Category Archives: tomatoes

Seasonal Love

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What makes leaves turn different colors in autumn?  According to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry:  http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htmDuring the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring. Chlorophyll breaks down. But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.” 

So there is the scientific explanation for the color changes in a leaf.  I have a seasonal love that by-passes all the science stuff … oh, autumn!  These cooler days and color-bursting leaves bring me outdoors at every opportunity.  This past Saturday Dean and I watched bright orange pumpkins drop from the blue sky while small engine and military war planes whirl above with the leaves and birds.  Sunday afternoon gave us another chance to enjoy the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows at Boone Hollow Farm while picking the last of our ripened cherry tomatoes and all the green tomatoes still on the vines which succumbed to the first killing frost this past week.  This Monday’s lunch hour was spent walking at the park relishing more color and sunshine.  Tuesday promises even more golden sunshine and warmth.  And on  a rainy, colder Wednesday the trick or treaters will come out in their costumes.  Some will be dressed in black and gruesome red, black, and green makeup, but I particularly like the happy get-ups in bright colors and smiles.  Our 2-year old granddaughter, Elise is dressed as a monarch butterfly!

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Autumn Rains

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I took my antihistamine this morning as advised by my allergist.  When the temperatures get under 50, that is when my cold-allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, and joint aches start up.  This was the 2nd morning in a row for more autumn-like weather, and today a cold rain to boot.  Feeling a little edgy at the office, I needed to get outside, rain or not at my lunch break.  I bundle myself in my rain jacket, already in jeans and boots this casual Friday.  My long 4-block stroll in the autumn rain was delightfully quiet.  The outdoors, “mother nature” calms me.  Things do not seem so big anymore in the vastness of the sky and trees.  I warmed up with a cup of hot tea when back at my desk.

My Minnesota friends have had the white fluffy stuff this week.  Last weekend in Kansas City, a cold rain pretty much non-stop for 2 days.  On the east side of Missouri the cold front finally came.  We went from August to November weather conditions in 2 days.  Our tomato plants situated in a screen house in rural St. Charles County may experience their first frost tonight.  This weekend’s visit to the farm will probably include picking green tomatoes, and next week preparing green tomato preserves.  I have housed my perennials and tropical plants in the house, basement, or garage for the next 5 or 6 months.

 

Autumn Rain by Gerry Legister

When we see summer changes 
The clothes we wear quickly disappear, 
And the next season rearranges 
Clouds more fastidious in the atmosphere. 

The fall is here; it means a new challenge 
For our clothes, shoes and hair 
From the warmth of summer to darker rage 
Autumn quietly drifts in unaware.

Let the autumn rain fall upon you, 
Let the autumn rain beat upon the trees 
Until the leaves fall down and become new. 
Let the autumn season fondly release

The changes that time replicates 
Shadows on the floor and rain in the air, 
With pools of water running off the trees 
And wash down into the gutter.

Let the rain fall softly while you sleep 
And make the rhythm night beat 
With a lullaby playing upon the housetop, 
A note of intrigue to adorn the light.

When pools of water from the sidewalk 
Splash upon you with quick surprise, 
It makes you walk with a watermark 
To stain the perfect spot on our tresses. 

New Homes

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Our bromeliads need to be divided as they had been quite busy this past year producing babies. A bay window in shallow terra-cotta pots had been their home. Showy fuchsia edges contrast with the fresh green, these babies needed new homes as they were crowding their parents. Dean and I carted two plants with us to our July Minnesota destination. The bromeliads stayed outside near the cabin and lake for a few days. When the storms brewed up, we brought them onto the screened porch. We hoped these showy plants were accumulated to their new surroundings, when we spent an afternoon dividing and repotting them. Five planters were made and given to our northern friends. We hope these tropical plants enjoy their new homes. We brought to our Missouri home gifts of heirloom tomato plants and streptacarpella, which have thrived well this past month. These tomato plants should produce fruit well into the winter months in the comforts of our semi-heated garage. And maybe the purple-flowering streptacarpella will find their home in window planters in the spring.
We are cleaning out that garage this month, finding new homes for bikes, toys, old furniture, and throwing away those “why did we keep this?” stuff. Our lawnmower and garden tools will go into their new home, a shed built in our back yard this week. We are making room for our beloved plants as the air changed this week. In about 6 – 8 weeks, our planters landscaping the yard this summer will be in their winter home, inside the heated garage under plant lights before the first frost of the autumn season.
Dean and I dream of a new home for just the two of us. The place we call ours, some where between St. Charles and Hermann along the Missouri River and the wine valley. If I chose, retirement from my office job is only 5 years away. But not retirement from living. So much more to experience. See what adventures come as we seek and find God’s will in this approaching season. Wherever we go, green things, art, and hospitality come with.

An Herb Is As An Herb Can Be

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“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept. Cinnamon Basil
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Basil/ 518
Cilantro/ 481
Spearmint/ 457
Tarragon/ 426
Oregano/ 426
Thyme/ 422
Parsley/ 381
Dill/ 326
Chives/ 319
Peppermint/ 293
Bay Leaves/ 271
Rosemary/ 84
Lemongrass/ 55

Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?

Quaint Thoughts

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Friday seems so far away when I return to my Clayton office on Monday mornings. My weekends are full. Never bored. With six grown children and their growing families, a greenhouse, and per diem retail sales at the local herb and spice shop, boredom is never an issue. Herbal tea soothes Monday’s madness. Wish I could be where these herbs grow … Quaintness in the quiet of a countryside garden. Monday’s evening chores include the creation of an Italian bowl with zucchini, yellow squash, fresh basil, Italian sausage and rotini in zesty tomato sauce topped with an Italian cheese blend. After cleaning the kitchen, off to the closets once again. I am lessening the wardrobe, giving away and throwing away. Keep these fashions long enough, they will be considered vintage! Monday night’s sleep rolls into Tuesday so quickly…
Hot herbal cinnamon tea greets my Tuesday afternoon break at the office. The AC is working overtime this humid July day. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s thoughts go to Dean and I’s house hunt. We met some monumental financial goals this year with hopes of a simply charming home to call “our own” before year end. It is interesting to view other people’s homes, thinking of the history lived in them. We desire a home built over 50 years ago, when quality reigned. Large is not necessary. Quaintness is. This quest to turn an antiquated house into a picturesque home is exciting. Old Town St. Charles has been in our thoughts, but open to other neighborhoods in the St. Louis area. We would like a yard large enough to occupy our Labrador retriever, Midnight when he is outdoors. Our green plant friends such as flowers, herbs, and vegetables are quintessential to our life, so space for them is paramount.
What does “quaint” look like to you? So how about this “Escape Cabin” designed by architect/artist Kelly Davis? Quaint Cabin On Wheels
This might work when Dean & I are ready to retire!

On The Menu

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KaleThe winter time blues will not beat me. I live and dream of my garden with tonight’s menu: Crunchy Kale Chips, Baked Sweet Potato, Crushed Peppercorn Medley-Crusted Beef, and a glass of Mencia Roble, a red wine made from the Mencia grape grown in Spain. A home-cooked dinner this blustery night. The kale recipe can be found on my What A Dish Recipe page. Kale is a vegetable I never tried until working with EarthDance Farms as an apprentice in 2011. Nothing beats the bursting flavors of organic kale, except maybe arugula. The power-packed veggies I ate this evening were grown by someone else, though organically. My readings this week include a blog written by a Kentucky woman who gardens year-round. Much of her garden survived the subzero temperatures earlier this month. She used a plastic liner and low tunnel fabric to protect her plants. Several varieties of kale, arugula, and mustard greens beautifully survived the arctic air. I am growing three heirloom tomato plants in my semi-heated garage this winter. They are still producing delicious fruit. This week’s Purple Cherokee tomato will be sliced for tomorrow’s lunch accommodating my beef patty sandwich. This is not quite like the gardener in Kentucky, though a start. Locally grown greens … I am so inspired to expand my growing season here in St. Charles County, Missouri. So what are you growing this winter? How do you beat the winter? Please share your story.

Little And Bigger Miracles

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This year of 2014, January 6 was one of the subzero winter days, coldest in 20 years. Dean and I’s full-time jobs were cancelled for the day. Miracles, one of our bigger Christmas cacti bloomed on this day of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Epiphany is “a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ,” Wikipedia states. The beautiful red bloom of our kitchen cacti brightened my day while getting well again. Snuckered inside, I could have viewed the circumstances as stuck inside. But I far rather be indoors than out during the negative temp days of this winter. My face became puffy, moon-shaped during this subzero spell like a squirrel with a stash of acorns tucked in his cheeks. The cold air I encountered for brief moments getting into the car or letting our labrador/flat-coat retriever inside from his white outdoor haven caused this allergen reaction. Yes, I am allergic to the cold, cold air or water. Weird! While indoors for 3 days, I spent quiet time with my hubby or by myself.
Today, 6 days later, it is 60 degrees warmer! The 12″ of snow has melted, with shrinken dirty piles at the end of parking lots and along the curbs now. Our Midnight comes inside from the yard muddy. My face is finally normal size, I can see the outline of my cheek bones in the mirror once again. The antibiotics my doctor finally ordered are healing my sinus infection. Our garage tomato plants continue to have blossoms and fruit produced despite the frigid cold air a few days ago. The plant lights and oil heater must keep the plants warm enough in their winter home. My plants are daily reminders of little miracles. At Church this morning we sang “The Bread of Life” by Rory Cooney. A reminder of the bigger miracles …

I myself am the bread of life.
You and I are the bread of life.
Taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ
That the world might live.

This bread is spirit, gift of the Maker’s love,
and we who share it know that we can be one:
a living sign of God in Christ.

Here is God’s kingdom given to us as food.
This is our body, this is our blood:
a living sign of God in Christ.

Lives broken open, stories shared aloud,
Become a banquet, a shelter for the world:
a living sign of God in Christ.

Plumposity

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The birthday trip to Chicago this past Thursday and Friday was great! On Thursday night Brian Setzer and Orchestra gave a Christmas concert to remember for our lives. The big band or rockabilly Setzer-style to favorite holiday tunes set our feet a dancing. The show was held at the beautiful, classy Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. Dean and I were dazzled by the spirit, sounds, and sights of the holidays. On Friday the birthday boy and I ventured to the big city. After finding a parking space (which cost more than our lunch!), we met up with his younger brother and dined at a downtown Chicago pizzeria called Lou Malnati’s. Scrumptious, delicious Italian fare! This eatery described the Roma tomatoes as “plumposity” for the sauce in their signature deep dish pizza. “Plumposity” might be another word for “pleasing plump”, as some men describe how they like their women. My hubby included. Or the “plumposity” of a freshly picked crisp apple as you bite into, it squirts juice down your hand. Or the “plumposity” of the Cherokee purple tomatoes I indulge in still with our tomato plants under plant lights in the semi-heated garage. But the word definitely describes the Roma tomatoes used on this classic Chicago-style pizza. “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato,” quoting Southern comedian, Lewis Grizzard. Culture shocked for a couple of hours, we then battled the traffic headed out of the city into the suburbs. We visited with my cousin and her husband over a home-cooked meal, before heading back home on a 5-hour drive. A blitz trip, and now we are back to prepare for 5 more adults and 4 more dogs staying for the Thanksgiving weekend, with more family for a pasta dinner Saturday night. Now I am thinking this new-found word might describe the effects of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this weekend I think our home will experience “plumposity”, an overflow of holiday indulgence and family!

My Friday Family Adventures

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Tornado
So this Friday is like so many of my days, filled with family adventures. Early morning we are greeted by my son-in-law asking to use our van to help a mutual friend move his bee hives. Big bee hives, and the trunk of a car would not suffice for the task. Of course, use the van, put gas in it, though do not leave any bees in it. Remember we will be loading the huge van with plants later tonight.
The morning goes along with a telephone call from my younger brother while at work, asking if we had found out if we can sell Grandpa’s snake-skin belts and jewelry at the farmers’ markets. A few days ago I told Dean about this request, but I had not heard whether we gained permission to include my grandfather’s handmade snake-skin crafts at our tent. But I will follow-up with this. The next question my brother ask, “Would you like to donate your body to St. Louis University when you die?” He asked this with no hesitation, like he was asking if Dean and I can come over for dinner tomorrow night. Now, I have to take a few seconds to think why he is asking this. With my pause in reply, he interjects that this is what our 97-year old grandfather is doing, and what him and Uncle Earl have discussed doing as well. “Would it be neat for the university to do genetic studies on the Bates Family?” Steve says. “I am going to ask Rick and Marge (my other siblings), too. And maybe Rachel and Elisabeth (my daughters) will consider doing the same?” So it takes what seems like 5 minutes to respond, probably more like a minute. “It’s a good idea, and I am open to it. I always thought to donate an organ to science after I pass, but I need to consider what Dean wants when I pass. I will ask him.” Dean and I discuss briefly on the commute home from our jobs, “no immediate answer, we have time for this decision,” I add.
Then Mom calls late this afternoon asking about the weather-stripping for the front door. It appears what we installed this winter caused a suction when it rained earlier this week, that she could not get the door open. Great, she is trying to sell the house. We will be up there to take care of this weekend or on Wednesday when we assist her with her move to the villa 1-1/2 miles from our house rather than the hour’s drive we currently have. Mixed feelings altogether there.
We get home to eat a quick dinner my chef son-in-law prepared, fried fish, mashed potatoes, and a tomato-mozzerolla salad. Dean and I needed to get to the greenhouse as soon as possible as a large cell of violent storms was on the way. Dean checked http://www.wunderground.com, and it was in Warren County, one county west of us. Onward to the greenhouse to pick up a few plants for the Saturday morning farmers’ market. The radio said a tornado had been sighted in Franklin County, one county southwest of St. Charles County. Probably 30 minutes from us. The earlier rains had the ground soaked already, so we parked the van just past the barn. Dean and I quickly walked up the hill, gathered armfuls of plants, each making 3 trips back and forth. By my last trip back to the van, the sky was an eerie green with a black cell right in the middle. Lightning flashes bolts bright, and the heavy rain starts. Our Charlie Brown spruce tree was in full glow with the solar lights like it was nighttime already. It was only 7:15pm. The van radio told me a tornado warning was issued for St. Charles County, and a tornado was sighted in Defiance. Wonderful, we are in Defiance! I guarantee that black cell I saw had a tornado in it! Dean arrived with his last armful of plants, promptly loaded them in the van, and backed the van up in a hurry. We slide off the gravel road right into the slippery clay mud. That van kept sliding towards the rushing creek! Inches from it! Dean tried pulling forward, and we were stuck. Dean and I tried gravel, wood planks, and prayer. We were not going anywhere, especially when Dean accidentally locked the keys in the van. Thank God the engine was turned off! Flash flood warnings came over the weather band radio in the barn. I asked my husband to call our landlord, to see if we could start the tractor to pull the van out. No keys were available, with the landlord in another county over. We asked for the farm neighbor’s telephone number. We called my son-in-law and this farm neighbor. My son-in-law got to us with our spare van key and a smile in his voice within 30 minutes. Our rescuer! The farm neighbor was not home, 30 minutes away but would try to get to us. Dean rocked the van back and forth shifting in reverse and back forward. Mick and I pushed with all our might. A wood plank shot back and hit my ankle. Bruised, swollen, and sore but no cut. Thank Jesus. Rocking back and forth for 10 minutes, the van was out of the muddy mess onto the gravel road. Shovels put away, barn light turned out, and we all managed to cross the creek to the safety of a paved county highway. A call to the farm neighbor to say we were out of our predicament. Reports of a huge tornado touching down in the local towns of Weldon Springs and Harvester, Missouri wiping out multiple houses came over the radio. Cannot help to think we were stuck in the mud for a reason, to avoid being in the path of that nasty tornado. A muddy mess and sore, we all three were, but safe in our house now tonight. Yes, my family adventures never end. Sometimes like the whirlwinds I experienced tonight. Peace I sense. Gratitude, I have family to help when we need it, and to be with on this stormy night. St. Louis University is not ready for me yet. Stay tuned, another chapter of our family life on this blog, maybe with Dean’s family.

Off To Market We Go

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This coming Saturday Deanna Greens And Garden Art will be at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market for the first time this market season. We hope the weather holds out. Another cold front arrived yesterday with wet snowflakes overnight, and yet more storms on Friday evening into Saturday. 14″ coco-lined baskets of various ferns, swedish ivy, moses-in-the-cradle, and variegated airplane plants will be featured, if the weather stays above 45 degrees. A few small pots of the same will be available. I would like to showcase our cactus displaying her red blossoms. Fair warning: our inventory is 1/3 the amount we had last year. This is intentional. With a long winter and no electric, we have managed to keep most of the inventory alive in semi-heated garages. Miracles happen every spring. One of our tropicals, a bird-of-paradise is blooming beautifully and an elephant ear has sprouted, surrounded with lush green swedish ivy. In case this is your first visit to this blog, my husband Dean and I bought a greenhouse full of houseplants and perennials in November 2011, more than we can handle while working full-time jobs. The type of plants we will grow is changing. We want more annuals and herbs. In autumn I hope to harvest bird house and long-handled dipper gourds for the market, which will be grown near the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm on teepee trellises. They take a long time to grow, and even longer to dry for multi-purpose use.
The past 2 months we have propagated more geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-the-cradle, bridal veil, and wandering jews to make some beautiful terra-cotta planters and moss baskets. Our ferns and succulents have been transplanted into natural pots as well. The coco-lined hanging baskets offer a natural alternative to the plastic pots, what Deanna Greens And Garden Art strives for. Dean will be at the market all morning this Saturday, and I for the set-up and a prayer for cooperative weather and sales. Our annuals such as zinnias, marigolds, nasturtium, and various herbs have just been sown this week, so it will be a few weekends before bringing them to the market. No tomato or pepper seedlings this year. Not enough warmth in the garages. I shared our heating pads with my chef son-in-law, Mick. He will have a CSA that includes heirloom tomatoes. Some tomatoes may make their way to the farmers’ markets as well. Check in with chef and farmer Mick at TheBentPig@gmail.com. One of the other features this year will be “hanging herb and greens gardens”. More on this later.