Archive for the ‘Homegrown’ Category

Tomatoes Homegrown

August 31, 2009

You might know that country ditty by Guy Clark “Homegrown Tomatoes.” The chorus goes:

Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes,
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes,
Only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love & homegrown tomatoes.

If ever there’s a time to be bullish about growing vegetables at home, tomatoes are that time; if there’s ever a time to be arrogant about fresh vegetables, homegrown tomatoes are that time. But here’s the rub: if all you grow are Big Boys and their commercial ilk, you still won’t know that time.

The only way to get Guy Clark’s comparison is to grow some so-called Heirloom varieties. I have a bush of Cherokee Purples that are producing nice large fruit with a rich and intense flavor that is wonderful, but there are many others that are just as good.  Here’s a pile of them from my bushes and my neighbors’, along with a few other standards. The big one on the right is the Cherokee Purple.  If you grow one Heirloom variety, try that one:

Summer Vegetables

I picked the first ripe one for the season, sliced it, and dressed it with some EVOO, some good balsamic vinegar, some basil (Italian and Holy), and some fresh black pepper. No salt. My friend Joan and I ate a plate of them, and the taste was orgasmic. It reminded us both of what fresh means.  Later I had some at my friends John and Mark’s house with Mozz and bruschetta.  Then again at my house with cukes and dill and green onion, and yet again just alone with basil.  What’d summer be without ’em?

Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Tomato and Mozz on bruschetta

Tomatoes and Cuke salad

Fresh does not mean the opposite of frozen. In this case, it means these tomatoes served as simply as possible, as we did at first. Fresh means you pick your zucchini, slice it, and grill it within an hour after it was picked. Fresh means you pick some golden raspberries of a kind that are too fragile to ship, and throw them on some homemade waffles.
I’m growing my tomatoes in barrels and planters this year.  At their size now, they require watering and tending every day; I can’t go on a day’s vacation without fear they’ll dry out or get knocked over by a wind or storm.

Tomato in barrel

That’s true love & homegrown tomatoes.

Mesclun is Not a Drug

April 24, 2009

I planted some mesclun (salad mix) seeds five weeks ago, a bit early perhaps, and they seemed to take forever to sprout. I’m impatient, but coaxing them is useless. Giving plant food to seeds is overkill.

Mesclun is a French dialect word meaning “mix”, so technically “mesclun mix” is redundant, but it’s not any worse than “PIN number”. Such is language use.

My “gourmet” mix includes green and red lettuces, arugula, curly endive, Russian kale. The combinations vary from seed company to seed company; read the labels. There is usually a combination of lettuces and bitter greens, and some curly something-or-other to make it look “gourmet.” They’re all delicious.

Anybody can grow salad, even in the city. Salad mixes can grow with less sun than summer vegetables require, and they’re perfectly happy in cool weather. Growing your own won’t replace going to the green grocer or supermarket for greens, but it’s a satisfying act to pick a few of your homegrown lettuce leaves and throw them into the salad bowl or on a sandwich.

My mesclun babies are now about an inch and a half high, and they’ll need to be thinned soon. They’re growing in barrels so I can tend them more easily.

Annual herbs are also easy to grow in barrels, but you do need some sun, so if your condo balcony faces northwest, you’re out of luck.

But more on the mesclun as it grows up.

The salad says spring

April 9, 2009

Finally, edible green stuff is starting to spout in my yard, and I can start grazing on things for my first real spring salad. My friend Lu chides me by saying “Are you going out to get grass to eat again?” At least I know where the “grass” comes from. Does he think lettuce from Chile is any safer to eat?

Young dandelion leaves are a mildly bitter addition to my bowl (best picked before the flowers emerge), the sort of taste that radicchio or endive provides.

Violets are coming up now. The purple and white flowers are attractive and tasty, and weirdly interesting when you serve them to your friends, who wonder if you’ve lost your mind putting flowers in with the lettuce. The leaves are good, too, in moderation.

Wild onions are ubiquitous, but their taste is breath destroying; the chives and Egyptian onions that I planted are milder alliums.

I also get mache or corn salad resprouting from seeds I sprinkled about.

I love this time of year. It’s the first time I can hunt and harvest food not in a grocery store. I feel my taste buds waking up with the red buds (which are also tasty). This long cold spring is moving on finally. The salad says so.