Posts tagged ‘catalogs’

March 9, 2011

Not Enough Room

by Kate

There’s no question that browsing through seed and nursery catalogues is dangerous. The fruits and vegetables are luscious, colorful and perfect, and even though I have access to organic fresh fruits and vegetables through our local food co-op, I no longer feel comfortable buying produce that has travelled thousands of miles to get to me. Besides, nothing is ever as good as something just picked that day. The seed catalogues waken a longing for fresh. They make me think about last fall’s harvest when vegetables happily ruled our life, and we only went to the store for milk, olive oil, tea and toilet paper.

Just Picked

If I had a large piece of land on which to garden, I would not be able to resist the temptation to try many more new vegetables and fruits.  My husband declares that we will never move out of town if only for the simple reason that he does not want my ideas for a garden to take over (and I suspect he worries about Barbara’s husband in this regard!).

So today I did something radical. I called my friends Margy and Jordan, whose chickens I care for when they are out of town,  to ask if they would let me plant raspberry canes and blueberry bushes at their place.

Oh, and currants. Maybe goose berries, too.  (Secretly I also want to plant an asparagus bed, but am not ready to confess to this.) I haven’t mentioned these other berries out loud yet.

Planting cane berries is not an idle thought.  When I look at the different kinds of food that could be produced in this county, given its soils and climate, berries — cane berries in particular — will grow well here. They are easy to flash freeze. They are wonderful in jam. They are delicious. And they are really, really nutritious.

What I really want is a berry house, like the one my friend George had in Connecticut. He built a house of netting around his berries, so the birds and animals could not eat them, and under it’s roof grew varieties of cane berries, blue berries, goose berries and currants. When our son was three, I remember going into George’s berry house to pick — a giant play pen full of delicious fresh fruit.

Margy and Jordan said yes. We’ll meet soon to decide how many bushes to buy. We’ll have to meet over dinner because we all love to cook. I suspect my husband and I will maintain the bushes, and supervise the pruning. They’ll monitor the watering. We’ll plan together. We’ll harvest together. Chances are, we’ll have to cook together often, too, because part of growing fresh food is savoring it with someone else.

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March 8, 2011

It’s Too Early to Hanker After Tomatoes

by Barbara
tomato

Perfection

Blame it on Eating Well Magazine that I just ordered seeds for five more varieties of heirloom tomatoes. That’s on top of the four I already have–and considering that only two of us live here anymore, we’re in danger of serious tomato overload.

at long last summer

Summer Beauties

At this point in the early-yet-but-heading-into planting season I can’t be trusted with  seed catalogs or gardening magazines–my itchy planting fingers, my eyes-bigger-than-my garden appetite are easily seduced into buying more seeds than I need.  Even Kate rolled her eyes yesterday when she saw my seed box.  Mindful of my tendencies, I did my ordering a good month ago and then hid the catalogs. Who knew that an innocent evening curled up with a great cooking magazine would land me in this kind of trouble?  Blame it on the new staff gardens and the “First Harvest” article in the April issue. In the SEED SOURCES box, Tomato Fest lists over 600 varieties of organic and heirloom tomatoes.  Six hundred?!  Just a peek won’t hurt.

I love growing tomatoes — few gardening pleasures compete with harvesting (and then eating) fresh tomatoes from my own plants.  The plants are lovely deep green entanglements dotted by red as the tomatoes ripen.  The plants even smell good, sending out an earthy green scent. They grow well almost anywhere in my garden, though I am careful not to plant them in the same spot in successive years, to give the soil a rest. They grow well (and prettily) in patio pots or in small raised beds. Last summer’s Eating Well article on Amy Goldman and her 500 varieties of heirloom tomatoes sings the considerable gifts of this fruit.  But 500 varieties?!

Every year I grow San Marzano for sundried tomatoes (for pesto and sprinkling in many, many dishes) and tomato sauces, both raw and cooked;  Brandywine for luscious fresh-off-the-vine eating and incredible chutney from fruit that doesn’t ripen; Cherokee Purple for its color and citrusy flavor, plus this year, a few of the Sicilian heart-shaped varietal my daughter’s Sicilian boyfriend brought me from his mother.

into the story

oven-dried tomatoes in olive oil

And of course a single cherry tomato plant. Now that my daughters have left home we can barely keep up with the bounty of one productive plant.  By midsummer those little cherry tomato orbs appear in almost everything we eat, plus small bowls overflowing with them dot empty tables, beckoning snackers at every turn. Sliced tomatoes or caprese salad accompany most dinners.  I have a dehydrator to dry them, and I put up jars of tomato-basil jam as well as chutney. Luckily I have bookmarked recipes to help me get the most out of this year’s harvest, such as  Roasted Tomato-Bread Soup and  Tomato Phyllo Tart–I can use several varieties in both of these preparations–hurrah!

Okay, so I probably shouldn’t have ordered those Black Cherry and Camp Joy cherry tomato seeds this morning.  But at this point in the late winter, when the sun shines bright and warm, but the snow holds on tight to its blanket, I don’t care.  Come summer I will need Italian Heirloom and Italian Tree tomatoes to infuse my Mediterranean-dominated cooking (am I a sucker for anything with Italian in the name?), and Dagma’s Perfection,  a yellow tomato I usually spend far too much on at the farmer’s market when I crave golden gazpacho. And in a couple of weeks, I will get the pleasure of planting those seeds and seeing them pop up and grow tall and full beneath the warm grow-lights.

garden refugees

At the end of the season

But I’ll be good and plant only a couple of each of the new varieties as test runs this summer; share seeds with friends and family, grow extra plants to give away.  If these varieties take to the soil, the sun, the ecosystem here, and we like their flavor,  texture, cooking and storing qualities, I’ll plant them again next year and vow to stay off the Tomato Fest website, and perhaps even out of the April issue of Eating Well if they keep on tempting me like that!