RSS Feed

Tag Archives: heirloom tomatoes

Sharp’s Farm is Open

Posted on

The greenhouses opened today.

flowers sharps and spring stuff 058

If you have never visited the farm at Waterford, you have missed a great opportunity to purchase seedlings and plugs of heirloom and hybrid herbs, vegetables and flowers.

flowers sharps and spring stuff 051

Most of my perennial herbs behind my kitchen came from them. I buy my heirloom tomatoes there. They are conveniently located. A simple drive using scenic back roads. Head north on the Homewood, Folly Quarter, Triadelphia intercounty connector. Take a right on Sharp Road (named for the original family farm) and bear left onto Dorsey Mill which becomes Roxbury, and ends at Rte. 97. Head south (left) for just a few miles to Jennings Chapel. The alternative is the interstate but I find it more interesting to take that scenic route near the old location of the farm.

The farm itself is lovely.

flowers sharps and spring stuff 061

You may even spot the eagles nesting out by the lake.

I also buy my heavy row cover for my garden there. They have many unusual vegetables too. Like Malabar spinach. Or artichokes.

Not a bad way to spend a spring morning. We’ll be there sometime in the next two days to get tomatoes, herbs, cukes, zucchini and some supplies.

The Morning After

Posted on

fandf fair anniversary 034

The flag was still flying high on the crane when I got to the fairgrounds at 10 am this morning. Most of the rides were dismantled. A steady stream of cars arriving to pick up exhibits, entries, ribbons and premium checks.

I like watching the crews take down the fair. It’s interesting to see. I have been volunteering within the farm and garden building. Stacking up entries for easy retrieval. Helping people find their ribbons, and decide what to do with their vegetables and fruit, now that it’s been sitting around a week.

I started helping a couple of years ago. My favorite part of being there is watching the 4Hers come in to get their entries and their ribbons. It’s also watching children come in to our tables to find their entries, and in many cases their ribbons.

One little boy today was picking up a third, fourth and fifth place ribbon for biggest zucchini. One for him and each of his siblings.

I also enjoy visiting with my friends at the beekeepers’ tables, and just getting to talk vegetables with other gardeners. Commiserating about how our tomatoes suffered this summer.

I just wish we could find someone to take all the less than perfect food (and some that was still usable). There previously were people who took things home to feed pigs or chickens. Now, not so much.

The food banks can’t take them. They have been sitting out in the heat for a week. Most of the tomatoes were going south. The berries, really gone.

Still, it’s fun to help a little and see behind the scenes in tear down.

People were taking their animals home. The stalls were all cleaned up, and new mulch was in a humongous pile out by the show pavilion.

Another year. Another check. This one my biggest. Just about enough to cover what I spent to buy seedlings and plugs at Sharp’s Farm last spring.

Yes You CAN

Posted on

If I can can, you can can.

fandf fair anniversary 012

My first entries into the canning arena at the fair. Cherries and dill pickles. I got a fourth place for the cherries. Nothing for the pickles but I am still learning. I saw the better jars did spears. I did slices.

I knew I wanted to learn how to can more fruits and vegetables and I finally got the courage to enter the fair. So glad I did. You never know until you try.

These luscious cherries. From Larriland. Picked in June.

larriland and garden 008

I separated them before making the preserved batches.

larriland and garden 029

This was a very simple cherries, sugar and water mix. No pectin. No hard work other than pitting all those cherries. Water bath processed. I got 5 pint jars of them.

As for the rest of the fair. Two blue ribbons, plus one third and one fourth place

Herbs. This may be the third blue ribbon for herbs. I have to look at the records, as I have never gotten a blue ribbon in anything other than herbs before this year.

fandf fair anniversary 008

And, onions. They got me my other blue ribbon.

fandf fair anniversary 009

Those onions. Lots of work to dry. But, oh so worth it.

garden and fandf eat local 030

The five selected hung out in a closet in the laundry room, on hangers and string, until I was ready to enter them.

I didn’t take pictures of my third place basket. I need to go back and document that for my records. My final ribbon, for yellow slicing tomatoes. Somehow I missed taking that picture too.

As usual, I struck out with my heirlooms. They just lacked the intense flavor they need in order to win a ribbon. But, there is always next year.

If you have never had the courage to enter items in the fair, you really should just throw caution to the wind, and get in there. Easy to do. Really. Every year I learn more, and the people I meet are all very helpful.

Next year, I may even overcome my inexperience in baking and enter my zucchini bread. Or, take the time to enter some of my photography. There are so many ways you can participate.

Fair Weather

Posted on

Today let’s talk about the weather. The weather that impacts gardeners and farmers. The weather that influences what we harvest. And whether, for me, it’s good enough to give me flavorful heirloom tomatoes.

Growing these tomatoes was on my bucket list. My 50 things I wanted to do before I die. Back 12 years ago when I turned 50 I wrote that list. Before we bought this house in the country. Before I ever tilled and weeded and suffered through our awful summers.

This year our county fair is a week later than the past. Giving me more time to get those heirlooms ripe. Except all that rain has made them a mess.

csa and veggies 023

They are cracked. They aren’t as full of flavor. Still, I try and pick the best ones to submit.

Submissions are due by Saturday morning, although I try to get mine in on Friday night. Today, I harvested all my leeks. I picked one of my unusual vegetables, hoping I may get a better one Thursday. I still haven’t chosen my herbs.

If you have never made it to the county fair, you really ought to come out.

fair ribbons 024

Come see what our traffic jams look like. Ride a few rides. Have some unhealthy foods. The fair runs from Saturday to Saturday. We like heading over there early before the crowds. And we buy a season pass.

See you at the fair?

Fair Trade

Posted on

Getting ready for the county fair. The next few posts will highlight things that we are interested in doing, and show some of the preparations that I make in order to enter items for ribbons.

This year, I am literally drowning in heirloom tomatoes, compared to previous years. Unfortunately many of them will be past their prime on submission days. Still, I found a solution to my problem.

Thanks to Bistro Blanc.

tomato harvest and glen manor 017

What does ginger beer and peaches have to do with the fair? Not much, but we were drinking a peach ginger mule at the bar Friday night when Chef Janny came out to visit with a few regulars. It was past prime dining time, so he was done service.

I mentioned to him that I had an overabundance of herbs and veggies. In the past, I had given Chef Marc some of my rosemary and basil, when I was deluged with them.

We made a simple deal. I would bring him what I had available. We would work out a “trade”.

That’s how I became a local supplier to a local restaurant.

tomato harvest and glen manor 003

Here’s some of the vegetables I put together. The hot peppers. I have a serious overabundance of them. I did keep back six that are almost all perfectly straight and uniform in size. Hopefully they will hang in there to be submitted as fair entries.

Shallots. Lots and lots of shallots. I have all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Heirlooms. In the above picture, there are Black Prince, Amana Orange, Abe Lincoln, German Johnson, Goliath and Box Car Willie. I am doing the taste testing to determine which ones would do best at the fair. I still can’t decide, and there are dozens of them on the vine up at the garden.

Not shown in my pictures are my lavender, chives and basil. Or a container full of teeny cherry tomatoes.

Next weekend after my submissions, I will probably deliver another batch. So, if you eat at Bistro Blanc, you may be getting “farm to table” from my little part of the world.

As for that lovely drink up there, it’s simple. Get a bottle of ginger beer. A lime. A peach. Some ice. Good vodka. I used Absolut. Muddle the peach, after removing the skin and pit. If it isn’t really sweet (ours was), add a pinch of sugar. Pour in 1/2 cup of vodka, crushed ice, juice of the lime. Divide between two glasses and pour the bottle of ginger beer into the glasses, evenly dividing it.

I found Crabbie’s up at Old Tyme Liquor. It can be used to make Dark and Stormies, if you have dark rum. What is it about summertime and cocktails?

Energy Savings (Or Not)

Posted on

We have these periods of time here where we live. Called “Energy Savings Days” by our local gas and electric provider. They happen to fall during my food processing times, at least twice this summer they have.

I then have a dilemma. Don’t use the stove, oven, crock pot or dishwasher to process these mountains.

fandf portallis 040
fandf portallis 039

Yes, both those pictures were taken the same day. Yes, I have to draw down some of these tomatoes. I just change the A/C setting in the house, and then do what I need to do to process foods. I can’t give up six hours of productive time when I get anywhere from 10-20 pounds of tomatoes a week.

I am crossing my fingers and hoping I get good tomatoes next week, as the Howard County Fair opens on August 8th. On the night of the 7th I will be delivering herbs, onions, tomatoes, peppers, an ornamental basket, and this year, some of my canned foods.

Like my pickles.

garden and fandf eat local 034

And some fruit preserves. And, hopefully a pepper jelly if I get it done this week.

If we get another energy savings day, I probably will be working through it. As the harvest doesn’t stop just because it’s hot out there.

Oh well, at least we aren’t using our cars much when I’m processing foods. Heck, I even improvised on this tabouleh.

fandf and tomato processing 010

I used Israeli couscous instead of bulgur because I ran out of it. This was a quick simple lunch dish. A cup of couscous simmered in chicken stock. Parsley. Mint. Tomatoes from the garden. Lemon juice. Olive oil. Salt and pepper.

Gotta use those tomatoes everywhere I can.

Just Another Soggy Day in the ‘Hood

Posted on

The Fourth was a real bust around our house. I just couldn’t get into it, after spending Friday trying to salvage much of my waterlogged garden. The weather data around here showed June giving us 9.6″ of rain. Seventeen days in June it rained.

field day 2015 050

And we already slogged through last weekend at our Field Day site. Somehow I wasn’t inclined to make it two Saturdays in a row, so we stayed home and I cooked. I really had to do something with these.

garden and eggs 004

That would be the 75 onions I harvested on Friday. I had to do it. They were starting to crack, and to get softer at the crown.

garden and eggs 008

This pile couldn’t be hung to cure. They have various bruises and cracks but are a decent size. So, they became crock pot caramelized onions.

garden and eggs 017

All of them into the pot, for 16 hours, the last two uncovered. I ended up with about 32 ounces of onions. Four one cup containers. Three in the freezer to use this winter. Making them is simple. Salt, pepper, a splash of water.

I can definitely sympathize with our local farmers. This weather is seriously affecting crops. We got newsletters from both Friends and Farms, and our Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA, telling us to hang in there. The fruit and vegetables aren’t as good when the temperatures won’t rise enough to ripen them, and when excess rain waters them down, or splits them.

Still, I can be thankful my garden is producing.

garden and fandf eat local 002

Committing to a Garden

Posted on

While up at my community garden today, and dealing with the almost daily weeding task, I thought about those who have attempted to garden only to be discouraged by the amount of work it takes.

Yes, gardening is fun for some of us. But, we have to have patience, to wait for those plants to mature. We also have to have dedication. To go out there in the heat or the rain or the cold, to weed and water.

We had a few changes at our community gardens already this year. It is a daunting task when you begin. Before you figure out the rhythm necessary to keep it going. To keep it weed free. To keep it pest free.

To harvest during the peak season. To protect it from the elements.

Still it is rewarding when you get that bumper crop. When the tomatoes start to go nuts.

garden processing 033

When the zucchini are out of control.

garden and dinner zucchini 008

I find it therapeutic to weed. To spend the time nurturing those plants.

And right now it’s fun to watch those baby killdeer running everywhere.

csa may 19 bioblitz hundred sq garden 067

You too can have a garden. Start small. Maybe some herbs to add to dinner. Maybe a small salad table. Maybe just a tomato plant in a pot.

Nothing like fresh, home grown treats that you made yourself.

#grow100

Posted on

The 100 square foot garden challenge. Over on the University of Maryland Grow It Eat It page.

I was asked last year if I would participate this year. With my big garden, I had to think about how to carve out 100 square feet and show what I am growing in that contained area.

I think I have it all configured, and I will be blogging about what you can do in only 100 square feet.

Like grow potatoes.

garden stuff 004

In six sq ft in a container in my backyard.

garden stuff 020

You start with this. Put them about one foot deep in a bucket or trash can (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage). Keep adding soil as they grow. Dump them out when you are ready to harvest (once the foliage starts to die back). I put in about half a dozen potato pieces. Some are fingerlings. A couple are Yukon gold. I use CSA potatoes because they aren’t treated and they will sprout.

Then there’s the lettuce.

the garden 017

I bought a six plant market pack of butterhead lettuce. Put it inside a bunny fence. I have harvested six heads of lettuce, and they keep regenerating if you cut them just above the soil. Don’t pull them out. I should get at least another half dozen heads of lettuce. This circle is another six square feet.

Only twelve feet used.

I then marked off a 5×6 section of my community garden. Put in tromboncini, Thelma Sanders pumpkin and a handful of tomato plants. A couple of San Marzano. Supersweet 100s. Cherry. A nice mix.

csa may 19 bioblitz hundred sq garden 055

It doesn’t look like much yet, but it should give me lots of salad tomatoes and some canning tomatoes. The tromboncini are a heirloom squash. Just wait til you see what they produce.

I marked off a 3×15 foot section with cucumbers, zucchini, leeks, onions and arugula.

csa may 19 bioblitz hundred sq garden 041

This is part of it, and then I went perpendicular for 3 feet by 3 feet to bring in the shallots and my lone pepper plant.

All together I am up to 96 square feet. I have a two by two option left, so I added the herbs.

csa may 19 bioblitz hundred sq garden 057

Some sage, thyme, chives and dill are bunched up there. I already made chive blossom vinegar using a cup of chive blossoms and 12 ounces of white wine vinegar.

I will keep track of what this 100 square feet produces.

So far, the lettuce, onions and herbs are being harvested. I did find my first zucchini blossom today.

csa may 19 bioblitz hundred sq garden 053

Here’s to fresh vegetables in a small amount of real estate.

The Winter That Won’t Quit

Posted on

It may be April 25th, but winter hasn’t given up yet.

earth day pics 001

If you look closely, you will see the sleet coming down. It later turned to big fat snowflakes but I was driving when it did that. Not the best time to celebrate Earth Day with outdoor activities, but we made it work up at the Conservancy. I went up to buy some heirlooms from the Master Gardeners and to put my shallots and rainbow chard into my newly tilled garden. I got a couple of my favorite tomatoes.

earth day pics 008

Those two teeny plants on the bottom left are Purple Calabash. I bought my first seeds of this heirloom at the shop at Monticello.

summer 2010 049

I won my first ribbon at the Howard County Fair with this variety. Haven’t won an heirloom ribbon since. Maybe they will make me lucky again this August.

As for the tomatoes, they are overtaking my kitchen, along with all the other seedlings I have.

earth day pics 006

We need it to warm up. To get these plants in the ground. We still have two weeks before we can safely plant tomatoes. They need soil temperatures greater than 50 degrees, and we aren’t there yet.

I will be planting on Mother’s Day weekend, when I am one of the volunteers for our Mother’s Day garden party. Saturday, May 9th at 10 am. Tea, scones, gardens in bloom. Come visit us. There are numerous garden clubs who maintain areas out at Mt. Pleasant. You can talk with garden club members, and learn a few “tricks of the trade” while enjoying freshly baked scones.

Check out the web page for details. In the meantime, cross your fingers that we will get warmer weather.