Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I've Got Anatomically-Correct Tomatoes Coming Out My Ears

Last spring, with visions of plump, juicy tomatoes and spicy peppers dancing in our heads, we built a raised garden bed, filled the bed with fertile soil, and planted in the bed a variety of tomato, pepper, lettuce, and onion plants. At the end of the summer, our less-than-impressive cumulative haul included three salads worth of spinach, one cherry tomato, and 1,536 peppers. Despite our best efforts, the lettuce, the onions, and all of the tomato plants failed to thrive.

This spring we (and by we, I mean Tom, his dad, and Will while I was out of town and Tom's mom and Hallie planted flowers) relocated our garden bed to a sunnier location in hopes that increased exposure would help this year's crop of vegetables find their groove. Well, it worked. This year's tomatoes, peppers, and onions have most definitely hit their stride.

All of theses tomatoes and peppers (and the bowl
is larger in real life than it looks in this photo)
were picked over a 48-hour period of time.
In the last two weeks we've picked at least 50 beefsteak tomatoes and 40 cherry tomatoes. We're also bringing in an average of three jalapeno and/or habinero peppers and one onion every day.

We eat the cherry tomatoes as we pick them - I don't think any of these bite-sized sweet treats have even made it inside the house - but we can't keep up with the beefsteak tomatoes. I've given bags full of tomatoes to friends and neighbors; we've made bruschetta, BLT sandwiches, two batches of salsa, and two batches of guacamole (stay tuned for Tom's delicious salsa and guacamole recipes); and we eat slices of tomatoes every evening with dinner, but I still feel like I'm drowning in tomatoes. Please share your favorite tomato recipes!

To be honest and clear, our style and knowledge of backyard gardening is basic at best. For reasons we've yet to pinpoint, both Tom and I prefer trial-and-error over reading and planning and preparing when it comes to growing vegetables. Last year we learned that our vegetables needed more sun, so this year we made the necessary adjustments and have seen a vast improvement in what we've been able to grow. So far this year we've learned that we need to spread out our seeds a bit more, build stronger "cage" structures around our tomato plants (they're five feet tall and toppling over, even with regular tomato cages around them), plant half as many beefsteak tomato seeds, and plant twice as many cherry tomato seeds. We've also decided that we'd like to bring lettuce and spinach back and add zucchini and squash into our garden. Next year we'll make a few more adjustments and will hopefully see even more improvement in the quality and an increase in the quantity of our vegetables.

As I wrap up this post and head outside to water the plants and pick today's crop of tomatoes and peppers, I'll leave you with a photo of my favorite tomato - thus far - of the season. When Hallie first saw it, she exclaimed, "Oh look, Mama! It has a sweet little nose!". When Will saw it, he laughed out loud and said, "No, Hallie. It has a little pe...", at which point I cut him off. The last thing I need is my already-outspoken Hallie Claire telling neighbors, shoppers at HEB, and her swim instructor that we're growing tomatoes with you-know-whats in our backyard.


  1. gazpacho is a good way to use up tomatoes and is a nice cool, summer meal :)

  2. laughed out loud at that...ahh, little boys :)

  3. Sounds like you have the perfect combo for vegetable soup. I usually make a lot at once and then freeze it for quick meals later :).