Saturday, June 13, 2015

How to blanch your tomatoes

Before canning, freezing or cooking fresh tomatoes, you'll want to get the skins off. You do this by blanching the tomatoes. Here's how I do it:

Use two large soup pots. Fill one with water and bring to a boil. Fill the other pot with ice and water. Wait for the water to get really cold. Use fresh, clean tomatoes. Hint: Buy a bag of ice.
This is an action shot of tomatoes spending
about a minute in the boiling water. You will see the skins split,
at which time you transfer them to the ice water with long tongs.
The ice water stops the cooking process that would
continue were you not to put in ice water. Be sure to keep
the tomatoes in the ice water until they're no longer warm.

Transfer your tomatoes to a colander. The skins
will slip off and you will core the stem end.

Now you can run the tomatoes under water
to wash out the seeds. Your tomatoes are ready
for freezing, canning or tonight's supper.

Friday, June 12, 2015

I have tomatoes ...

... coming out of my ears! Every day I pick them three times. I like to get them when they're just barely turning pink so the squirrels, raccoons and birds don't get them before I do.

I guess this is why gardeners tell you to plant enough for you and the animals! I have 24 Better Boy tomato plants, so I guess I'm covered.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Some kind of weird insect?

Recently I noticed that the leaves were dying on one of my tomato plants. So I started whacking off each stem that had brown, drooping leaves (my usual over-the-top solution).

As I whacked closer and closer to the stem, I saw a bunch of weird bumps.

What sort of evil insect would lay its eggs inside the stem of my tomato plant and lie in wait to kill the rest of my plants? The nerve. Always one for fast action, I euthanized the bumpy stem by pulling it out of the ground.

Then I happened to look up the problem on the internet. It turned out not to be insect or disease, but root initials.

From what I understand, this is where the roots get stressed, often from too much rain (perhaps from the 6 inches in one day?) and correspondingly too little air to circulate around the roots. The root initials are the plant's way of saving itself by developing little roots up and down the stem. So if I had kept the tomato plant in the ground it may have put down more roots and survived. Oh well. Plenty more where that came from.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My herbs are bolting

Bolting is when a plant goes to seed. Unfortunately, three of my herbs have bolted, leaving the leaves puny and either too strong or too weak in flavor.
I need to deal with these mint seeds before they spread and take over the world.
The leaves are called cilantro; the seeds are called coriander.
Dill eeds are as airy as the dill leaves themselves.
I plan to use the seeds in pickles (thinking positively about my cucumber plants).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Crepe myrtles are real show-offs

If you want great color next summer, add a
crepe myrtle to your landscape. Right now they
are in brilliant bloom all along the Texas Gulf Coast. 
My favorite part of a crepe myrtle is its gnarly, peeling bark.
Luscious boughs are heavy with flower clusters that come in such hues as lavender, watermelon, fuschia, coral and white. The prettiest crepe myrtles, I think, are the ones that are allowed to become well-rounded trees. Most people around here, though, cut them back to the knuckles in the fall, something the Master Gardeners discourage, calling it Crepe Murder.