August 9th, 2013
August is a special month for veggie gardeners. It’s that one time of year when tomatoes, the favorite plants of the raised bed, begin generously doling out daily gifts, conveniently wrapped in glorious red packages.
There’s nothing sweeter, and we challenge you to find any grocery store tomatoes tastier than those from your own garden! Naturally, you want to get the most fruit from your vines. (Technically, yes, they are a fruit.) Weather can be unpredictable as we round closer to fall, so here’s how to get the best yield.
1) Give ‘em a pinch. By removing the suckers of the non-fruit bearing branches, those with fruit will grow stronger and ripen quicker.
2) Stake it up, baby now. Many larger varieties do best with six foot cages. Nobody likes a fallen beefsteak.
3) Water deeply. Tomatoes do better with a few deep waterings a week, rather than a light watering every day. Water the soil, not the leaves. Once the fall kicks in, cut back on watering to encourage the last fruit to ripen.
4) Let ‘em show their true colors. Tomatoes are ripe when the color of the fruit is even all the way around. (If it’s green on one side, let it hang around a while longer.)
5) Squeeze please. Give them a slight squeeze to tell if they’re ripe. They shouldn’t be too firm, but slightly soft to the touch. If they’re cracking, they’re past their prime or they’ve seen too much rain.
6) Be a critter crusader. If you begin losing fruit to the birds, squirrels and rabbits, feel free to bring the nearly ripe tomatoes indoors to complete their mission.
7) Stay away from the light. Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes don’t need warm window sills to ripen. They ripen best inside a brown paper bag where the humidity is easily controlled. For even faster ripening, put them in a bag with a banana.
8) Watch the temperatures. Once the daily temps begin dropping below 55 degrees, our favorite vines will cease to produce. To salvage as much of your tomato crop as possible, bring the fruit indoors and reenlist the help of Mr. Banana.
Enjoy the fruits of your garden labors. Now, what to make... Here’s a tasty tomato thought starter.
Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 garlic clove- finely minced
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese*
8 basil leaves finely chopped
3/4 cup mixed vegetables and/or olives (We used green onions, olives and sun dried tomatoes)
6 large ripe tomatoes
Marinated mozzarella cheese balls*
*Optional for those dairy-free!
Cook quinoa in broth according to package directions then bring to room temperature.
Saute garlic in olive oil and add to quinoa. Add lemon juice, parmesan, basil and veggies/olives. Hollow out the tomatoes. Stuff one mozzarella gem inside each and fill with quinoa mixture. Top with another gem and sprinkle with parmesan. (You'll have some quinoa left over.)
Serve cold, or broil in oven on high for 5 minutes.
It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.- Lewis Grizzard