Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Foggy morning.

We woke to fog this morning. The kind of thick fog that makes it feel as if the whole world you live in is entirely present.  Like there's nothing else beyond... There were blue skies past the fog, but it kind of felt like a snowglobe. I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I know that I am grateful for my wonderful partner, my family and my friends. I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place and glad I get to share it with you all. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, spent with loved ones lingering over good, real food. Hopefully locally-grown... 

For me, Thanksgiving isn't really about the big turkey and trimmings meal, it's about friends and family getting together and sharing their lives. Telling stories, laughing, remembering. It's the first day of the holiday season, which for me isn't about shopping, but about being with loved ones, about special treats, cocktail toasts, and remembering good times and making new memories... I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Yellow Taxi. This year's star tomato.
Persimmon Orange
A Perfect Heirloom.
Bowls of Principe Borghese Tomatoes
This past summer, I expanded the varieties of tomatoes I grew. I planted tomatoes of nearly every hue: red, orange, white, yellow, purple, and black. I grew big tomatoes and small. Determinate and indeterminate types. I started them earlier indoors and when I planted them outside, I put them closer together which seems to have yielded far more tomatoes than I got last year. And that's in spite of the drought that plagued us this summer. Luckily I was able to water and didn't lose too many. Of course, when you plant over 400 tomato plants, "not too many" might have been 100-125 plants. Including all of the Federle roma tomatoes I'd planted. While hardening the flat of about 80 plants, one morning I found that some animal had nested in the flat the night before. I was able to revive about 25 of them enough to get them into the garden about a month later, but they were too weakened to handle it, and all perished. I replaced them with Red Roma plants I bought from Rural King, and those plants did surprisingly well.

By far, the variety that did the best this year was Yellow Taxi. The fruits were generally about the size of a plum, bright yellow, and sweet. The beauty of them was they had very little acidity, which meant they didn't make my tummy hurt when I ate too many. And I ate a lot of them. I had about a dozen, maybe twenty, plants, and they were the first to produce and at frost time, were still laden with ripening fruit. I think they will become a standard of my garden.

Persimmon Orange and Woodles Orange were the two orange varieties I planted. The Persimmon were slightly larger (at the size of a big apple) than the Woodles (plum-sized), but both were equally meaty, firm, and with low acidity. I probably won't grow both at the same time, but both will be grown again in the future. White Queen amazed us at Three Persimmons Farm. Huge translucent beauties with slightly pink centers, these tomatoes were delicate if left too long on the vine, but otherwise, meaty, sweet and completely acid-free. They were made for eating whole, slightly chilled... Truly an amazing experience was that first bight of the White Queen. Last year, we were blown away by our friend's Black Krim tomatoes. These nearly-black, large tomatoes exploded with flavor. This year, I suspect they competed with the Black Cherokee for space in the garden and on our table. Both were similar, both delicious. I think I only need to grow one or the other. I grew Green Sausage tomatoes this year, excited at the thought of sausage-shaped green tomatoes. I imagined them surprisingly sweet and a delight on the table. Instead, I never knew when they were ripe until it was too late. They were my biggest disappointment. The favorite tomato I grew last year was Matt's Wild Cherry. They were my best seller at the market, too... Tiny little mouth-punches of tomato. Many of them grew as volunteers in the garden this year, and I planted two rows of them. And they were every bit as delicious as they were last year. The plants are fun because they don't need staking, but instead sprawl out in every direction, climbing and clambering over anything nearby. And they are freeking prolific. In fact, the dogs are still eating slightly freeze-burned wild cherries now. But, as my dad can attest to, they are not pleasant to pick. They are low to the ground, and because there are so many, if you have any desire to finish a job, it's nearly a Sisyphean effort to pick them all. Once they're picked, though, and on your salad (or just in a bowl being eaten by hand) all the work is forgotten.

Another surprise tomato this year was the Principe Borghese tomato. According to the seed catalog, this is the main variety used for drying in Italy. I didn't dry any, but my gosh, these were wonderful. The plants are short and sturdy, and needed staking (although they supposedly don't). But they were really prolific, covered all season long with evenly-sized kumquat-sized perfectly firm fruit. These little babies were meaty and great in sauces, in salads, roasted... and then I froze about thirty pounds of them for use this winter. A real joy that I will definitely grow again.

I also grew a few other varities.. Italian Heirloom, Red Roma, and perhaps a few others... They didn't make much of an impression.. but were happily eaten all late-summer and autumn long. Late September, early October was the best time for tomatoes this year... and they were a joy to pick. Cool evenings, the vines covered in nasturtium flowers, marigolds nearby, the wonderful citric scent of the tomato leaves, the dogs next to me eating as many tomatoes as they could... those were the days!

I walked the dogs through the garden this morning. It was covered in thick frost and veiled with misty fog as the sun slanted through the woods. As the dogs scrambled to eat some of the leftover frozen fruit, I imagined it next summer... alive and growing again with the promise of an excess of tomatoes. I am truly addicted to the garden, and that makes me very happy.