Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tomato Problems and How To Fix Them

I don't think our kids
know what an apron is.
 Women, Moms and Grandmas did.The principal use of an apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material.

  But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.You just never knew what would come out of those pockets.
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.


When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids..


And when the weather was cold Grandma or Mom wrapped it around her arms.


Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow of Grandma's, bent over the hot wood stove. 
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.


From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
 In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.


When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.When the street lights came on, you had better be home to meet Mom in her apron, setting the table.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.



 Today just happened to be one of the days my favorite store got their flower delivery so I was lost. So much for my resolution to not plant anything more this year...what WAS I thinking?

So, some new plants joined our beautiful garden- pansies, petunias, geraniums, verbena, and the most gorgeous yellow lilies about ready to pop. Some really great herbs as well- coriander, thyme and oregano fit right in. Some extra tomato plants and a huge bag of Miracle Gro potting soil and I was set. Believe it or not, even though I didn't get home from shopping until about 4pm, and then made lunch, all the plants except the tomatoes are already planted!

I'd like to cover a few problems that occur with tomatoes and some ideas on how to fix them.

Number one on my list, and the main reason I love topsy turvey planters, is the tomato hookworm. Disgusting, vile creatures, they will devour your plant before you can blink. They have great camouflage and hide in plain sight. Here's a picture I shared last year of one of our worms that we destroyed right after this picture was taken. This particular worm had just eaten an ENTIRE tomato plant that was about three feet tall; when we cut the tomato worm up, he exploded into a puddle of green slime. (It was small satisfaction).

My Mom used a great trick (this was before the topsy turveys) She would use a plastic Dixie cup and cut it up the side and turn it upside down, fitting it over the plant to form a base. The tomato worm could not crawl up it, so she never had any worms. There is commercial dust on the market, but the easiest way is to simply take them off the bush. If you do use dust, make sure it is okay for edible food product.

Some people have problems with tomatoes splitting at the tops. Tomatoes crack when there is variation in soil moisture such as watering, then letting the soil dry, especially during warm weather. That is why we use mulch on top of ours.

It may also be helpful to provide shade for your tomatoes after 2 to 3 pm during hot weather. Hot direct sunlight speeds up water movement through plant tissues and also increases the rate of plant growth. Together these factors can cause fruit to crack.

Another helpful solution is to select 'crack-resistant' varieties. Some of these tomatoes are Big Boy, Burpee's Big Girl, Celebrity, Early Girl, Jet Star and Sweet 100.

Another problem some people encounter is that their plants flower, but the flowers dry up and fall off or the wind blows them off and no fruit blooms. There is a product called Tomato Set, which is a spray you spray on blossoms to 'set' them so they will stay long enough to become fruit.

I hope I covered the basics, I know it's not everything.Just remember tomatoes LOVE to be watered. Up here, we give them as much as they want. I count to 30 as I water each pot. We certainly have learned along the way and hope you get to enjoy beautiful tomatoes soon!



This delicious mango-topped chocolate honey cake is perfect for celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Bake the cake in any style Bundt pan, or tube pan, or even individual mini-bundt pans. After the cake is cools, top it with an easy coffee glaze made by whisking together instant coffee, vanilla and powdered sugar. Once topped with mango, the cake needs to be refrigerated. 

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active), plus cooling
Servings: 8
1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 eggs
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Fresh mango, to serve
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a tube or Bundt pan with cooking spray, then sprinkle it with cocoa powder, turning all around to coat the inner surfaces of the pan. Tap out any excess.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, cayenne and salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt together the honey and butter. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until cooled to room temperature, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each.
Add a third at a time, beat in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the water, instant coffee and vanilla until the coffee granules are completely dissolved. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle the mixture over the cake and serve topped with fresh mango.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 520 calories; 220 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (15 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 105 mg cholesterol; 75 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 180 mg sodium.

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