Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
On warmer winter days you can actually get outside and do cleanup chores in the garden. Getting rid of any weeds and basic clean up of dead plants is a good start. Also working on building raised beds and pathways is a great chore for wintertime. All that hard work is much easier to do while the weather is cool.
Sitting by the fire drawing garden plans is my favorite wintertime chore and planning how much to grow of everything is so much fun and makes me want to cook soup! Tomato bisque with a little rosemary and garlic foccacia.
Tomato Bisque is made with homemade marinara sauce, pureed and add 1 cup half and half, heat over low heat to a simmer until hot and steamy.
Here is my recipe for Marinara which we made last summer and froze several containers.
5-6 cups tomatoes, cored, diced and seeds removed if you prefer
2-3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
fresh herbs, Basil, parsley, oregano or marjoram, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper flakes if you like heat
Add a little olive oil into a large skillet and add onion, cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add garlic and herbs and cook another minute or so. Add tomatoes with their juices and cook for about 20 minutes until tomatoes are soft and turn from light pink to deep red.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Many of our varieties are so popular that we will never drop them...here are just a few.
The best tomato we have ever tasted! This tomato will convince you to grow Heirloom varieties. They are from the Tennessee Cherokee Indians, discovered over 100 years ago and have a thin skin and soft texture. When fully ripened they have dark reddish-purple color, full acidity and a rich, old fashioned, sweet flavor. Make sure to mulch for best results and hold back on the watering. Our best results were during an 8 week drought with minimal drip watering. 80 days
This is truly a WOW tomato which was a standout in our tomato testing this year. It is a bicolor heart-shaped tomato with smooth golden flesh marbled on the inside with streaks of red. A cross between Russian 117 and Georgia Streak this 1 to 2 lb.yellow-orange tomato has a pink blush, is very meaty with flavor that is well balanced, somewhat fruity in flavor and has very few seeds. 85 days.
Fantastic, huge, golden orange variety with fruits that range from 1 to 2 lbs and 5" across! Rich color, meaty texture and good acid content make this a great selection which melts in your mouth. Has a wonderful fruity flavor and smooth flesh. 80 days
One of our most popular tomatoes for its spectacular flavor, these beautiful small fruit start green with dark stripes and ripen to a yellow color keeping the green stripes. The amazing sweet and tart flavor makes this one great in Salsas and Salads. Plant early as it does not produce well in summer high temperatures 75 days
An old-fashioned, gorgeous, yellow heirloom with red-orange stripes, this plant will not produce a huge quantity of fruit but what you get is very sweet and extremely large, up to 2 lbs. Rich flavorful tomato that is the most amazing size and texture. These are great to eat sliced and have exceptional color and sweetness. 85-90 days
This old prolific heirloom variety is the best producer of red, smooth 10-16 oz. fruits. Don't be thrown by the name because you won't believe the incredible taste. Old fashioned flavor with high yields for an heirloom tomato is great variety for an all purpose kitchen tomato or delicious sliced on a sandwich! 80 days
Huge, luscious red beefsteak tomatoes on tall plants can grow up to 3 lb fruits! Potato leaf heirloom plants produce tomatoes with excellent sweet, juicy Italian flavor. 85 days
One of our very favorites! This is a delicious Swiss heirloom variety has beautiful quality, looks, and taste. They are pink skinned with deep rose colored flesh, round and uniform. Simply excellent flavor. Originally discovered in a market in Arles, France from a farmer growing a number of old tomato varieties. Very rich flavor, good acid and sweetness. 75 days
This is the most well known Heirloom variety for good reason. It has huge fruit with incredibly sweet flavor. It originates from the Amish in the late 1800's. It is always a staple in our garden because it is so reliable. Starts out pinkish, and turns slowly red, and then slightly purplish as it ripens. Very large vines, they can grow up to 12 feet if the soil is kept somewhat cool with mulches. Ripens in 80-90 days
Also known as "Traveler" this Southern Heirloom variety is known for producing well in hot weather. Beautiful dark Pink tomatoes are 6-8 oz. and very flavorful and sweet. They are always a reliable producer of large bountiful crops even during the heat of summer. Late season 85 days
This is an authentic Italian heirloom tomato used all over Italy for canning. We chose a variety from Tuscany, named for a mountain in Bergamo. Huge plum type tomatoes grow to 4 1/2" long and 2" across. They have a meaty texture and full acidic flavor along with excellent sugar content for the best sauces. 80 days
One of our most popular tomatoes, this old fashioned variety of well-shaped, large fruit has very few seeds and a fantastic meaty interior texture. This one is extremely sweet and delicious in tomato sandwiches. Many are over 2 lbs! 85-90 days
Friday, November 7, 2008
Mamaw's dressing is always cornbread dressing with fresh sage and chicken stock (with the pieces of chicken cut up into it). Tradition is the best part of this wonderful food holiday.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Reuters – A purple tomato genetically engineered to contain nutrients more commonly seen in dark berries helped prevent cancer in mice, British researchers said on Sunday.
Well, we have always known that our beautiful heirloom tomatoes tasted better but this can prove that they are also healthier than eating store bought tomatoes too! Cherokee Purple, while not as purple as these, does have a very dark red flesh with purple crown and green gel inside. We are learning more about how colors of fresh foods make a world of difference as far as antioxidents and anthocyanins, like in these tomatoes which have the about the same amount as blackberries.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Happenings here on the farm!
Our 2 young bull calves just got weaned and boy are they are hungry! With our dry weather, grass is growing slowly so needless to say, they have found their way through the fences and the mother cows just follow them right through. Unfortunately, they have decided that our fall planted lettuces were just what they wanted and they have eaten them down to the ground! Lucky we still have peas and beans going but we will really miss that lettuce. One of the calves we will trade, along with his mother, to a neighbor so that we can get a new cow to breed with our bull, Bruno. She is a Red Angus and we hope to have some really nice beef from her offspring.
Our chickens are what we call "yard birds" which is sort of like free-range, only more country. They love to get out and scratch for bugs and worms, especially after a rain. Because of their diet, they have yolks which are so dark yellow you wouldn't believe it. This means they are high in Omega 3 that they get from the grass and protein they get from the bugs. They have access to the entire yard and we will sometimes be sitting in the kitchen and hear one clucking nearby. We even had a few eggs hatch this year when the hens hid the eggs from us! Fresh Farm eggs just can't be beat and with over 40 chickens, we never have to be without them.
photo courtesy of: Kitchen Gardeners International
2 tbsp butter
2 leeks, cleaned well and chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped finely with leafy tops
1 quart chicken stock (homemade is best)
5-6 medium white potatoes, peeled (if skins are thin, you can leave the skins on for more fiber and a rustic texture) and cut into large bite-sized pieces
1 can white navy or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 bunch or several stalks of fresh parsley
2-3 stems of fresh basil (or use a tsp of prepared pesto)
juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper and 1/2 cup cream or half and half (optional)
sour cream and chives to garnish
Remove parsley and basil leaves from stems, set leaves aside and tie stems together with kitchen string. Add butter to a Dutch oven and melt over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add bundle of herb stems, potatoes and chicken stock to Dutch oven and cook on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes boiling time.
Remove herb stem bundle. Chop parsley and basil leaves finely and add to simmering soup along with drained cannellini beans, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer soup until beans are warmed through, about 6-10 minutes. Soup can be pureed at this stage for a smoother texture. Add in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender. Add 1/2 cup cream or half and half for a creamier, richer soup.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh snipped chives. This recipe would be great with a bruschetta of tomatoes, basil and garlic.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Fall vegetables, that mature in cooler temperatures, are available online now for shipment beginning next week. "Fall" or "Cool season" Vegetables will begin shipping August 11th and continue through September as quantities last. Every year we plant a full collection of the most beautiful vegetable plants, all ready to go into your garden. Many of these vegetables such as Arugula and Mustard Greens can be harvested very quickly and will continue throughout the fall. A few vegetables will even overwinter such as Cabbage and Collards! Try growing some of our greens this fall and add nutrition and superb taste to your table.
Marinated Roasted Tomatoes:
Quarter and squeeze tomatoes to drain the juices slightly using your fingers to remove some of the seeds. Chop Sweet onions and Sweet Red or Yellow Bell Peppers about the same size as tomato wedges. Add 2-3 Rosemary sprigs, Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Basil or other fresh herbs, several cloves of garlic, crushed slightly or pressed, salt & pepper to taste. Roast in a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour or until all vegetables are soft and fragrant. Use as a spread on crusty bread, as a pasta sauce or for the bread salad listed below. Great to freeze or can in jars for later use.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The optimism of gardeners never ceases to amaze me. Although weather conditions can be dreadful one year, we always have a sense that the new spring will be the best one ever. It reminds me of the fact that after having one child, we forget how much work and how difficult it was and go ahead and do it again and again and again...(well some of us do anyway.) So optimism... it's better than the alternative!
Our season is shaping up nicely and our weather has been great so far, knock on wood. We are selling our plants as fast as we can grow them this year which is great for us, but for you...we strongly suggest ordering early since we want to make sure your plants are in stock when they are scheduled to ship.
Which tomatoes are best for my area?
Probably the most common question we are asked is which tomato should I grow, which one will do well for my area. At universities all over the country such as Rutgers, Arkansas, Clemson, Auburn and many others, the agriculture departments actually designed tomato varieties by cross breeding, which would accommodate weather conditions in their particular regions of the country. Many of these such as the Rutgers tomato, Creole tomatoes, Atkinson, Arkansas traveler, and others were meant to try to overcome some of the problems farmers were dealing with in those locations such as poor soil, humidity, wet conditions or early summer heat. While these tomatoes, which are still sold primarily in those areas, are of course available now to anyone as seeds and they have spread all over the U.S. Because these tomatoes are bred for those conditions, they can be fairly reliable for farmers to grow in the area they were designed for, but are not the only varieties that grow well nor are they only for certain areas. Rutgers tomatoes grow very well all over the country and have great taste anywhere.
Backyard gardeners really don't have to worry so much about these issues of humidity and heat because we actually can prepare our gardens for most weather conditions by adding good compost, drip irrigating and mulching. Those three things will help you always get good results from almost any tomato. Certain gardeners in high elevations, with very short seasons, or extreme coastal conditions should be aware that they may need to shop for early type tomatoes which will set fruits at cooler temperatures and that don't need to have a very long amount of time to produce fruit. By and large though, most of us can grow whatever type we want and should grow several types so that we have fruits coming ripe over the long season.
Heirloom varieties which were saved from previous generations in many places all over the world have traveled extensively. Some hail from Russia, Germany, Japan, France or Switzerland and have come together with American varieties such as Cherokee Purple and the Brandywines from Amish areas of the U.S. The reason these generally do well anywhere is because they are strong breeds that have survived the test of time and those that did not thrive were not saved by early gardeners. I believe we should bring back as many varieties as possible from the past but sometimes they need to stay in the past if they do not produce well. Therefore, we are careful to only recommend varieties that have proven themselves over time.
"New" Heirlooms such as Big Zebra and Copia are actually cross bred heirlooms and they have been stabilized over time and, theoretically, will have the best of both parent plants. They can take several generations before they are established varieties and settle in with particular traits. Gardeners love science projects and many will try to work to create new types of tomatoes on their own or just see what nature will do with some bird and bee help. Pollen travels by wind and insects and saving the seeds from year to year can make some interesting blends of genes.
Grow the ones you like! Try something new! Pick a colorful collection! There are so many tomatoes to choose from and so little time to grow them all! We always add new ones to our list every year so we can experiment and come up with new favorites all the time. Varying the dates to maturity, sizes, shapes, colors and flavors is what it is all about. Get your neighbors to try ones that you cannot fit in your garden and keep the favorites from last year. Then have a tasting party every summer to compare notes and see what did best for them and for you. You will be surprised how different a tomato can taste when grown in someone else's back yard under different watering and soil conditions. Plus it is a great excuse for a street party!
Let the shipping begin! Here we go...Another fantastic season of tomatoes, vegetables and herbs. We are so excited to bring you our plants this year. With better than usual weather here in Alabama, although rain has been plentiful (we are not complaining!), which prevented an earlier shipping date of tomatoes, we are good to go now. As usual the hot peppers run a bit behind the tomatoes, no matter how early we plant them. A nibbling creature got a hold of our first batch of Cherokee Purples which has delayed them a little as well. Have no fear, we have plenty of them planted so we should be back up to speed with them shortly. Most herbs are ready and the vegetables are mostly on schedule. Every season is an adventure and a challenge for us which makes always makes gardening fun and interesting.
Soil pH, what is it and why does it matter?
A few years ago I was told a story about an old farmer that used to taste his soil. He would stand out in the field and pick up a handful of dirt and actually taste it. He could tell if the pH was acidic by just a quick nibble! Well, I am not sure I want to do that but every year we check the pH of our soil with a small testing kit or we have an evaluation of our soil done by our agricultural extension service.
The small test kit is fairly accurate but of course the extension service can be more exact as well as tell you how to correct the pH to the appropriate level for vegetables. The soil pH value, which is really the Potential Hydrogen of a liquid mixed with your soil, is a measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. This pH value directly affects the nutrient availability to plants so that even if you have lots of great nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium etc. in your soil, the roots of your vegetable plants may not be able to take them up because of the chemical actions that must take place.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers less than 7 indicate acidity while numbers greater than 7 indicate alkalinity. Soil humus, the dark black stuff in your soil, contains the highest CEC or cation exchange capacity which means that plants are most able to transfer nutrients from it and compost runs a close second. If the plant cannot break down the nutrients properly they don't get fed. This can lead directly to Blossom End Rot which is a condition where the plant cannot take up calcium. Using some types of fertilizers which leave salts behind such as ammonium or urea, which is in most grass/turf fertilizers, can make soil more acidic.
In areas with plentiful rainfall it is almost always necessary to add lime, which is ground limestone, to your garden every year to correct pH to the neutral level and in areas with very little rainfall over the year, it is likely that your soil is alkaline or may have a buildup of salts. Rainfall passing through the soil leaches out basic nutrients such as calcium and magnesium from the soil. They are replaced by acidic elements such as aluminum and iron. For this reason, soils under high rainfall conditions are more acidic than those which were formed under dry conditions. Sulfur can be added to alkaline soils to correct pH or gypsum can be added to flush away salts in alkaline conditions which can correct pH levels slighly.
What is neutral? How do I correct pH? Vegetable plants prefer to have the soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5 and above or below that range must be limed or adjusted with sulfur to bring soil back into the neutral range. For small adjustments, 1 lb of lime per 100 sq. ft is enough but if your garden is new, it may require more than that to bring it up to "normal" such as 2 lbs. per square yard. Liming is basically adding natural limestone to the soil which over a period of time will change the pH value. Wood ashes can also be used so those with fireplaces can add them every winter to the garden. Two materials commonly used for lowering soil pH are aluminum sulfate and sulfur. These can be found at most garden supply centers. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Sulfur, however, requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate of the sulfur is dependent on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of the bacteria. Sulfur can be very slow and take several months to correct pH. So most people use the aluminum sulfate. Both of these should be worked into the soil after applying to be most effective. If these materials are in contact with plant leaves as when applied to a lawn, they should be washed off the leaves immediately after application or it can burn leaves. Take extreme care not to over-apply the aluminum sulfate or the sulfur.
Purchase a soil test kit or garden lime from our catalog.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
For Valentine's Day...THE LOVE APPLE
American colonists thought tomatoes to be poisonous because of the plant’s relation to the deadly nightshade family. "
In thinking about the luscious flavor of tomatoes it is interesting that Europeans had to be talked into eating them. I just can't imagine what life if our ancestors had not tasted the first bite, not to mention that I would likely be out of a job. When we think about all the different foods that span so many cultures of the world, what a wonderful feast we could have. Living in the US, especially in large cities, we have access to almost everything edible in the world! Maybe not things like grasshoppers and eewwy gooey stuff but if you visit your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's type market there is quite a selection. We recently discovered the Dekalb Farmer's Market near downtown Atlanta and were stunned by the treats on every shelf. Live fish in tanks, produce from every corner of the globe, meats and cheeses and wines that will have you salivating as soon as you walk in. This is their stand:
We declare the world is designed to work. We are responsible for what does not work. We make the difference.
No matter how technologically advanced we become, we cannot escape our fundamental relationships with food and each other. The possibility of these relationships is the world market. In this context, the world works for everyone free of scarcity and suffering.
We commit ourselves to the possibility this world market is for the future generations of this planet.
I really love the whole world philosophy and multi-cultural aspect of this fantastic store. I applaud the owner and vow to stop by every chance I can for goodies. Don't even get me near the bakery!!! In another life, I will live next door to this place... http://www.dekalbfarmersmarket.com/
Friday, January 4, 2008
Gardening should be fun and easy to do and by following these tips, you can prevent some of the problems which may a chore out of even the smallest gardens.
1. Planting in the right location to begin with. An open area with lots of sunshine and good soil is the best location for your garden. Providing the proper amount of light alone will prevent so many stress problems with your plants, after all they are food making machines and need sunlight like a light bulb needs electricity! Too little light will prevent fruiting, keep the leaves too wet and can make the plants stretch to reach the sunlight. I know that it is nicer to garden in the shade but in reality the plants may suffer and may never produce well in shaded conditions. Plants always prefer to be in the ground, even if you don't have "good" soil, it will most definitely be better than potting soil for the roots of your vegetables.
2. Amending your garden to create "good" garden soil. Most longtime gardeners will tell you that there is nothing that will make more of a difference in your vegetable garden success than adding compost, mulch and any other type of organic material to the soil. By organic I mean that it should be a by product of nature, not a certified organic bag of dirt. Fallen leaves, peat moss, compost of any kind are all "organic materials" and will break down over time to create the "black" soil that many backyards are lacking. You don't need to buy soil. Everyone has soil that will grow plants, the amendments will lighten up heavy soil and improve drainage, add texture to sandy soil which helps it hold water and nutrients. For first time gardens, you should rototill as deeply as you can to loosen up compressed soil and add amendments as you till to mix them well.
3. Feeding and Watering should be done sparingly. Just because we have access to so many kinds of fertilizers, and the big box stores want to sell you sprinklers and hoses and all types of watering equipment, shouldn't mean that we try to alter natures cycles. Yes, with vegetables it is necessary to water in periods of drought but a 5 second hosing down of the leaves doesn't actually water where the plants need it. The roots are the natural intake for moisture and the leaves are the intake for carbon dioxide, so water the roots! Also, instead of a short quick watering after work every day, try a long, slow watering every Saturday that gets the moisture down deep in the soil where you want the roots to go. A dribbling soaker hose or a drip watering system run for about an hour can actually save water by putting it in the right place instead of a sprinkler that evaporates most of the moisture into the air. Feeding should also be done in the most natural way possible. By adding organic fertilizers, made from "organic materials", the feeding is a process of breaking down slowly and merging with the soil where the roots know how to find it. Spraying Miracle Gro on the leaves (again, why would the plants want their food through their leaves?) can create more problems such as adding too much nitrogen, building up salts in the garden and burning the leaves. Never mind that it is watering the wrong way which wastes water.
4. Space the plants so they have room to grow. If you have never grown a particular vegetable before, you may not be aware of how large some plants get. I have seen a squash plant that is 6 feet around. Needless to say, if you have a 6 X 10 foot garden, that may not be the best thing to grow. If tomatoes are planted too close together, they may have problems drying off their leaves and this can promote disease and also make it impossible to find the tomatoes! For estimated plant sizes and spacing please see our Kitchen Gardening Tips and Plans page.
5. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Recently featured on the TV show It's not easy being green we saw where the garden beds were laid out and then covered with brown Kraft paper to keep the moisture in the soil, shade out weeds, and keeping other top mulch from breaking down too quickly. Around here, it is the best way to recycle newspapers and many folks use them in a thick layer to accomplish the same objective. I have seen old towels, carpet and lots of other things "recycled" in the garden as mulch. There are really no rules except that they should be easy to use, protect the roots of the plants from the hot sun, and block weeds. Just be careful not to use anything treated with toxic chemicals of course. If you want to use rolls of Kraft paper, this item is available in our catalog as a special order item.
6. If you do need to grow in containers, make sure that you use large pots, good potting soil mixed with some compost, (about a third). Water deeply and regularly, fertilize regularly (about every 6 weeks), Mulch the top of the dirt, and give them plenty of sun.
We have been very busy planning our 2008 season and we have done lots of work on the website to try to make it easier to use but still colorful and attention grabbing. Our future plans include adding some video clips to the site to show techniques and useful tips at the click of a button. I hope we can get them online soon!
Tastefulgarden.com has been in operation for over 10 years now and over the years we have learned more and more about how to grow plants in the most efficient way and to have over 125 plant varieties all ready to ship for a constant number of weeks during our busy season. Believe me this keeps us up at night over here. Constantly refining how we do things keeps us always getting better and in this world of competition, it is a necessary thing. Most important is our staff of wonderful employees which we depend on so much. We will be adding new folks this season so if anyone has any spare time...
I hope you will all check out our new products in our catalog. Thanks!