Mad about tomatoes

We think the amount of spring rain we’ve had in New Hampshire has helped, not hurt our tomato plants. It may be the rain but maybe something to do with the variety we chose or it may have something to do with the new location where they receive at least 6 hours of direct sun. I planted the tomatoes right in the middle of a new hot and dry rock garden and the two plants seem to be thriving.

'Celebrity' tomato plant 2019

The variety that mister gardener selected this year is the hybrid Celebrity and we are super excited about the performance so far. We have counted over 20 tomatoes on the biggest plant. Of course, the tomatoes are still green and the majority of the fruit is quite small.

tomato 2019

Celebrity is a good medium-size slicing tomato, great for salads, sandwiches, cooking, caning, or just a salsa snack. It’s categorized as a determinate tomato plant but the nursery said it can grow larger as an semi-indeterminate. We will find out in a few weeks if the advice we were given is accurate.

Celebrity Tomato 2019

Meanwhile we’re counting more tomatoes each day… a very good thing.

Cider Hill Farm

Just a short 7-mile drive from our home will find us in the state of Massachusetts. One more mile takes us to Cider Hill Farm, a fruit and vegetable farm along with some great eggs from Red Star laying hens. We learned about their method of growing delicious ripened tomatoes before field tomatoes were ripe anywhere nearby. We had to check this out…

IMG_2129The first things we noticed were solar panels in fields and wind turbines high above the buildings. As we drove in, we could see though a colorful border to another solar panel on the hen and goat house where families were visiting and children were feeding the chickens and swinging on tire swings. Renewable energy! So far we were feeling good about this farm operation.

IMG_2044The country store was an ancient cow barn now housing a plethora of home goods and foods, Stonewall Kitchen goodies, cider doughnuts, flowers, fresh foods.

IMG_2067IMG_2055In the rear of the store, we found what we came for… tomatoes and more tomatoes! But the corn and beans were also too lovely to pass up.

IMG_2058cornAfter making our purchases, the gals at the register urged us to follow the path to see more of the farm. It’s blueberries and raspberry picking season but we could see apple orchards and strawberry fields… but we really wanted to check out their method of growing tomatoes in hoop houses.

The blueberries were completely enclosed in a wall and ceiling of nets to keep out the critters.  The berries were plentiful and plump! Raspberry fields were occupied by pickers and strawberries in interesting troughs looked healthy.

Ahhh… the hoop tomato houses. Tomato plants begin here in April, heated with sides rolled down like a typical greenhouse. Plants have a good start when the sides are rolled up and exposed to sun and breezes… but not rain. The foliage is kept dry by watering plants at the roots. No diseases! They have 10 greenhouses for tomatoes, planting them every two weeks so they can harvest past frost.

While we were poking around, a team of workers pulling a trailer of vegetables drove by. These weren’t just any workers. Cider Hill Farm provides opportunities for international exchange students in agricultural universities to become interns for one year here. They are housed on the farm. I don’t know where they are from this year but they stopped to chat and were happy and delightful young men.

1-year internshipsThat night we enjoyed the bounty of Cider Hill Farm and declared it delicious. Tomatoes had the perfect amount of acidity. You would never know they weren’t grown under the summer sun… not like awful hothouse tomatoes we tolerate all winter. The corn was beyond perfection and we’ve returned 3 times for more! How divine!

First tomato, first corn, first beans

 

No matter how you slice it…

…nothing says summer like a juicy ripe garden tomato!Oh so good!

They are the most delicious and most versatile fruit of the season. During the tomato season, either cooked or raw, tomatoes are a perfect accompaniment to any meal at our house. Whether raw in a salad or sandwich, roasted, in a sauce, on a pizza, in soups, stuffed, or in tarts, pies and even preserves, we can eat tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, appetizers, dinner and snacks. There are as many tomato recipes as there are varieties of tomatoes.

In Virginia, mister gardener grew 18 different varieties of the fruit. He depended on the tried-and-trues and experimented with the heirlooms and the unknowns. It was great fun to see and taste the differences. We had purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, speckled tomatoes, and some shaped like pears! There are no tomatoes in our New Hampshire garden. Instead we can select good variety from what is offered at local farmers’ markets.

Tomatoes!!!One of our favorite meals is mister gardener’s fresh gazpacho soup. With newly picked young cucumbers, onions and green peppers from farmers’ markets, mister gardener makes a large quantity of gazpacho to last us a few days and enough to share with family. Life would definitely be better if the fleeting tomato season would never end!

See a couple of mister gardener’s heirlooms in Virginia.

gazpacho

My sister has landed…

My California Dreamin’ sister is visiting New England and I’m pretty excited. Her plane has landed and she’s on her way. Greeting her at noon will be a familiar edible from our past. Our mother loved tomato jam and since the tomatoes at local farmers’ markets are at the peak of perfection, I decided to cook up a little surprise last night. It’s fun to browse through favorite tomato jam recipes online, but all I really needed for our favorite recipe were three main ingredients: tomatoes, lemons, sugar.

I’ve made the jam using peeled tomatoes but much prefer the consistency of jam made from unpeeled tomatoes.  Just coarsely chop the tomatoes and toss them in a pot.

After squeezing the juice from the lemons into the tomatoes, I toss in a few lemon slices. It adds a little bite to the taste.

I can’t wait to see sis’ face when she walks in the door. It’ll be any moment now. Chicken salad with a dollop of homemade tomato jam… just like mama made. How divine!