The weather has turned wet and cold in New Hampshire and the tomatoes on the vine won’t be ripening. Yesterday I pulled all the tomato plants and gathered about a dozen green tomatoes to make preserves. Yes, green tomato preserves. A little bit tart. A little bit sweet. A little bit bitter. And a whole lot delicious.
I cut the tomatoes up into chunky pieces, seeds and skin included,
and added enough sugar and lemon juice to suit my taste.
It all cooks for an hour and a half or so until thickened. I never remove the seeds as most recipes call for. The smaller seeds are tasteless and the larger ones add a bit of bitterness that I like.
My green tomatoes made 7 half-pints of preserves. Six are pictured here and one jar is in the refrigerator, half eaten on toast at breakfast this morning.
Ahhhh… the August tomato. This time of year brings us the most wonderful fruit of the season, the slightly sweet, slightly acidic, juicy tomato that tastes equally incredible with an ear of corn or on a tomato/mayo sandwich. All summer mister gardener has nurtured and cared for his tomatoes and it was time for The Great Harvest.
With tomatoes at their peak of ripeness, mister gardener turned to me over breakfast on Friday and announced, “I’m going to can today.” Each year I am excited to hear this announcement. It’s a process that takes two days from start to finish with aromas of onions, celery, and tomatoes permeating the house. It lifts your spirits and adds a bit of buoyancy to your step, much like the joy at Thanksgiving with bouquets of turkey and stuffing wafting throughout the home.
It is a labor of love for mister gardener but it is labor. He must blanch and peel the tomatoes, clean, core and cut dozens and dozens up along with copious amounts of celery and onion and garlic and whatever else he uses in his family recipe. Chop, chop, chop goes on for hours each day. It is a labor-intensive task that he has shared in with his family since childhood. At the end of the process, he is able to put up about 12 quarts and 10 pints of stewed tomatoes that will go through the winter with us and last until the first ripe garden tomato of 2010.
Left on the vine are green tomatoes. I’m going to push for a few fried green tomatoes that mister gardener can barely tolerate but I adore. With what ripens in September, I will make half pints of tomato preserves. My mouth is watering. It’s no wonder the tomato is the most popular and best loved garden vegetable in the USA.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester
It was three weeks ago that I first noticed the bare tips on a branch of a tomato plant in my small kitchen garden. I looked beneath the plant and saw some telltale caterpillar poo and I knew what was hiding on the under the leaves of my plant. I carefully lifted branch after branch until I found it… a tobacco hornworm caterpillar, the larva of the sphinx moth.
It was a gorgeous 4” long pale green caterpillar with 5 pairs of prolegs and 7 white diagonal stripes on the sides of the body and a red-colored horn on the last segment. It’s closely related to and often confused with the tomato hornworm caterpillar with similar markings but the red horn is a good identifying feature. I’ve read that tobacco hornworm is more prevalent in the southern United States and the tomato hornworm is found more in the northern states.
Both feed on plants in the nightshade family: tomato and tobacco and others such as potato, pepper or eggplant and these guys can wreak havoc in the garden and can cause extensive damage to plants. My big fellow had eaten 2 small unripe tomatoes and leaves on one small branch, however he was working alone and soon to enter the pupate stage so I left it on the plant.
Some natural bug deterrents are said to be red pepper sprinkled on the plants or a mixture of water, vegetable oil, and dish soap to repel them. Handpicking is an effective control in small gardens but one of the most common biological controls for the hornworm is the parasitic braconid wasp that lays its eggs inside the body of the caterpillar. After hatching they bore through the skin of the caterpillar and attach white cocoons along the body. If you see one with the cocoons attached, do not kill the hornworm as the wasp will do the job.
The large adult sphinx moth or hawkmoth is seen around flowers in my garden at dusk or dawn. They are as graceful and agile as a hummingbird as they hover over blooms and flit quickly from flower to flower. It’s a shame that something so full of wonder can begin life as a such a destructive insect in our gardens.
Annie, The Garden Club of Gloucester