Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oct 2012: 80-Degrees Roof Clean-Up (?) + Flowering Tomatoes

It poured yesterday, but 80 degrees is predicted for Wednesday (with temps in the 70s bookending it), making this a good Chicago week for roof clean-up, which entails cutting back plants and getting damp potting mix out of the SIPs to dry.

I'm letting those tomatoes up there ripen on the vine, hoping a kiss of warmth this week will sweeten them further.

Amongst the detritus Oct 22:

Cleaning the growing roof involves lowering down tubs filled with spent plant material to the compost bin on the ground. It's the very antithesis of in-ground organic growing, where end-of-season plants can simply be knocked down and left alone or dug under.

On the roof, we cut off and pick up every last bit to keep the gutters clear and prevent a layer of compost from developing on the roof's reflective surface. That old adage is true: compose happens.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Still More Tomatoes Oct 2012

Picked another 6 pounds this week, each one a gift. Heading to the roof now to see what else might be dangling from the withered vines.

Friday, October 12, 2012

At Last, Tomatoes 2012

We snarked and moaned, inundated you with Chicago's early heat stats straight from Tom Skilling's weather center, and just about entirely missed the first round of tomatoes due to the unbelievale heat this summer.
But by virtue of a little good luck, accidental planning, and tenacity--yes, we didn't give up watering the scorched-earth-looking tomato plants--we've had a beautiful tomato harvest over the past eight weeks. I've just been too busy to post about it.

The uber-reliable for our climate

How to describe the joy of finally having enough of this queen fruit to worry about what to do with 'em all? Eight words do it justice: Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. For my time and effort, this is the easiest and most flavorful sauce to make with a load of tomats. After cutting into chunks this size and letting them cook down, we freeze it.

Mostly we've been returning from the roof with small to mid-sized 'maters. Happily, we planted Glacier, Stupice, Black Prince, Brazilian Beauty, and Crnkovic, the last not small by any stretch but early and clearly good for the long haul (the plant looked devastated two weeks ago but was loaded with large maturing fruit). What Bountiful Gardens says about Brazilian Beauty:
Forty years ago, Gordon Brown was at a nursery when a hippie van full of tomato plants pulled up. All the tomatoes were rare types from Brazil, and they were for sale. The nursery owner didn’t want them, so Gordon bought some, and this variety was the standout. He’s kept it going to this day, a rare and unbelievably tasty tomato. Unusual, mahogany color with green shoulders. Very good yields. Closest non-hybrid we’ve seen to that sweet, tropical “sungold” flavor.
Brazilian Beauty at lower right. 
Continuing clockwise: Glacier, Stupice, 
the tiny Whippersnapper, Crnkovic, and not sure

Some turn up their noses at small varieties. Not in this house. Yes we had a few BLT monsters that outsized the bread they sat on, like this one (hard to believe, given our growing season).
But the small intensely flavored heirlooms are right for so many reasons: they got started and thrived even in the early heat, delivering fruit when no larger tomato could.

And they kept on delivering.