Margaret Lauterbach

Make sure you know what you’re getting into with your tomatoes

Note to self: Don’t plant beefsteak tomatoes again, ever. Those that have a catface on the blossom end (opposite the stem end, of course) often have columns of brown, bark-like stuff inside the tomato. This is very annoying to remove when you’re trying to prepare tomatoes for canning. Cool weather when pollinated is the cause on tomatoes susceptible to this condition. Another tomato I won’t grow again is Thornberry’s Terra Cotta. It has the most unappetizing color I’ve ever seen: a sickly, yellow version of terra cotta. I do not use “black” or dark purple tomatoes (Cherokee Purple, Black from Tula, Paul Robeson, Black Krim, etc.) for canning even though they’re some of the most delicious tomatoes I can grow, because in jars they look brown and unappetizing.

I’m thankful I don’t have as many stink bug bites on tomatoes as I’ve had in the past. Those bites are a pinprick surrounded by a halo of yellow. They stitch the peel to the fruit so ordinary scalding doesn’t loosen the skin from that dot. It must be cut away. Wasp drinks are just a pinprick, no discoloration or adherence. Wasps’ assistance in controlling larvae in the garden make them welcome anyway.

I’m also going to start canning pints of tomatoes instead of quarts. Many recipes call for “a can” of tomatoes, and I’ve been using a quart because that’s what I have, but it throws off recipes. I have found that home-canned chicken stock is so easily made (free of salt) and so useful as home-canned (no need to thaw), I use that more freely than I would commercial stock or broth. So for two people, pints it is.

▪  Many of my bush beans already have tan, dry pods, so I’m pulling them out and removing all pods. Some pods have shattered in my bucket of picked pods, a better place to shatter than in the garden. Those pods that aren’t yet tan and dry will be spread out on hardware cloth in my greenhouse to finish drying. As I remove the plants, I’m finding slugs napping on leaves. The good news is that some of the bean bushes are the size of small shrubs. A medium-sized bush yielded 30 pods, averaging four beans per pod, a good investment for a single planted bean. These very large bushes of beans came from some of the beds treated with Zamzows’ “Chicken Soup for the Soil.” Obviously my soil loved its “soup.”

It would be a good idea to also check any of your pole beans that are beans for dry use. Some Italian varieties produce early, so I pick the pods as soon as they’re dry. Last year I did that, but didn’t get around to removing the plants, so they bore a second crop before frost.

If you shell a pod that’s not quite dry, the not-quite-mature beans are larger and moister than the mature beans, and may be more vulnerable to insect invasion. If you suspect that’s happening, put your shelled beans in the freezer for a few days to destroy any insect eggs. Since those beans have moisture inside, freezing may kill the embryo so that you couldn’t use those beans for growing, but they’d be fine for consumption.

▪  I had a huge crop of Gravenstein apples on one of my trees, and none of my friends were interested in making applesauce. We made about 18 half-pints of great sauce (no sugar necessary). We usually send a lot of garden produce to the Idaho Foodbank, but they want non-wormy apples, and some of mine did have worms. I hated for the bounty to rot or feed overfed squirrels, so a friend suggested I offer apples on a local garden forum on Facebook. I did, and voila! Several nice people picked their own, so the apples haven’t gone to waste.

Send garden questions to melauter@cableone.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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