Tag Archives: heirloom tomatoes

Super Easy Fresh Tomato Salsa & Tomato Tastings!

When we have all the ingredients to make garden fresh salsa I know that summer is finally in full swing. The garden has started overflowing with squash, peppers, garlic, beans, and my absolute favorite tomatoes!

This quick fresh salsa is one of my favorite summer dishes. It looks fancy, tastes, great, and comes together in minutes. Making it perfect to throw together for lunch after working in the field or making to share at a family barbeque.

This recipe is also one of those that you can play with a lot.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2-3 good sized tomatoes (mine weighed about 1 1/2lbs)

2 sweet banana peppers (or 1/2 a sweet bell pepper)

1/2 small onion

1 jalapeño pepper

1 clove of garlic

1/2 TBS lemon/lime juice

Cilantro to taste (if dried I use about 3/4 tsp and a small handful if fresh)

Salt & pepper to taste

There’s a few points to note when selecting ingredients. The tomatoes, in my humble opinion, are absolutely what make this recipe. Use homegrown or from a local farmer, storebought tomatoes just aren’t worth it. Paste tomatoes will make for a less watery salsa but I just go with whatever I have on  hand. I adore the look of salsa made with different color heirlooms.

You can also vary the peppers. I like a mix of sweet and hot peppers. The sweet bananas are super easy to grow and I find that 1 jalapeño adds a lot of flavor with out being overwhelmingly spicy but if you like it hotter or grow other types of peppers, go for it! Just try adding a little at a time.

I’ve used both yellow and purple onions and am happy with both but many people find they prefer purple onions for salsa. The cilantro and garlic can also be varied to taste. Fresh is better but in a pinch you can use dried cilantro and garlic powder.

To prepare:

Begin by dicing the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and cilantro. I like mine chunky but you can dice your ingredients as small or large as desired. For a smoother salsa pulse all the ingredients in a food proccessor until the desired consistency is reached.

Mince and add the garlic clove and stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. It’s so good you may eat it all with just a bag of tortilla chips but it’s also excellent with tacos.

Don’t stop reading tomato fans!

If you’re as fanatical about homegrown tomatoes as I am be sure to stop in and visit Southern Exposure at two upcoming tomato tasting events!

On July 29 SESE will be at the Home Grown Tomato Tasting,  in Charlotte, NC
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange will be hosting a “Seed Swap” at the Tomato Tasting.

The Homegrown Tomato Festival is an all-day tomato themed event where tomato lovers can try dozens of different backyard tomatoes, crown the region’s best tomato grower, drink tomato themed cocktails, enjoy live music and more! This event is a fundraiser for 100 Gardens, a Charlotte based 501c3 that teaches agriculture and aquaponics in local schools, correctional institutions and also in Haiti. For more information about 100 Gardens or this event visit www.homegrowntomato.org or www.100gardens.org.

Aug 5: Botanical Garden Summer Sampler Tomato Tasting in Norfolk,VA
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange will be offering samples of a variety of tomatoes and have seeds available for purchase. Be sure to stop in and find your favorite variety to grow for next year!

 

How to Choose the Right Tomato Varieties for Your Garden

Radiator-Charlie's-Mortgage-Lifter-tomato-SESE-web

By Ira Wallace, with Lisa Dermer

Mention summer gardens and the first thing to come up is which tomatoes are you growing? Year after year tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown by our customers.  In our 2017 catalog we offer more than 100 different tomato varieties. There are currant tomatoes as small as a dime and big beefsteaks like Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine that can weigh well over a pound (plus every size in between and more shapes than most gardeners can imagine). In addition to the ever popular red and pink varieties there are orange, yellow, black, bi-color and even green varieties. We offer something for every gardener, but how to decide which to grow this year?

There are many criteria that could be used but these four are basic for me:

1. Flavor and texture – the first thing I consider is fruit qualities like flavor and texture for the sandwiches, sauces, and salads we like to eat. Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomato (photo top) is a large heirloom slicer with superb flavor, but be prepared for its long season and indeterminate growth habit (read on).

2. Days to maturity – is not just important for those with a short growing season. In many areas of the Southeast there are two seasons for tomatoes and other summer vegetables. The period in late July and August when it is too hot for tomatoes and sweet peppers to set fruit well, means we grow two crops: one to mature before the hottest spell, and one after. Fast-maturing early and medium days to maturity varieties are really important in such areas. Stupice is a favorite early variety: the small-to-medium size fruits have excellent heirloom-type flavor. We also list several Extra-Early tomatoes.

matts wild cherry tomato SESE

3. Growth style– there are two main growth habits for tomatoes:

-Determinate varieties that grow to a certain height (usually 2-3ft) then stop growing and mature all of the fruit in a short period of time.  Many paste tomatoes are determinate. These varieties are great for canning and well suited to growing in short or split season areas

-Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing, flowering and setting fruit until stopped by frost, disease, or really bad weather. Most Cherry and large beefsteak tomatoes are indeterminate, They need to be caged or staked with a really sturdy support.  Most really large heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate. These varieties are great if you have plenty of space, warm summer temperatures, and a long enough growing season. Delicious and super productive Matt’s Wild Cherry (photo) is a very small cherry tomato with tall, determinate plants.

-The Dwarf Tomato Project has given gardeners a new set of options, with short (2-4 feet tall) plants bred from heirlooms, and retaining heirloom flavor quality, that are easier to trellis and to grow in containers. We offer Rosella Purple, for diminutive plants with fantastic fruits similar to Cherokee Purple.

4. Disease resistance-Find out which diseases are common in your area and select resistant varieties whenever possible. As organic gardeners our first line of defense is prevention. When reading a seed catalog or looking at the back of a seed packet, disease resistances are often shown with an abbreviation after the name. For example verticilium (V) and frusarium (F) wilts are common soil-borne tomato diseases. Look for the V or F after the variety name. Nematodes (N) are  another common disease with resistant varieties available. Roma VF and Tropic VFN are excellent disease resistant varieties and show how the disease resistance is sometimes incorporated in the name.

More resources on www.SouthernExposure.com for tomato growers:

Breeding Peppers and Tomatoes

Continuing our summer road trip adventures!   We visited two individuals doing exciting vegetable breeding work.  While lots of universities and other institutions do great work with agricultural research and breeding, valuable information and great new varieties can also come from individual farmers and backyard gardeners.  If you’re thinking about doing your own breeding, you might be interested in our books Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe or Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step-by-Step Guide for Growers by Rowen White and Bryan Connolly.

Craig LeHoullier is well known to tomato fans.  Starting in the ‘90s, he introduced many heirloom tomatoes through SESE, including Cherokee Purple.  A more recent project that Craig and tomato breeders from all over the world have been involved with is the Dwarf Tomato Project – using great-tasting heirlooms in breeding new, shorter tomatoes (2-4 feet tall) that are easier to trellis and to grow in containers.

We stopped by Craig’s house in Raleigh, NC to see Craig’s garden.  This year Craig is growing out all 36 dwarf tomatoes that have been released so far.  Craig cautioned us before we visited that with the heat and rain and all, his tomatoes were starting to get some diseases, but we thought that was great – a nice chance to see how the different varieties handle disease!  We already carry one of the dwarf varieties, Rosella Purple, and as we tasted our way through the dwarf tomatoes, we were taking notes for our wish list of more dwarfs to grow for seed crops.

Craig grew these plants in straw bales in his driveway!  A great gardening technique is to add some compost to the top of a straw bale and plant into the compost; as the plants grow, they’ll reach their roots into the straw, and since straw bales hold a lot of moisture, the plants won’t need much watering in between rains.  It’s a great way of growing tomatoes in containers without actual containers – Craig’s writing a book about it, look for it sometime this next year!

Craig’s book Epic Tomatoes came out last December, and he’s been busy giving talks and doing book signings for it.  He’ll be at this year’s Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, giving a special pre-festival talk on Thursday, September 9th as well as giving talks on Friday and Saturday.  Many of the tomatoes featured in Craig’s book will be featured in this year’s tomato tasting at the festival, so expect to see Craig hanging out there as well!

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Pittsboro, NC farmer Doug Jones is an passionate about pepper breeding.  If you’ve ever been to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference, you’ve probably seen him at the Seed Swap table, sorting through his peppers, checking each for taste before he takes the seed out to save.

The photo below shows pepper seed from different fruits spread out for drying.  Doug bred Sweet Jemison, a long yellow pepper, which we now carry; he’s a big fan of long Italian bell peppers!

Doug farmed for many years at Piedmont Biofarm in Pittsboro.  Here’s a photo from November 2011 of Irena with 10 foot tall peppers in their high tunnel!

This year Doug is dividing his time between The Farm at Penny Lane and Paz Farm, where he’s also doing pepper trials for Johnny’s Selected Seeds and continuing his pepper breeding work.  Hot, wet weather had him going along the rows to prune off infected pepper leaves to keep Bacterial Leaf Spot at bay; as Doug himself described it, wet weather had him despairing that the disease would get out of hand, while a few days letter dry weather had him optimistic that the peppers would pull through…