It’s Tomato Planting Time

It’s time to plant tomatoes again, and I just planted mine. I’m cutting back on the garden this year because I don’t expect to have the time to tend a large one. I reduced the number of tomato plants and cut out all the other veggies entirely. Gotta grow some tomatoes though.

I plant them nice and deep – with about half of the stem underground. Pull the leaves off the portion that will be buried. The stem you bury with grow roots to help support the plant and it also encourages the tomato plant to grow stronger stalks and branches.

There are all kinds of recommendations for soil additives, but I’m lazy and have decided that mixing in a couple of scoops of Miracle Grow soil for fruits and vegetables is just as good as anything else.

When you plant the tomatoes, be sure to water them well to help prevent shock.

Tomatoes prefer several hours of sun each day, but I try to plant mine where they receive morning and mid-day sun, but not evening sun. The evening sun seems to be too much for them once the temperatures soar.

When watering tomato plants, remember they don’t like wet leaves. Water at the base of the plant without getting the leaves wet whenever possible. It’s also best to water in the morning so any moisture on the plant evaporates before night. Wet leaves at night tend to equal sickly tomato plants.

Growing tomatoes in the back yard or in a container on a balcony takes very little effort and the rewards are huge! Real, homegrown tomatoes are a completely different food than the hothouse tomatoes available at the grocery store. I love homegrown tomatoes but won’t even eat the grocery store kind. I pick them off salads and sandwiches. No thanks.

So I encourage anyone who is planning any sort of garden this year to include tomato plants. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. Smaller tomatoes like Romas or Cherry or Grape tomatoes are wonderful for salads. If the acid in tomatoes bothers you, maybe try growing a yellow tomato. They have great flavor and less acid. If you want to make sauces and will be blanching and peeling them, maybe go for a larger variety like Beefsteak. It’s also nice to mix in a few early producers like Early Girl.

Shopping at my local Wal-Mart this spring, I was stunned to see they are carrying some of the heirloom tomato varieties. So it’s no longer necessary to trek out to a major garden center to find a big selection. Just about any store that carries vegetable plants will have several varieties of tomatoes to choose from!

If you don’t garden, I encourage you to try buying tomatoes from local farmers if you haven’t before. The difference in taste and texture will have you going back for more!

Ann Chambers is the co-author and editor of Carver’s Tomatoes which includes updated versions of all 115 of George Washington Carver’s tomato recipes plus a biography of Carver. Carver’s Tomatoes is available online for only $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony or Smashwords.


Yellow Squash Casserole

The unseasonably warm weather here of late has us thinking of gardens and fresh veggies. One of our favorite spring dishes is this casserole made with yellow squash.

If you are planning your spring garden, give yellow squash a chance. It is easy and quick to grow – often one of the first veggies to make contributions to the table. If you pick the squash while they are still small, the plants produce even more and the squash is tender and sweet. It makes a colorful addition to salads and pasta salads, is delicious battered and fried (what isn’t?), and this casserole is simple to make and a sure winner on the dinner table.

This recipe is included in Family Holiday Favorites.

Yellow Squash Casserole

3 cups yellow squash, diced

1 onion, diced

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1 cup Colby Jack cheese

1 cup biscuit mix

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt

Mix eggs and oil in large bowl then add squash and onion. Next, add cheese and biscuit mix and sprinkle spices on top. Mix together roughly. It makes a somewhat dry mixture.

Pour mixture into a large glass baking dish, like a 13 x 9 inch glass pan. You want the casserole to be fairly thin.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes depending on the thickness. It is ready when it is lightly browned on top and bottom.