Coming home from our trip to San Francisco, I discovered a garden full of massive and bushy tomato plants. Since I plant mostly indeterminate tomatoes, I should expect the crazy growth, but being gone for a few days it can take you by surprise. I suspect that’s how I’ll be feeling when the girls come home from camp this weekend.
Spying some of those multi-colored, juicy globes and that brilliant green tomato scent beckoning, I couldn’t wait to get to work in the garden. Frankly, I was disappointed by the harvest considering the size of the plants.
I’m super diligent about pruning the suckers off the tomato plant when I first stick them in the ground, but realized I had done little to thin them out since the summer swing kicked in. I knew it wasn’t too late to get out those garden shears and start pruning.
While the suckers are easy to spot we also made sure to thin all around, to allow air circulation and sunshine to do it’s magic for the entire plant. Just travel around your plants and trim any overlapping leaves — be careful not to trim off flowers or fruit.
Also, when pruning make sure your leaves do not trail into the soil bed. Those danglers create a pathway for bugs to go exploring. Good for the bugs, but bad for tomato production. You can use garden twine to hoist up those dangling greens off the soil. It works well, but tends to look like a scrunchie holding up a permed ponytail.
If you haven’t planted tomatoes yet and you’re in Southern California, it’s not too late to get any of these beauties in the soil. If you have limited space ask your local nursery to recommend a determinate plant for container gardening.
Here are the tomatoes growing in my garden this summer: Green Zebra, Taxi, Amana Orange, Early Girl, Japanese Trifele Black, Sun Gold, Brandywine, Principe Borghese (great for drying), Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, German Pink, Wild Purple Tomatillo and Nyagous.
The best part of growing tomatoes? Eating them! There’s a reason your Instagram feed is filled with proud tomato harvests, there is such thrill in growing the taste of summer in your own backyard.
The fridge isn’t the best spot to store tomatoes; I opt to keep them in a large colander in the coolest spot of the kitchen. The colander allows for some air circulation and the fruit seems to last the longest if I wait to wash it just prior to using.
Here’s an easy, tasty, throw together recipe for tomato and watermelon salad. Chill your watermelon — the coolness is a great contrast to the room temperature tomatoes.
Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Equal parts and cut to similar size: watermelon, cut into 1″ cubes and tomatoes, cut into large dice or quarters, juice of half a lime, top-shelf olive oil, 5-10 whole mint leaves, 5-10 arugula leaves (optional), feta cheese, sea salt and cracked pepper.
Arrange the watermelon and tomatoes on a platter. Squeeze the lime juice over all of the fruit. Follow with same amount of olive oil. Crumble feta on top. Season well with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Scatter mint leaves and a few small arugula leaves over the entire platter and serve.