Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Easy Recipe for Your Roma Tomato Harvest

Mama Mia, we have tomatoes! Somehow in spite of our disastrous attempt at starting tomato plants from seeds and the less than favorable weather conditions of the 2010 garden season, we managed to have success with our tomatoes this year.

The initial ripening was a good two weeks later than last year and we still have a large number of greenies on the vine, but we have been enjoying mouth watering cherry-toms and early girls for several weeks now.

Here's a peek at our 2010 Tomato Stars: 
Sun Gold Cherry: A consistent star in our book. These are the sweetest, most prolific golden gems you'll ever pop in your mouth!
Black Cherry: Dark purplish-red to reddish brown-green fruit with a sweet, meaty flavor. Extremely prolific vine.
Juliet: A Roma type cherry with loads and loads of fruit.  This one ripened first and is still pumping out the goods.

These three mixed together with a little olive oil...summer heaven on a salad plate!

We also have several varieties of Roma tomatoes coming on. The Saucy's are loaded and ready to pick, the Roma's (those that I managed to save from the failed seed starts) are almost ready as are the San Marzano's.  We grow mostly Roma types because Hal loves to cook with "homegrown" tomatoes all winter and these are the best for cooking.

Here is a super simple recipe for enjoying the bounty. 

Grilled Roma Tomatoes

Wash and slice Roma's in half from stem end.  In a large bowl toss tomato halves with olive oil to coat; 1/2 cup (or more) chopped basil, generous sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  I've also substituted fresh rosemary and cilantro for the basil - yum!

Place tomatos cut side down on a hot grill and grill for about 2 minutes.  Using tongs, turn over and grill another minute or so.  You want the tomatoes to maintain their shape (not be cooked till mushy).  Remove from grill, back into the bowl you used to toss them in.  The cooking time is pretty short so don't wander back to the garden (experience speaking here!!).

Let cool in bowl 10 - 15 minutes, then spoon into good quality freezer bags, about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Squeeze out air, lay flat in freezer.

That's it!  Depending on your family or serving size you can use the entire frozen block or break off what you need.  We don't skin the tomatoes before grilling, so there are some skins, but these aren't a problem for us.  The tomatoes are great added to soups, stews and pasta.  Really easy, really delicious!

How do you preserve your summer bounty of tomatoes? 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sadness in the Coop

Harriet as a pullet
We lost another girl over the weekend.  Harriet the Australorpe died in her sleep sometime Sunday night. 

We noticed a change in her earlier in the summer but thought it was due to molting.  Unlike Buttercup, who died suddenly and appeared to be in good health, Harriet had been showing signs of failing.  Her comb and waddle were very pale (always a bad sign) and she would often "retire" early to the roost. 

Once again I did a thorough inspection of each bird looking for mites or lice, checking body weight and overall appearance and thriftiness.  The coop and pen has been cleaned out.  I've been searching online trying to figure out what could have caused her down turn.  

"Sometimes chickens just die, and it's best to have a funeral and move on," was a quote I read in one forum.  We thought "Harriet the Aussie" was a pretty spectacular girl.  She was by far the biggest in our flock with her striking black-green feathers.  Rest in peace girl.
Harriet  Photo Credit Shawn Gust CdA Press

Friday, September 3, 2010

Loose as a Goose

Gooseneck Loosestrife
Last summer while visiting friends in Portland I was introduced to "lysimachia clethroides," better know as Gooseneck Loosestrife.  The introduction came via a huge bucketful of white flowers that truly resembled a gaggle of geese.  I was smitten.  Who wouldn't want to see this dazzling display swaying in the summer breeze in their backyard? 

Luckily my friend had a few plants to spare and I happily trucked them back to Coeur d'Alene.  I wasn't very timely in getting the transplants in the ground - in fact I'm pretty sure it was late September before I managed to dig them in.  Knowing my penchant for digging things up (not always by accident), I placed a large marker in the spot and anticipated my own flock of geese in the spring! 

Whenever I find a new plant I eventually get around to a little research.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Gooseneck Loosestrife was listed as an invasive species! But, oh what a beautiful species.  Nothing like the miserable Lemon Balm that I am constantly pulling out!  If you are going to have something march across the garden you may as well like it and it better be beautiful.

Even with the plant marker I managed to rip out a shoot during one of the marathon weeding sessions this spring.  But I guess invasive species are hard to knock down, and I am delighted to say that my GNLS is a healthy flock of two with some goslings shooting up alongside.  Hal swears we'll wake up one morning surrounded by white goosenecks. 

Burgundy Gooseneck Loosestrife
Last weekend at the Manito Garden's fall plant sale I purchased two more Loosestrife plants, Lysimachia atropurpurea 'Beaujolais,' or Loosestrife-Burgundy Gooseneck.  It's a bird of a different feather with mounding silver foliage, deep purple stalks and is not invasive -- or so they say.  It is also a beauty and at this point, very welcome in the garden.  

We'll see what next spring brings; but in the meantime, don't turn me in to the EPA!    

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time for a Change

The Coeur d'Alene Coop has a new look!  A few months ago I discovered Bloggers new Design Template and have been playing with new themes, colors and layouts since. 

It was a bold move, but I finally hit the "apply to Blog" button.  Viola! A new look for The CdA Coop.  I like it and hope you do too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Shoulder Season

I love fall.  There, I've said it.  It's not that I don't like the other seasons, after all, I am a gardener and each season brings its own joy.  In northern Idaho we do have four seasons: cold, colder, wet and hot, but they don't fall into neat little time frames.  And this year, the "hot" season seemed to pass us by completely. 

No matter, my favorite time of year is upon us.  I love the summer/fall "shoulder season," when you can still manage a sunburn without getting heatstroke from working in the garden.  The cooler days have perked up everything, including me.  The deep purple lobelia and red geraniums which had faded and languished in the front yard have rebounded and against the background of golden yellow black eyed Susan's, are just stunning.

It's also the perfect weather for planting. Warm sunny days and cooler nights are great for cool weather crops and the last hurrah for fresh fall produce.  A few weeks ago I replanted a couple rows of sugar snap peas and they're already four to five inches tall.  I optimistic that we'll be eating fresh peas before the first frost (Oct. 15+/-).  This past weekend I replanted spinach, arugula, radishes and ruby red and tom thumb lettuce.  

The spring planting of spinach and arugula was dismal - it was too cold then too hot, too fast, and everything bolted. But, the lettuce crop has been a total success -- we're still munching on it. It's just now starting to taste a little bitter - but no worries, my girls in the coop will love it just the same!  Yes, the "other" compost pile I feed produces eggs.

Fall also means a time to evaluate what needs to be dug, divided and/or ditched. Like the mass of irises under the walnut tree; not a good location and they have suffered. So out they went.  Clearing those has given me a new spot for spring bulbs and a permanent place to plant a couple of hostas that have been living in pots. 

And there's the other bonus to fall gardening...the promise (anticipation and optimism) that comes with planting bulbs.  Along with the usual array of daffodils and tulips, I'm venturing to alliums of the edible kind.  Garlic!  This will be a first and I hope that I can find a good source locally.  Does anyone have a local source or a good online source for garlic?  Let me know - our planting window is coming up!
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