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Category Archives: gardening

This is what 1000 tomatoes looks like

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We finally got a frost that killed the tomato vines a couple of days ago, so this morning I grabbed a bowl and headed outside to pick what was left.

Then I grabbed another.  And another.

I stopped picking when I ran out of bowls.  At least they aren’t all ripe at once.

Neighbors, start locking your doors – the Tomato Elves will be on the prowl.

On an unrelated note – does anyone have any great recipes to share that do not require mixing or serving receptacles?



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That wind I mentioned yesterday?

It apparently had a score to settle with the arbor.

Drat – already?

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I didn’t want to take any chances with what’s left of the garden, so I picked the last of the peppers, all of the semi-ripe tomatoes, and the remaining squash this afternoon.  We’ll probably be spared but it’s very chilly and the counties around us have frost advisories tonight.  It’s only September 14.  This is earlier than usual, right?  Hopefully things will warm up a bit and I’ll squeak a few more weeks out of the pepper and tomato plants.  I’m not ready to go back to grocery store produce yet.

These guys may never fulfill their destiny

Thai, banana, and bell peppers.

I've never tried fried green tomatoes. Time to start looking for recipes.

Litter Art (or a new sign for an old garden)

Our school’s butterfly garden is thriving, thanks to the heroic efforts of Sandy, weeder/waterer extraordinaire. However, while the plants are looking strong, our sign had seen better days. Two springs ago we had made a sign with the kindergarten classes using old cassette tape cases. Somehow I thought the plastic cases would protect the paper art within them. They did protect the paper from rain, but I neglected to factor in the effects of sun. So after two summers of Wisconsin sun the sign had faded… a lot. This time around I decided to attempt to make a longer-lasting sign incorporating an idea I saw in House Beautiful magazine. In the magazine they showcased a house that had a wall full of butterflies that had been cut from old beer cans by the artist Paul Villinski. The effect was stunning. Something so beautiful from something so mundane. This summer Pia and I collected soda cans that had been littered around the playgrounds at school and one day, emboldened by the presence of Robin, my crafty enabler, I whipped out the tin snips and decided to cut butterflies. Turns out you don’t even need tin snips! Regular old scissors will cut aluminum cans! This is nothing short of revolutionary. I cut the tops and bottoms off the cans, folded them in half, and cut them just like you would cut paper. While the results weren’t quite House Beautiful level, they were still quite fun.

Jim then riveted the butterflies to a sign made by Avalon Graphics. We popped the whole sign inside the plexiglass frame (to avoid having a curious little kid cut his fingers on the butterflies). Hopefully this sign will last more then 15 months!

A state of tomato emergency

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The tomato vines are now well on their way down the other side of the 9′ arbor.   Kyle is worried about the amount of weight on the arbor and that it could catch the wind and take flight in a storm.  I am worried that we will be burried alive in tomatoes.

So far this season we’ve harvested 61 large tomatoes and 344 cherry tomatoes.  (Yes I know it is geeky to count them.  I am geeky.  My family should be happy I’m content with a tally on the fridge whiteboard instead of a day-by-day excel spreadsheet.  Maybe next year.)  We harvested more than 50 cherry tomatoes a day for a few frightening days.

This has taught me an important lesson – I do not have enough local friends.

Poor Pea doesn’t like the taste of tomatoes, although he’ll nibble a few bites here and there.  The rest of us have been doing our best to eat our body weights in tomatoes each week.

I’m not complaining – they are delicious and a lack of fresh, plentiful produce in the backyard is going to be a painful shock at the end of the season.  We have a few favorite recipes for serving up the tomatoes, basil, garlic, and zucchini of the summer.  I thought I’d share them in case anyone else has a happy garden.

Bountiful Garden Zucchini Enchiladas – These babies are filling.  We add a can of rinsed black beans to the filling for extra protein.  I don’t even notice I’m eating zucchini, and yet one dissapears from the counter every time we make them.  Perfect!

Mozarella and tomato salad – I’m sure everyone already knows about this heavenly combination.  My Belgian AFS family introduced me to it and since then it has been one of the things I look to most about the end of summer.  We had it with a zucchini frittata tonight.

Gazpacho – Kyle tried not to look worried when I told him we were having cold tomato soup for dinner.  It was amazing.  I don’t know if he liked it enough to eat the leftovers because I hid them for myself.

Salsa, of course, but I always wing it so it’s hit or miss.  Does anyone have the perfect recipe?

Roasted summer veggie tarts: From Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  Roast chunks of tomato, shallot, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, corn (and whatever else you like) at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, toss veggies in olive oil, salt and your favorite herb, and pile veggies on squares of rolled out puff pastry.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Pan roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes on pasta – our absolute favorite summer dish, from Jack Bishop’s YIAVK.  This is roughly the recipe:

  • Roast 12 unpeeled garlic cloves in a covered skillet on the stove over low heat until soft, approximately 30 minutes.  (Shake every 5-10 minutes.)  Peel and mash in a bowl with a fork with 1/4 tsp salt and 1t olive oil.  Set aside.
  • Bring large pot of water to boil and cook 1lb pasta.  Drain and put back in pot.
  • While cooking pasta, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add 14 ounces whole cherry tomatoes.  When the tomato skins start to split, mash them against the side of the pan with a spoon.  When all are mashed, simmer for a couple of minutes, then turn off the heat and add the garlic puree mixture and 1/2 t red pepper flakes.  Salt to taste.
  • Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta and add 3T chopped basil.  Enjoy with crusty bread.
What are your favorite tomato recipes?  I’d love to add to my list.

More bugs I love

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bee on sedum


soldier beetle on black-eyes susan


garden spider on a friend's grapes

Mad zinnia love

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I can’t stop.  They’re even pretty when crawling with Japanese beetles.  Kyle, please hide the camera if you want food or clean laundry.

What’s your favorite flower?