‘TASTE of TOMATO’ Report:
The 2012 Taste of Tomato was a huge success – delicious and so much fun! The mood was very upbeat, the tent full of gardeners and eaters excited to be learning and sharing. 160 people braved the potential traffic snarls on the morning of the Pro Race day, and many brought with them their best tomatoes for us to sample and compare. We had 103 varieties to taste! We tasted some wonderful tomatoes that were new to us and which we will try to grow for you next spring. Many gardeners have reported that it has been a difficult year for their tomatoes, with blossom-drop and disease issues, so could it be that the varieties submitted for the Taste of Tomato are better able to withstand the heat and drought? It’s something to consider.
Each participant was given forms on which to make notes as they made their way around the tables, where the samples were grouped in four categories – cherry, beefsteak, salad/slicing, and paste. They were also given five stickers to paste next to the names of their five top favorite varieties when they were finished tasting and evaluating. Making those choices from such an array was not easy! For the ‘peoples’ choice’ results of the Taste of Tomato, click on the link on our home page or go directly to http://www.harlequinsgardens.com/plants/edibles/vegetables/2012-taste-of-tomato-voting-results/
Many thanks to all who shared their bounty, including several local organic farms – Cure Organic Farms, of Boulder, contributed a pile of huge, delicious ‘Black Sea Man’ heirloom ‘beefsteaks’; the very popular heirloom ‘Pineapple’ was grown to perfection and donated by Aspen Moon Farm in Hygiene; and Zweck’s Farm, of Longmont, contributed ‘Big Beef’’, ‘Lemon Boy’, ‘Ruby Red’ and ‘Pink Wonder’. Also, we are happy that Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce brought their beautiful melons, peppers, eggplants, garlic, as well as their organic tomato seeds for open-pollinated and heirloom varieties that are successful in Boulder Valley.
Huge thanks also to the Boulder County Master Gardeners, who helped set up, greeted and oriented guests, washed all the entries, wrote out descriptions, kept up with the flood of tomatoes and got them out onto the tables for all to taste in bite-sized pieces, and then helped clean up!
Don’t be unhappy if your entry didn’t garner the votes you thought it should. The voting was not at all scientific, and while there were over 100 varieties presented, some tomatoes were brought in late, or in smaller quantities than others, and therefore may not have had the votes they deserved. I really feel that any tomato that ranked in even one person’s top 5 favorites is a very good tomato. Some varieties, like Black from Tula, or Juliet, may not have been at the very top, but are so successful and easy to grow here, that they may be more worthwhile than another variety that received more votes.
HARVESTING, CURING & STORING ONIONS and WINTER SQUASH
Pull up the bulbs when the tops have fallen over. Leave them to dry in the sun for a day with their roots up. To prevent decay in storage, cure them by laying them out in a single layer on a drying rack where they will have good air circulation and be out of direct sun. A simple drying rack can be made by supporting a window-screen on two sawhorses, and if you don’t have a garden shed, you can use a shaded porch or an open garage. Curing is complete when neck is shriveled and tight, and the outer skin is dry and rustles like paper. Cut the tops 1” above the bulbs and place the onions in a net bag. Store your onions in a cold (but frost-proof), dry place, like an unheated attic, basement or enclosed porch. ‘Milestone’, ‘Copra’, ‘Front Range Yellow Globe’, ‘Clear Dawn’ and ‘Red Zepellin’ should stay in good condition until mid-winter or longer. ‘Walla Walla’ onions should be eaten soon after harvest, as they do not store well
If your onion crop did poorly in spite of your best efforts (providing very fertile soil, plenty of water, and good weed control), you may be interested to know that whereas onions do best where lettuce, squashes or melons grew the previous year, they are very adversely affected when planted where any member of the Cabbage family had grown. I have personal experience of the truth of this observation. This might be because while most plants benefit from symbiotic relationships with beneficial fungi (mycorrhizae) in the soil, plants in the cabbage family do not. So they may leave the soil ‘barren’ of the mycorrhizae onions need in order to thrive.
Harvest winter squash when the skin is hard enough to resist being punctured by a thumbnail. Fruit maturity is often accompanied by dulling of rind. The vine may or may not have yellowed and withered, and the stems of the fruits may or may not have dried. Cut fruit from the vine with sharp pruners or knife, be sure to include at least an inch of stem, and never carry a squash by its stem. Some growers recommend curing the Cucurbita maxima group of winter squashes before storage by leaving them in a well ventilated place, like a sunny porch or a garage with open windows, providing protection from frost when necessary, for two or three weeks to further harden the skin for enhanced shelf-life. These would be the Hubbard, Buttercup, Kabocha, Banana, Turban, Australian Blue, and other miscellaneous varieties. Curing is not necessary for Delicata, Sweet Dumpling and Acorn-type varieties. Store winter squash spread out on a shelf or rack in a single layer in a location with temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and 50-70% humidity – many basements are ideal. When well-matured and cured and properly stored, squashes should last three to six months in good condition.
Harlequin’s Gardens FALL SALE is now in progress. Our plants are in excellent condition and we still have a wide selection of perennials, herbs, shrubs, trees, composts, fertilizers, mulches, books, and much more. For details of our Fall Sale, see our 2012 Fall Sale Newsletter at
Also, for the first time ever, Harlequin’s Gardens will be open three days a week in December for the holiday season, and in March for classes and a jump on the spring gardening season. Watch our website for details.
FALL VEGETABLE STARTS
It’s time to plant out those cool-season leafy greens for fall and winter harvests. We have starts of lettuce (many cold-tolerant varieties), mesclun mixes, swiss chard (Ruby Red and Lucullus), kale (Lacinato aka Tuscan aka Dinosaur, plus Winterbor and Red. Russian), arugula, upland(winter) cress, broccoli raab, spinach and collards. They are available both in 2.5” pots ready to plug in to your garden, and in larger pots for growing on your patio, terrace, etc., easy to move into more shade or more sun as the season progresses and the weather changes. Also in portable pots, we have several varieties of basil: Nufar Genovese, Italian Large-Leaf, Sweet, Cinnamon, Thai, Tulsi (Holy), and more. These can be brought indoors to a sunny window when temperatures are likely to dip below 45 degrees.
This year we are offering bulbs of our favorite softneck garlic, Inchelium Red, and another classic favorite, Spanish Roja hard-neck garlic. They are both very easy to grow in our climate, produce very large bulbs with large cloves, have excellent flavor and are easy to peel. When properly stored, Inchelium Red can last until May, and Spanish Roja stores for 4 to 5 months. We expect our garlic and shallot bulbs to arrive by September 14. You can buy the garlic in September to ensure that you’ll get some, but don’t plant it until mid or late October. For more complete descriptions and planting instructions, go to the Bulb page on our website: http://www.harlequinsgardens.com/plants/bulbs-2012/
We are expecting our flowering bulbs to arrive in mid-September. We don’t have a specific date at this time, but you are welcome to call us to check on their arrival. We are in the process of updating our Bulb page to include the many wonderful new varieties we have added for this year, like the beautiful purple fall-blooming Crocus speciosus, ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Carlton’ daffodils, and light sky-blue ‘Valerie Finnis’ Grape Hyacinth, to name just a few.
IN the HOME LANDSCAPE & FLOWER GARDEN
Fall is a perfect time to fertilize with organic granular blends like Yum Yum Mix, Alpha One, Nature’s Cycle, Biosol, Mile-Hi Rose Feed, etc., and also to top-dress planting beds and lawns with compost. Harlequin’s Gardens still has a good stock of fertilizers and composts.
If you have trees in your lawn, and the trees have been depending on the lawn sprinklers all through this hot, dry summer, now is the most important time to give them a good, deep soaking. You’ll want to taper off the watering in October to allow the trees to go dormant.
Deadheading of perennials and shrubs, followed by deep watering and mulching, can perk up plants that may have been stressed by the heat of this summer. Newly planted perennials and shrubs should be flagged or otherwise conspicuously marked so you will be reminded to check on them and don’t let them dry out.
Clean, uncontaminated water is a finite resource, and something we and our friends in the animal and plant kingdoms simply cannot do without. In our personal lives, we need to act accordingly and not take our water supply for granted. Scientists studying global climate change are forecasting a hotter and drier future for Colorado and the Interior West, which along with population growth and development, is sure to challenge our water supply. Another new threat to the availability of clean water is posed by the proliferation in our area of oil and gas wells using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). This method uses immense quantities of water which, after being used for drilling, cannot be returned to the water supply for reuse. The oil and gas industry has far more money and influence to secure and buy water than do farmers, cities and communities. In addition, there have already been many documented cases of irreparable contamination of residential water wells with highly toxic chemicals from fracking operations, which our current state regulations allow as close as 350’ from homes and schools. Addressing this threat requires us to go beyond our personal realms to take action as a community.
If you are registered to vote in Longmont, you have the opportunity to vote for the Longmont Health, Safety and Wellness Act in this November’s election. For more information about this proposed Charter Amendment and more information about fracking and its implications, go to http://ourlongmont.org/ .
We hope to see you soon!
Eve & Mikl Brawner and the staff at Harlequin’s Gardens