Thursday, July 4, 2013


Tomatoes.  One of the main reason so many of us garden.  There's nothing at all like a ripe heirloom tomato straight off of the vine.  They're poetry in the round.  We love the colors, the taste, the snap of the skin, the smell of the plants and the variety of uses that one standard veggie is good for.  We as well know that good tomatoes are the result of good care.  Water, sunlight, nutrient rich soil and a good horn worm deterrent system all need to come together in the perfect dance in order to produce those vibrant, luscious tomatoes we all crave. 

Rewind to 'nutrient rich soil.'
Hello.  My name is Alex (no, really, it is), and I've been remiss in tending to my soil for 2 years.

All cynicism aside, I really have been.  For the first few years of the garden, I went to the local mulch place and got a few yards of compost and amended and tilled in like a good girl.  These last two years, I just amended with bagged compost and even then only sparingly.  Not my best of moves.  My laziness came back to bite me in a very, very sad way.

I decided to amend the side yard's soil with your standard cow compost at the start of this year.  I was lazy, missed a good window to go fetch compost with the trailer and was impatient, so I figured a few bags of the cow would hold me over until next year when I would take the trailer (note, I had this same opinion last year i.e.: laziness). 

The plants started off fine.  They grew like weeds.  They grew tall...the leaves were another story.

They were all curled up into themselves and there were no flowers to be seen anywhere, even though the plants were huge.
If you look at an individual leaf, you can see a squiggly vein running down the center and the leaf itself was almost fuzzy looking.  Very strange.

So, I began researching and found that, most likely, the cow compost I used was contaminated.  Contaminated compost = woppy plants = no tomatoes for me.  I like to about have cried.  In my frustration I walked away from the whole thing to see if it would even out.  It never really did, but eventually some of the plants got some flowers, but the tomatoes they were putting out were oddly shaped - not just your crazy cat faced toms, but teardrop like toms on Cherokee purple and brandywine plants. Those that were there were few and far between and the plants still looked quite terrible sitting there in the side yard.  I was crushed, so what did I do?  I took a cue from my daughter, shut down and walked away again for a few more weeks.  If I don't look at them, they and the contaminated soil to not exist.
Fast forward to Tuesday night.  I received a text from the Family and Consumer Sciences (Home EC) teacher at our school which showed a friend of hers - a hoity-toity chef at a local Atlanta restaurant, eating some of the canned green tomatoes I made last fall and asked when I was making more.
Cue epiphany.
We have such a long summer growing season here that it's crazy if I don't give something else a try in that bed.  Maybe all hope isn't lost.  So, yesterday I packed both kids in the car and busted down to fetch some more okra and pepper plants.  I set the girl to picking whatever woppy toms she could find and the boy dragged the plants to the back 40.  I replanted the beds and in addition to the 9 cans of salsa - using stupid store bought toms, I canned seven cans (three still in canner) of dilled green toms.

 I don't remember there being so much dill in the other batch I made, but I'm sure there was since I think it's the same recipe. 

In the end, I think things turned out pretty spectacular.  I never would have pulled green toms just to pull green toms.  It borders on sacrilege. all worked out to my master plan.  I meant to contaminate the soil all along, just so I could do this.  Why, of course I did. 

The morning comes early.  Sweet pickled green tomato dreams.

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