- Author: Danielle Wilkowski
This summer season has been interesting for growing tomatoes. First of all, the weather was too cool for the tomatoes to ripen, then it became so hot that they cooked on the plants. Fortunately, I was able to save enough of the fruits for my family, other relatives and a few neighbors to enjoy. And when I say enjoy, I MEAN IT! I ask you is there anything better than a fresh picked tomato BLT?
According to Wikipedia the word "tomato" may refer to the plant (Solanum lycopersicum) or the edible, typically red, fruit that it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization.
I was surprised how much I learned about growing tomatoes because I am a "newbie" Master Gardener (2012). Based on my recent knowledge, I was pretty successful growing tomatoes. First of all, I purchased resistant plants such as 'Ace Hybrid',' Better Boy',' Celebrity', and 'Early Girl'. I did experiment with a plant of miniature fruits called 'Black Cherry'. which turned out to be a large plant. I saved the seeds and next year will not plant it in a large pot; but will plant it in the ground as I did the others.
I had such fun recognizing the beneficial insects such as California native bees and lady beetles crawling and flying on the plants. The only pests I had to deal with were a few aphids which a good stream of water was a quick solution. Speaking of water, I am certain that watering the plants deeply and less often than I used to helped them to stay healthy and strong. Of course, in Vacaville which can record temperatures of triple digits in June and July does mean more watering. However, by concentrating the water into the roots and not the leaves appeared to be helpful in preventing other problems.
Another fun project was using tomato's in a new recipe a friend sent me called, Chunky Tomato Basil Soup. It was quite tasty. At the Fairfield Tomato Festival I was given directions for a Tightening Tomato Facial Mask. Oh, how much fun one can have with this little round fruit!
- Author: Betsy Lunde
Do you like reading about herbs, even those you don’t use for cooking? Do you also like mysteries, you know – the “who done it” kind. Then I have the book(s) for you!
Susan Wittig Albert has written a series of mysteries featuring a character by the name of China Bayles. Each of these books has an herb in the title such as “Rueful Death” or “Lavender Lies”. I think you get the idea. But! In each of the books, the reader gets a good mystery, recipes using the featured herb – both in cooking and in lotions and in other ways. Set in the fictional town of Pecan Springs in the Texas Hill country, the heroine who just happens to own and operate a shop called Thyme and Seasons, selling dry herbs, fresh herbs, various oils and seasons combinations as well as jams, jellies, and various pestos.
In the “Lavender Lies”, the reader is treated to several recipes using lavender in cookies, iced teas and fruit juices, as well as historical uses of that herb. Did you ever think to drink hot lavender tea? In 1609, an herbalist named John Parkinson wrote a book Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris in which he wrote, "Lavender has an especially good use for all griefes and paines of the head and brain.” Also there is mention of bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria) used to dye wool and also women’s faces. The deep red color was long lasting and became a symbol of falsehood and deceit; the thought being that a woman who tinted her face could hardly be trusted to tell the truth. I wonder what the make-up folks would make of that idea??
Another tidbit of herbal lore in these books includes mention of a tree growing farther south in Arkansas and Texas called the toothache tree. Actually Zanthoxylum clavaherculis, this tree has bumpy bark is hot to taste and will help a toothache. I got so involve in so of the herbal remedies that I followed in my herb books.
Did you know cacti can be classified as herbs? In books of herbal lore, people have planted cacti to guard the house (no kidding!), but put the spines into a jar w/ rue and rosemary leaves and add rusty nails and tacks and then bury under your doorstep – you now have a powerful protective device to protect the house and contents!! Not to mention that the fruits of the “prickly pear” Opuntia ssp. make a delicious jam, jelly or salsa.
I’ve so enjoyed reading these well-written books packed with mystery, recipes and information about plants which I never would have considered to be “herbs” as well as plants and their parts which come to mind when the word “herb” is mentioned. It is amazing how the author combines all of these details in a “oh, by the way” style.