Dreaming of Tomatoes and Quince Preserves …

Thoughts of quince jelly!

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.

Tomato transplant ready to go into the soil!

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.

Ground oyster shells an excellent source of calcium for these young tomato plants.

The roots of the tomato transplants will have lots of space to grow and seek out nutrients and water from the soil.

255 tomato plants.... Jamie will be happy when the last one goes in the ground!

Tomato plants in the ground.... bring on the sun!

We are also adding fish emulsion as a fertilizer to help support the nutritional demands that tomato plants have due to their size.

Rafi adding nutrient dense fish emulsion to the soil.

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.

Tomato plants staked and growing well.

With this hot sunny weather the tomato plants are looking amazing!

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.

Tucking the tomato plants between the strings.

Keeping tomato plants off the ground helps to eliminate disease.

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.

These were persistent flowers and the result is our first tomatoes.

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.

Carrots harvested and soon on route to the restaurants.

100 foot row of potatoes growing well.

Volunteer fennel from last years plantings. Growing along side this years potato crop. Volunteers are often a single plant that grows in isolation. This fennel decided to start a little community and there's a circle of seven plants.

Cucumber plants are showing some growth.

Bush Beans are growing well. Chef Brian from ESTATE planted these so he's very proud.

An on going challenge fixing water line leaks.

It's always so exciting to the see the first appearance of produce. Here is our first summer squash.

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…!

3 responses to “Dreaming of Tomatoes and Quince Preserves …

  1. I want to heat those carrots right now!!!

    • the girl & the fig farm project

      Delicious…. carrots pulled from the soil a few miles from the restaurant kitchen has the best possible flavor!

  2. mouth watering descriptions…who could not love veggies? The attention and care you all put into nurturing these plants is inspiring. What is so wonderful about this blog is sharing the progress along the way-I know it will enhance my experience devouring the delicious items the chefs will create-can’t wait!

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