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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Heat of August can Wipe Out Tomato Plants

August heat in Maryland will take down tomatoes and other garden plants. Not all tomatoes are effected the same way by heat. The 'Black Krim' in the container below didn't like the high 90 and 100 degree days. No blight, no spot...  Just the heat and on my part a missed day of watering in the container.

An August Summer and a Tomato: Gary Pilarchik

The tomato below did quite well for  a while. I am not sure why this one died out. The heat of 2 weeks really did get to it but it was watered and had access to the ground below the container. Inspection did find a nice ant colony in the container.

A Beefsteak Heirloom Taken Down By Heat: Gary Pilarchik
The three plants below were effected by the heat. Leaf spot came back. I stop my preventative spraying because the August heat got to me.  I have removed one and am experimenting on how to bring another one back via spray, pruning, and removal of all the tomatoes. I want to get in in shape for the Fall for Fall tomato production.

Three Tomatoes and August Weather: Gary Pilarchik

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Russian Ox-heart Heirloom Tomato

The large tomato in the picture had to push 16 ounces. This is another great heirloom variety. It is very very prolific. It was pruned hard and still it beat me and got out of control. No worries. The fruit ranges from 10 to 16 ounces. It is more yellow but some get beautiful red streaking through the external and internal flesh. They taste sweet. Another, really no acidity tomato. Meaty and sweet. Great for everything.  A definite keeper in my garden.

Bi-color Ox-heart  Heirloom Tomatoes "Russian 117 Bicolor': Gary Pilarchik

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Kale, Whiteflies, and Vegetable Garden Clean Up

August is always the time, I lose my energy. This kale went untended for about 7-10 days. You can notice the holes. Not to worry. The kale will grow more leaves and the insects are probably grown and gone. My plant was to clean it up. I was going to remove the chewed leaves and let those healthy green ones go on growing. Kale will grow into November around here. No big deal right?

Insect Damaged Kale: Gary Pilarchik

When I went to remove the leaves, I was surprised by a field of 100's, yes 100's of whiteflies. The swarmed out from the plants and landed all over the place, including this gardener.

The whiteflies are small and moth like. Super small. But easy to see when you tap the plant. If you click these photo's you will see the little monsters. They will sap the life out of plants and leave sticky remains on the plants. They love kale first and will migrate to tomatoes. I am sure they love other plants too. I found them on my vine crops too.

Whiteflies on Kale: Gary Pilarchik
Whiteflies on Kale: Gary Pilarchik

How did I treat them? I had a huge infestation. The kale was cut back to stumps. It will still grow. The leaves were bagged and taken curbside. They got Sevin Dust on the stumps. The surrounding tomatoes were sprayed with Sevin too. Why? They are devastating and sometimes when the infestation gets so bad... you need chemicals. Good luck finding a pure organic spray for this. I would love a better solution. Please let me know if you have one.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

How to Make Homemade Garden Tomato Juice

I had a good year with tomatoes and they are still producing. I guess when you plant 35 or so plants, you need to do something with the tomatoes. I added to my options by learning how to make tomato juice and the base for either ketchup or barbecue sauce. Here is how I did it for the tomato juice. And keep in mind, you can season your recipe how you wish. My goal was just to figure out how to make it! I will blog the ketchup and barbecue sauce process too.

The first step was getting lots of tomatoes. I don't have exact measurements for the number of cups of tomatoes I used. Just eyeball it. You can't really go wrong. I used a mix of tomato varieties and collected the seeds of the tomatoes as I prepared them. 

To make tomato juice and the barbecue/ketchup sauce you need to de-seed your tomatoes.  Nothing went to waste in this process. Which is pretty cool.

Using 100% of Your Tomatoes: Gary Pilarchik

These are 'Black Plums' and the above picture shows you how I processed them. The tomatoes were halved and the seeds were collected. The de-seeded tomatoes were placed in a bowl, along with the liquid, and the seeds were put in a mason jar. I did this with several varieties of tomatoes including the 'Baxter Bush Cherry' tomatoes below.

'Baxter Bush Cherry' Ready to Become Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik

It is important that you remove all the seeds from your tomatoes. They should look like something below. Not perfect but most of the seeds are gone. The liquid is also poured out of the bowl. You just want the meat of the tomatoes. You will be straining you tomato juice after boiling. The seeds will block up the sieve and possibly add bitterness to your juice.

De-seeded 'Black Plum' Tomatoes for Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik
De-seeded 'Baxter Bush Cherry' Tomatoes: Gary Pilarchik

The first part of this process will make you your tomato juice. What remains, after the tomato juice is put aside, will become your ketchup or barbecue sauce. That process will be in another blog.

Put your de-seeded tomatoes into a pot and bring them to a boil. Turn it down to simmer. You will add some more things and the whole mix will simmer for about 45 minutes. DO NOT add water. You de-seeded the tomatoes and removed the liquid. All the liquid and seeds went into a different bowl. You aren't really reducing this down like when you make spaghetti sauce. You are extracting the juice from the meat of the tomatoes. Good stuff!

Boiling Tomatoes for Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik

At this point, you can add a large onion and a full stalk of celery. You can use more or less as you see fit. Chop them up coarsely and put them into the pot. You can add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder or use garlic cloves. DO NOT season to taste. Lightly season it at this point. Even though you aren't making a full reduction, the liquid will reduce and you don't want to end up with an overly salted or seasoned glass of tomato juice. You can doctor the juice up after it is made.

Coarsely Chopped Onions: Gary Pilarchik
About 2/3 of a Stalk of Celery: Gary Pilarchik

The onions, celery and garlic cloves (if you wish) get thrown into the pot and the whole batch should simmer 45 minutes or a bit longer. The onions and celery should be cooked through so they will mash easily with a wooden spoon. All the contents will get lightly pressed against a sieve to release the juice. For tomato juice it is more of a press then a total mashing. You get to mash the remains for the ketchup/barbecue sauce process.

Once the contents are simmered and soft, strain the contents of the pot and press the contents of the vegetable chunks against the sieve. I use a wooden spoon. You can see the tomato juice in pot. You of course will need a second pot for the straining process

How to Make Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik

Gently press the vegetable chunks against the sieve until they gently mash and roll. Once they looked juiced, dump the remains in the sieve into a large bowl and repeat the process until the new pot is filled with tomato juice from the old pot.

Remaining Tomato Juice Mash: Gary Pilarchik

Bring the new pot of fresh tomato juice to a boil again. You can season it to nearly taste. You need to let it come to a gentle rolling boil for about 15 minutes. It will reduce a bit. Use your eye at this point. You can let this process go until it is a thickness you prefer. If you want a bit thicker, let it roll for more time. Again add some seasoning but not to full taste yet.

My First Batch of Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik

You can strain this a second time if you want. Notice how it is thinner then sauce and really does look like tomato juice. Now you can season it to taste. I recommend the following basic seasonings

  • Coarse Black Pepper
  • Seas Salt
  • Powder Garlic at the end
  • Fresh Garlic at the beginning
  • Onions and Celery through the boil
  • Hot Peppers in the boil
  • Cayenne Pepper (powder) at the end
  • Sugar
This is the basic process for making tomato juice. You can season during the process and can add other vegetables during the boil for taste. Season slowly, taste, season, taste, and stop when you like it. The only tricky ingredient is sugar. Add a rounded tablespoon and mix it in. Add 1 table spoon at a time till you like the taste.

After you get the right taste, let it sit until it gets to room temperature. After that, chill it, and make something like this...

Bloody Mary's

Bloody Marys with Homemade Tomato Juice: Gary Pilarchik
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Collecting Tomato Seeds: Gel Sac and Fermentation

I am continuing to experiment with tomato seed collecting. I will soon publish a full article on the process. Some of the stuff I learned is that 4-6 days seems to work to ferment your seeds and in most cases fermentation starts in 24 hours. I typically start the fermentation process on Sunday and collect the seeds to dry on Thursday or Friday. Can you make tomato wine?

The seeds have to dry pretty well or I have read they will mold in your storage containers. I found they need a good 7 days to dry up.

I wanted to show you why tomato seeds need to be fermented to help ensure good germination. The tomato seeds are encased in a gel sac that inhibits growth. This is so the seeds don't germinate inside the tomato. Here are some good pictures that capture tomato gel sacs.

Tomato Seed Collecting and Gel Sacs: Gary Pilarchik

You can clearly see the seeds sitting in gel. They even have a green color around them in the above picture. That is the gel sac. And that is what fermentation removes. Notice the seeds on the cutting board. You can see them surrounded in the greenish gel. This variety is 'Black Plum'. I will be selling seeds next year. I hope!

Below is a 'Baxter Bush Cherry'. I cut away the outer layer and it reveals all the seeds in a gel sac. When I scoop these out with my fingers, they came out in a group. There is no greenish color like in the above picture. Different varieties of tomatoes look different but the seeds are clearly in a gel like sac.

Tomato Seed Gel Sacs/Fermentation: Gary Pilarchik

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Fall Vegetable Garden is In!: Well Almost...

Frost comes in late October early November in my area. I am pushing it with some plants but figured, I'd give it a try. I didn't have time to get them in the ground so I planted everything in seed trays. This is a great way to get the plants quickly growing. You can buy yourself a couple of weeks time by letting them mature in the trays and then transplant them into the ground.

I planted the following.

50 day Green Beans
52 day Pickle Bush Cucumbers
68 day Peas (pushing it)
62 day Peas (pushing it)
I will harvest pea leaves for salads.

Ruby Red Lettuce
Red Romaine Lettuce
Paris Island Romaine Lettuce
Red Giant Mustard Greens
Red Russian Kale

I will be planting 25 day to 40 day radishes in the ground and will also plant garlic. You don't have to start gardening in the Spring. You can dig a garden today.

Fall Planting Vegetable Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fall Planting, Ketchup, Barbecue Sauce, and Bloody Marys

The weekend was rainy. I had a lot to do. I spent most of my time taking care of the flower beds and the front of the house. When I finally got to the garden I found a mess. I remove a bunch of tomatoes and my vine crops. I picked tomatoes and picked tomatoes and picked tomatoes. To the point, I didn't know what to do with them. I have more spaghetti sauce then a man needs. So... I made ketchup/barbecue sauce and tomato juice for 'Bloody Marys'.

The tomato juice is outstanding, salted up to be cut with some vodka (in about an hour!). The barbecue sauce is brown sugar and apple vinegar based. I made a lot! I kept it pretty basic so I could use it in different ways over time. Everything I made is actually cooling as I type. I took plenty of pictures and will put up the process and recipes this week.

In my garden I found leaf spot to the left of me and leaf spot to the right. Perfect weather and temperature again. Maryland is cursed. I actually slacked on the sulfur spray for about 17 days. And you know what? Now I know wettable sulfur spray works. Like I said I removed spent tomato plants and other vegetables. I didn't get to planting anything new yet. Which might haunt me if I don't get some stuff in soon. I pruned back some healthy tomatoes and sprayed them down and filled nine bags with refuse.

Whiteflies again! I touched the kale and was literally covered in 100's of whiteflies.  I cut my kale to a stem and threw away the whitefly covered leaves. Anyone have a cure for them? I tried everything last year. This year they came in May? It cut my kale back and that worked. I hope it works again. There are no breaks for gardeners. Ever! Miss a week and your garden will have a disease, infestation, or weed explosion.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tomato Profile: The 'Homestead' Heirloom Tomato (Video)

The 'Homestead' heirloom tomato gets high marks for being a great 6-8 ounce fruit. Very prolific and it does great in humidty and heat. Perfect for the south. I will doing a full profile later this month.

This is what I picked off the tomato plant right after I shot the video. Not bad!

The 'Homestead' Heirloom Crop: Gary Pilarchik

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The Rusted Garden

The 'Aussie' Heirloom Beefsteak Tomato: HUGE! 2 Pounds?

This is the first year I grew the 'Aussie' heirloom beefsteak tomato. It is outstanding and has now replaced the 'Delicious' variety as my favorite 16 to 32 ounce tomato. It matured a few days ago. It is definitely 85 days to maturity. It is sweet, huge, and no acidity. None. I included a quarter in the picture so you could have some perspective. A great tomato!

'Aussie' Heirloom Beefsteak 2 pounds?: Gary Pilarchik

This tomato is in my hand. It is huge. The quarter just covers the spot where the stem was attached to the tomato. This is well over 16 ounce. It is a giant. It is the biggest tomato I have every grown. This tomato grew naturally. Naturally in the sense, I didn't prune fruit from the tomato plant as a way for 1 tomato to get all the nutrients and grow large. There are 5 other 1 pound plus tomatoes on the tomato right now.

'Aussie' Heirloom Beefsteak Tomato Sliced: Gary Pilarchik

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The Rusted Garden