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waving monkey


Posted by monkeyarcher on 2007.06.10 at 13:49
hey there!
I am sure that you thought I had died or something, but actually work made tings a bit slow and then I was also waiting for the garden to kick in for inspiration. That said, I will probably only be able to update on weekends, at best. But anyone is welcome to make their own entries about fruit, vegatables, herbs or things of that ilk.

To restart, I thought it would be good to discuss possibly the most popular of garden grown goodies...drumroll please

clockwise from bottom left -- pink flesh beafsteak tomatoes, red slicing tomatoes, small Roma tomatoes, bunches of red cherrytomatoes and yellow slicing tomatoes

Tomatoes are a bit hard to talk about, just because there is alot you can say.
They are members of the nightshade family, like peppers, eggplant, potatoes and many others, including tobacco. In general they are a viney perenial which is a bit sensetive to frost, although some varieties are more easily described as bushy. In gardening terms, these two types are indeterminate and determinate, respectively.
In addition to being divided by plant type, you can also divide them up by tomato shape/size. Beefsteak tomatoes are typically the largest size, suitable for slicing on sandwiches althoughthey do have a bit of an irregular shape many times (there ae some called oxheart tomatoes which is somewhat beefsteak in mass, but have an almost top-like shape). Next down we have slicing tomatoes, usually about the size of an orange and a nice uniform roundness which lend themselves to more applications in cooking, such as stuffing. When cooking, you often will use the next smaller size, the plum tomato, such as the very common Roma. They are more oblong in shape and usually have a meatier interior. Then there are cherry tomatoes, with the smallest size many times referred to as currant tomatoes. I personally group the pear tomato into this category, although they do have a distinct shape.
You can also define tomatoes by color, although this is many times the more arbitrary designation. There is of course the 'red' tomato, as well as those referred to as 'pink' and 'purple'. The 'red' have that traditional orange/red color, the 'pink' do have a rosey pink tone to them and the 'purple' have a dusky shade, many times with tones of green, that while not always dark enough to be truly purple, they do give a purple feel when next to your more traditional tomato. These all turn bright red when they become their ripest, so it can be somewhat difficult to decide which is which. Then there are yellow tomatoes, which ripen to yellow and many times have a less acidic flavor (but not always). And this brings us to green tomatoes. These are not unripe tomatoes, per se, but instead usually a type of yellow that will be ripe while still in the green stage. There are also so novelty types such as Mr Stripsy which is red with green stripes.

Growing tomatoes is in general an easy-enough task, which I think lends to their popularity in the garden. Regular watering is important to deter the skin from splitting, and they are prone to something called blossom-end rot, and while it doesn't destroy the tomato, it does render them ugly and with a lot of waste since you have to cut off all the rot end. First crops are notorious for this, but it can also be a sign of inadequate calcium levels in the soil.

The flowers are somewhat non-descript yellow stars, and the plant can become quite gangly. Staking from the very beginning is a very wise idea, and I personally like tomato cages, since if they are given a chance, they will take over the country-side. For the most part, this is not an attractive plant that you will want in your front yard flower garden, although if you have a determinate (bush-type) in a pot it can be a nice patio plant.
Most times they are simple to pick, usually not requiring anything more than a gentle twist to remove them from the plant. They have are covered with little hairs, and anyone who has a tendency towards sensitive skin should wear gloves when picking, since I have seem many people break out in red blotches while handling the plants.

Once picked, what to do...
well, as anyone can tell you, home grown tomatoes have a very rich flavor that you don't find in store bought. Even people who state that they don't like tomatoes will sometimes munch on home grown ones. So, we have just snacking on them out of hand as an option.
Slicing up for salads or sandwiches is also a good choice. Where would a BLT be without the T?
When cooking, they are many times peeled. This is an easier task than it sounds. Just lightly cut an "X" on the flesh, then drop them into simmering water for a couple seconds. take them out, and the flesh should easily peel away, and the tomato will not have been cooked through, so you can use it for many things, such as Salsa Fresca.

Salsa Fresca
4 medium ripe tomatoes, cored,seeded and finely diced
1/4 red onion, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed,seeded if desired,and minced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only,chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Stir and toss well, and serve.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

simple, huh?

another one of my favorite uses for tomatoes is tabouleh.

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups boiling water
2 cups parsley
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt, to taste
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
4 firm ripe tomatoes

Pour the boiling water into a bowl with the bulgur.
Let stand until fully absorbed.
Chop up the parsley until fine.
Ditto for the tomato.
Feel free to use more as you cannot use too much!
Add the other ingredients in amounts as per your own taste- these amounts are just a guide.
Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Serve in a salad bowl lined with crisp lettuce leaves for a pretty effect

There are many authentic versions of this recipe, including those that include cucumber, which is nice, and those without mint, which I prefer.

you know, there are so many recipes for tomatoes, it is hard to really just choose a couple for here, so instead I shall just provide some links to tomato recipes
Recipes from Texas Agricultural University (I think)
Recipes from LoveToKnow.com
recipes for Green tomaotes on About.com

I know that there is much more to share about Tomatoes, and perhaps we will come back to them again. Everyone feel free to share your tomato knowledge.
Also, feel free to invite your friends to this community and post away. that is how we can make this community work, even when I am off working too many hours.

Hope that everyone has had a great weekend!

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