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Daily Archives: August 2, 2012

Prepping for the Howard County Fair

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The Howard County Fair starts Saturday. I am in the final stages of choosing my entries in the tomato and potential other categories. It is a frustrating exercise when Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated. Last week there were many ripe tomatoes.

Assorted heirloom and hybrid tomatoes

This week I have dozens of green tomatoes on the vines, and just a handful that are at their peak. The stink bugs, as usual, have ruined quite a few, putting holes where bacteria will grown and blacken spots. You can cut these spots out and eat the tomatoes, like we used to when we didn’t demand perfect tomatoes (devoid of taste but pretty), but these aren’t show tomatoes.

Amana Orange with a stink bug created spot

I also have dozens of what would be lovely great whites, legend and chocolate stripes, all with large dark circles that the stink bugs have created, all just destined to become salsa, and not ready for prime time. This year the stink bugs were late in arriving, for whatever reason, and seem to be peaking just when I want to harvest for the fair. Earlier harvesting tomatoes seemed to be fine, and were lovely to eat and process.

Legend, chocolate stripe and great white, all perfect for eating in July

Right now, I have one lovely great white, but I need two to enter. All the chocolate stripes show stink bug damage. I have a handful of Amish paste that look to be close to perfect, and a handful of very small legend tomatoes, perfect in shape, but not the size that they normally achieve. My early July Amish paste were all processed and reside deep in my freezer as a base for winter tomato sauce. I had a dozen lovely early produced tomatoes, that were way too early for the fair.

Amish Paste

Here are some of those, just picked and ready to join the rest to be blanched, peeled, processed and frozen. They have been one of the stars of this year’s garden, and there are dozens more on the four plants out there. I should be able to process and freeze at least three or four more batches this year. I don’t like to attempt canning the heirlooms, as their low acidity makes them a more difficult vegetable. You would need to adjust the acidity upwards by adding it, and pressure canning is recommended by many people. I don’t have a pressure canner (yet), and I am just getting into canning using small simple batches.

I find that for my winter soups and stews, freezing vegetables that can be loaded into a crock pot and cooked all day is the way to go. Now that I got a dedicated freezer for my fruits and vegetables, I am using that method.

Now that I have checked out my heirlooms for the fair, I am also deciding which cherry tomatoes to enter. I need fifteen good samples of cherry tomatoes. I am also considering whether I should enter my plum tomatoes.

As for herbs, many of mine are doing well this year.

Grey Santolina (Cotton Lavender) and Chives

The herb entry calls for three varieties. Some do better than others in water, and some just get so bug eaten that they look awful, but still taste great. I really enjoy the luxury of picking herbs just before dinner. Snipping chives for eggs or potatoes. Tarragon and marjoram for chicken. Rosemary for potatoes, or for lamb. Mint for salads and tzatziki. The four or five varieties of basil I grow are all doing great this year, with some of them turning into bushes.

African Blue Basil

Same thing for all the thyme varieties. Decisions. Decisions. I need to make my choices soon. Entries are accepted Friday night or Saturday morning. All this anxiety just for a little strip of ribbon, right? I don’t know. It must be that Olympic influence that makes us compete. Here’s hoping my tomatoes and herbs do OK for me this year.

See you at the Fair!