tomato and Avocado Salsa — Whether you make it mild or spice it up, this salsa will make a lot of mouths happy. Try serving it in individual, wide mouthed glasses so guests can dip and re-dip as much as they like.

—Hot Artichoke Dip Stuffed Tomatoes — A savory party favorite, this dip gets extra flavor by being paired up with juicy baked tomatoes.

—Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Pecans — Sweet, savory, crunchy, salty — this appetizer has it all.

To get more appetizer and party-ready recipes, as well as sign up for a free newsletter, visit www.floridatomatoes.org.

 

 

Don’t Refrigerate

For the best tomato flavor, never refrigerate them. A chilled tomato will not finish ripening because cold halts the ripening process. Cold also kills the flavor of tomatoes, so even when the tomatoes are fully ripe, keep them out of the refrigerator.

 

 

How Much?

1 medium tomato, seeded = approximately 3/4 cup chopped.

1 large tomato, seeded = 1 cup chopped.

1 pound of tomatoes = approximately 2 1/2 cups chopped, or 2 cups puréed.

 

 

Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2             large Florida tomatoes, diced

1             large avocado, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2             cup red onion, chopped

1/2             cup bell pepper, chopped

1/4             cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1             lime, juiced

1             teaspoon powdered cumin

Your favorite hot sauce (for heat)

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir to combine.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Serve at room temperature for best flavor.

For hotter version, substitute 1 seeded fresh jalapeño pepper for green pepper. Also, if you prefer, use toasted cumin seed instead of ground cumin.

 

 

Hot Artichoke Dip Stuffed Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings

1             package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, softened

2             large fresh Florida tomatoes, seeds removed  and diced

1/4             cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/2             cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

1             clove garlic, minced

1             tablespoon fresh basil

1             can low-sodium artichoke hearts, drained and chopped fine

1             cup fresh spinach, chopped

1             lemon, juiced

Kosher salt and fresh

ground pepper to taste

4             large fresh Florida tomatoes

1/4             cup mozzarella cheese,  shredded

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, diced tomatoes, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, garlic and fresh basil. Stir in chopped artichoke hearts and spinach. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning with lemon juice, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Set stuffing mixture aside.

Rinse whole tomatoes under cold running water and pat dry with clean paper towels. Slice off top of each tomato with a serrated knife; cut in half. Squeeze each half to loosen seeds. Using a spoon, scoop out 1/3 of the insides of tomato. Fill tomatoes with stuffing mixture. Top each stuffed tomato with shredded mozzarella.

Place stuffed tomatoes in baking dish and put into preheated oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crisp flatbreads, or sliced vegetables.

 

 

Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Pecans

Yield: 4 servings

2             ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2             cup crumbled blue cheese

2             tablespoons coarsely chopped

pecans

4             slices crusty, firm-textured bread, cut about 3/4 inch thick

2             cloves garlic peeled and halved

2             large Florida tomatoes, sliced  about 1/8 inch thick

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chopped fresh basil or dried basil for garnish

In small bowl, mash cheeses together with fork, leaving mixture somewhat chunky. Mix in pecans.

Preheat broiler. Arrange bread on small baking sheet and broil slices for about 1 minute on each side, just until golden. Watch carefully so bread doesn’t burn.

Rub one side of each piece of bread with garlic.

Spread some of the cheese mixture over each slice and arrange 2 or 3 overlapping tomato slices on top. Pepper tomatoes lightly, then garnish with basil and serve.

 

 

Tomato Cobb Salad Wrap

Yield: 4 servings

4             large (10-inch) flour tortillas

6             tablespoons prepared blue cheese dressing

8             ounces sliced cooked turkey breast

3             medium, fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes (about 1 pound), cut into thin slices

4             leaves Boston, iceberg or  leaf lettuce

1             ripe Hass avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices

4             strips cooked bacon

Spread each tortilla with 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing.

Top with layers of turkey, tomato, lettuce, avocado and bacon, dividing evenly.

Roll up tortillas. If desired, tie each wrap with chives, or secure with long toothpicks, and cut each sandwich in half.

To serve, stand both halves of each sandwich on cut ends. Garnish with tomato wedges, green onions and avocado.

 

Posted in Featured, RecipesComments Off