Archive for September, 2014

Tomato Trellis Performs Well

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Trellis September 24th

Trellis September 24th

Trellis Early July

Trellis Early July

Early in July I posted about a heavy duty tomato trellis I constructed with T Posts and bamboo stakes: T Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.   I’m happy to report the trellis performed exceptionally well.   I’m going to build one again, next year and I already know some minor changes I’m going to make.

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the Stems to the Bamboo Forced Vertical Growth

Lacing the tomato stems to the bamboo forces the plants to maintain excellent vertical growth. A lot of the plants are growing well over the 8 foot height of the bamboo poles. The tomato fruit had a tendency to follow the foliage growth up the poles so as the season progressed the tomatoes were easier to pick as they moved upwards.

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Tomato Cages Made Weeding Difficult

Next year I hope to put the structure up first, then plant the tomato transplants next to the bamboo poles. The traditional conical tomato cages that I used became a hindrance to weeding and I’m going to eliminate them next year. I thought I might need them for structural support, but I don’t think they are necessary.

While I thought the plants were far enough apart, I’m going to open up the spacing and plant less plants. I experienced some leaf blight and that sometimes can be reduced by better air flow. The blight didn’t seem to slow things down, but the closeness of the plants made it a little difficult to prune them and tie them up. I’ll leave out some of the varieties that did not perform well this year. And as we had way more tomatoes than we needed, leaving a few plants out will probably be a good thing.

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

Tomatoes Are Easy to Harvest

We’ll be picking tomatoes until frost and I also expect the structure to offer some good support for covering the tomatoes with poly to try to extend the season and get them through the first mild frost.

Tomatillos – Growing and Cooking

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Green and Yellow Tomatillos

Green and Yellow Tomatillos

This has been a good year for tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa). Our three plants have produced way more than we need for our few batches of salsa. Tomatillos are also not that easy to give away because a lot of people don’t know what they are, much less what to do with them.

Tomatillo Vines

Tomatillo Vines

They grow like a tomato but the fruit has a loose, papery husk called a calyx that forms first.  The fruit swells inside the husk and is ready to harvest about the time it breaks through the husk or just before. We try to pick when the fruit has filled out to the edges of the husk.

Tomatillos Are Related to Chinese Lanterns

Tomatillos Are Related to Chinese Lanterns

We have grown them off and on for several years and I think I’ve finally got the hang of when to harvest while they’re still green. They turn yellow and sweeter as they ripen and the husks split open, but the green ones have the tarter flavor that is best for Mexican flavored salsa.

There are lots of recipes for tomatillo salsa. Here’s a salsa recipe that Geoff posted a couple of years ago using tomatoes. You can easily substitute tomatillos for the tomatoes and cilantro for the papalo.

I also like this tomatillo salsa verde recipe which I found on allrecipes.com.

Chinese Lanterns and Tomatillos

Chinese Lanterns and Tomatillos

The tomatillos look very similar to Chinese Lanterns (physalis alkekengi) as you can see in the picture above. They are the same genus but a different species. The Chinese Lanterns are an inedible perennial and grow more like a mint plant spreading from the root. Aren’t plants amazing?

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns