Tomato harvest reason to party

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 13, 2012

The instructions from the teacher were explicit. “Go forth and plant.”

The ladies in the gardening class at the Colley Senior Complex in Troy laugh when they talk about the directive given to them by class instructor, Susan Berry.

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“In the past, the class has done its spring and summer gardening in the compost bins in back of the Annex,” Berry said. “But, we’ve had water problems and, as dry as our summers have been, water problems are real problems. So, this spring, I told the class to go home and plant and grow and then we would come together and share our harvest.”

The second week in July was harvest time for the senior gardeners and, being a seasoned gardener, as well as a Master Gardner, Berry knew the collective harvest would be heavy on tomatoes.

“Most everybody that grows anything will plant a few tomatoes,” she said, laughing. “So, I thought that a tomato party would be the thing to do to celebrate the harvest.”

Each gardener was invited to bring a tomato dish made with tomatoes from her garden plot or pot. Those whose crops didn’t make could just bring a “dish.”

Not one of the Colley Senior Complex gardeners brought “just a dish.”

Sallie Fenn, laughingly, said her harvest was small but not so small that she couldn’t share.

Fenn’s gardening space was limited, extremely, limited. So much so that her garden was relegated to a bag of “miracle” soil. But, in that bag and from that soil, Fenn grew the reddest, best-tasting cherry tomatoes ever.

Berry said that was just an indication that even the smallest of gardens can be productive. In the past, senior gardeners have grown squash, zucchini, tomatoes of all kinds, pole beans, cucumbers and peppers of all kinds in the Annex bins and without a lot of water. But Berry viewed gardening at home this year as a good thing.

“In a way, everybody was on their own to take what they had learned in class and put it into practice,” Berry said.

The gardeners laughed as they remembered the way Berry, a retired kindergarten teacher, explained the plant growth process to them in terms even a five-year-old could understand.

“On the leaves of the plants are little factories and the roots take up all the good stuff in the soil and water and send it up to the little factories where they can do their work.”

Berry laughingly admitted that she does simplify things for her gardening class but does not spoon-feed the big stuff to them. Compost, for example.

“You can’t be around me and not compost,” Berry said. “I’m a strong believer in composting. You’ve got to have good soil and composting is the way to go.”

“Soil testing would be ideal but not many of us are going to get soil samples and send them off for testing. So, we need to make sure that we understand fertilizer and the importance of what it does. And, read. Don’t use a fertilizer unless you read what’s on the bag.”

Berry said all fertilizers have three numbers. The first number indicates nitrogen, the second, phosphorus, and the third, potassium.

“Nitrogen is for growth; phosphorus is for making and potassium is for setting,” Berry said. “By knowing and understanding that, you can better know what your garden needs. If your plants are growing like weeds but not producing anything much, you know that you need more phosphorus in the soil and you can add it. If you garden is making but not setting, you need more potassium. Knowing about fertilizer is very important to any gardener.”

The Colley Senior gardeners shared with each other some tips that make for a successful harvest season.

“The biggest thing is to garden small,” said Berry. “And make sure your garden is where you will pass it every day so you will be aware of its needs and that you have a good water supply.”

Other gardening tips shared included using newspapers as a ground cover to keep out weeds, sweetening tomatoes by using a cup of sugar to a gallon of water as a spray, keeping insects out of the garden by using a soapy water spray, planting marigolds and basil in the garden to keep insects away and stringing tin pie plates around the garden to keep the deer away.

The gardeners also shared a few of the tomato recipes from their tomato party.

And, the party was so much fun that, next spring, they might hear their instructor say. “Go forth and plant – and then we’ll party!”




Tomato Cobbler

3 medium sized ripe tomatoes

1 medium sized green tomato

1 cup mayonnaise

1 large package cream cheese

1 cup shredded sharp cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

3 prepared piecrusts

¼ stick salted butter

1 egg yolk

9×13” Pyrex dish

Cover bottom of Pyrex container using 2 piecrusts. Layer tomato slices in dish. Combine mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheese, salt and pepper and layer over tomato slices. Dot with butter. Form at lattice top with remaining crust. Brush with a light egg wash. Bake at 400 degree until it bubbles. Serves 12.


Tomato Fritters

2 large very ripe tomatoes

1 large green tomato

2 cups self-rising flour

1 tablespoon Morton’s Nature’s Seasonings

Combine all the ingredients and drop by tablespoon-size

portions into hot vegetable oil. Turn once. Yield 3 dozen fritters.


Pickled Green Sweet One Hundreds

1 quart of green 100’s

1 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 ½ cups water

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pickling spice

Place green tomatoes in a sterile quart jar. Combine, vinegar, water, sugar and pickling spices (in a bag). Bring to a rolling boil and let stand for 3 hours. Remove spice bag and bring to boil again and pour over tomatoes. Store in refrigerator for 2 weeks and then enjoy.


Green Tomato Relish

6 large green tomatoes

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

2 large yellow onions

1 cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 1/3 cups sugar

½ cup Crystal hot sauce

Finely chop all the vegetables. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and water and bring to a rolling boil. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and bring the entire mixture back to a rolling boil. Turn

the heat down and simmer until mixture becomes a puree. May be processed for canning.


Green Tomato Relish (Canned)

2 quarts green tomatoes, ground

3 red peppers

3 green peppers

5 pounds onions

3 cups vinegar

3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons celery seed

1 teaspoon turmeric

Grind tomatoes, red peppers, green peppers and onions. Combine and drain vinegar, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed and turmeric. Put together and let come to a good boil. Put in sterile hot jars. Makes 7 to 8 pints. Process 5 minutes in hot water bath.