Tomato vines trimmed, cut down and laid on dry garden debris, ready to be covered with a plastic sheet. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Time for tomatoes

This should supply us with fresh tomatoes until mid November

By Mary Lowther

We can extend the growing season by a month and protect tomatoes from late blight if we cover them up now. Tomatoes don’t survive when the mercury drops below 12 C so the few extra degrees that a cover provides can prolong the harvest and keep the rain off. We can raise the cover on warm, dry days and batten it down overnight and during rainy days. I gave the plant roots one last application of compost tea and trimmed off all the tops, brown leaves and flowers so all the energy will go to ripening fruit that has already set.

Here’s a method I’m trying this year: I’ve cut the strings that supported the vines and laid them down sideways on top of dried vegetation to keep them off the ground where slugs could have eaten them. Then I used binder clips to attach a clear plastic sheet over hoops I’ve placed over the bed. This should supply us with fresh tomatoes until mid November, at which time the vines in the greenhouse will continue to produce until December, all going well. I never trim the tops off the greenhouse vines.

Some nutritionists tell us to avoid tomatoes because they’re high glycemic and sometimes cause allergic symptoms, but people in the Central and South Americas have thrived on tomatoes for centuries, so I think the jury’s still out.

At any rate, I eat what I grow, and tomatoes rank right up there in flavour with corn and potatoes, which, they say, are also high glycemic. A sliced, fried tomato can perk up a meal like nothing else, and a dollop of salsa livens up an omelet. A jar of home-canned tomato sauce plus a jar of water makes a dandy quick soup in the winter too. Here’s my favourite recipe for tomato sauce, culled from a great recipe book called Laurel’s Kitchen:

½ onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 T. oil

1 small carrot, grated

2 T. chopped green pepper

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. oregano

½ tsp. thyme

1 tsp. basil

2T. chopped fresh parsley

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 six-ounce can tomato paste

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. honey

Saute onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft. Add carrot, green pepper, bay leaf and herbs. Stir well, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer 15 minutes and remove bay leaf. Makes about 3 cups.

I put this into canning jars and process it in a water bath.

Events:

• 20 per cent off plant sale at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific, at 505 Quayle Rd., Victoria. Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the gardens is free that day.

• Dinter Nursery: Prepare your garden to flourish next spring, Saturday, Sept. 21 at 10 a.m., presented by Monica.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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