The flavors of a juicy vine-ripened heirloom tomato, still warm from the sun, is a gift to our taste buds. They’re not ready yet, however, we can still start dreaming about the first taste of the season. We have seven different varieties of tomatoes planted including; Marvel Stripe, Jubilee, Moonglow, Cherokee Purple, Red Boar, Early Girl, and Green Zebra. We thought we’d share our tomato planting days and the progress these tomato plants have made since then. We began planting our 255 tomato transplants on May 5th.
The transplants looked gorgeous and healthy, at about 4 inches high. Transplants are at quite a vulnerable stage, when they go into the ground. Therefore the appropriate conditions are important. We wanted to ensure the risk of frost at night had passed. Ideally soil temperature should be around 55-60˚ F and night air temperature should not go below 45˚ F. Calcium is important for tomato plants, and so we added this to the soil in the form of ground oyster shells, an excellent natural source of calcium. We also did some watering, and ensured the transplants themselves were well hydrated, going into the ground.
We are also adding fish emulsion as a fertilizer to help support the nutritional demands that tomato plants have due to their size.
Now that the tomato transplants are happily nestled in the ground, we wait for their growth to reach a certain height. At this point, we will begin staking the tomatoes. This is labor intensive, as we are using metal stakes, that need to go deep into the ground to ensure their stability. Jamie and Rafi have done an amazing job.
Tomatoes are native to South America where a hot, long growing season is the norm. We are fortunate here in Sonoma that our season is long and hot enough to produce beautiful, ripe, juicy, tomatoes. The hot days that we are currently experiencing are just what our tomato plants needed. We use string running parallel with the ground, tied to the stakes to support the tomato plants as they grow. We are constantly tucking the vine in between the parallel strings to keep their growth upright.
Also at this point we are plucking the flowers off the vines so the plant will put it’s energy into growing. We’ll be looking for and encouraging fruit set shortly.
In addition to tasting amazing, tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C, carotenes (especially lycopene), biotin, and Vitamin K. Additionally, they provide B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, folic acid and dietary fiber. All that, in one juicy bite… amazing!
Last year our abundant crop of tomatoes was utilized in various ways. We sun-dried some, created salads featuring heirloom tomatoes. Additionally we made tomato mostarda, as a seasonal garniture and accompaniment to cheese, served fried green tomatoes, and crab stuffed early girl tomatoes as antipasti. We also created an Heirloom tomato dinner, to celebrate our harvest. All five courses featured different heirloom tomato varieties. It was an incredible night! We are already anticipating a beautiful tomato crop this year, and excitement is building for tomato harvest time.
Other garden happenings this week included harvesting carrots, red and golden raspberries, parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, chives, lemon verbena, fennel and radishes. Chef Bryan Jones from the fig cafe came by to gather some herbs and produce, he gathered a lot of chives to make a chive olive oil. Currently at ESTATE we are featuring a Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta using the Lemon Verbena from our garden. It’s delicious…!