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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The first tomato

I had the first tomato from our front yard garden in my lunch salad Monday.
Yes, I said front yard.
In the last several years, we've had no luck at all growing patio tomatoes. The plants got big and healthy, but the tomatoes were few and far between. And the ones that did finally grow and ripen were small and hard. No enticement there to layer that veggie between some bacon and lettuce.
So we opted to plant some tomatoes, peppers and a single cantaloupe plant in the flower bed beside our front door. The project has been an overwhelming success, and the small garden is full of ripening tomatoes and peppers. The cantaloupe plant has yielded many yellow flowers, but so far I haven't been able to spot a tiny cantaloupe.
I bought the heirloom tomato plants from the Master Gardeners at their annual plant sale back in the spring. They were beautiful plants, and I knew they would prosper. My cousin Betty shared several of her cherry tomato plants, so I added them to the crowded plot of apparently fertile earth. Now we have an out-of-control jungle of veggie life that greets family and visitors to our home.
We did attempt, at first, to keep the grass out of the plants. Several early mornings I went out with my garden stool and pulled as much grass and weeds as I could from the growing plants. But we planted too much in a small space, and it soon got to the point that I couldn't reach between the plants to pull the grass. There was no "in between" the plants.
One day, my husband mentioned that we needed to stake the tomatoes. I had forgotten that. We discussed using bamboo or wooden rods or even wire tomato cages. We discussed, but we didn't act, and soon it became too late to stake the tomatoes that now are stretching beyond the flower bed and into the front yard.
Because there are no "rows," we can't easily get to the ripe tomatoes. When I picked the first ones a few days ago, Reggie had to hold my hand to keep me balanced as I gingerly walked among the plants, being careful not to step on the plants or the ripening tomatoes. I came out of the jungle with four tomatoes, almost ready to eat. I left them on the kitchen counter for a few days until a smaller one ripened to a perfect red for Monday's salad. The tomato was juicy and delicious, and I was grateful for the fruits of my small garden plot.
I must pick the cherry tomatoes tonight and decide what I'm going to do with them. I see Rachael Ray roasting cherry tomatoes on her Food Network show, and I'm thinking I'm going to try that.
As my larger tomato crop grows, I intend to make salsa for my family. They love the popular condiment, although it's not a favorite of mine. Anyone have a recipe?

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