There's a little gardening proverb that goes something like, "One for the birds, one for the weather, and one for yourself." With that in mind, I planted six tomato plants in the one tiny patch of full sun that reaches my little Long Beach backyard. With six plants, the odds were pretty good that I would be able to fight off lizards and bugs and bad weather long enough get at least a pound or so of big, juicy slicing tomatoes this summer.
Well, things looked good for a while. Things looked REALLY good. Before I knew it, my little tomato plants were giant tomato plants and they were sagging with the weight of about a half-ton (just an estimate) of little green tomatoes. Naturally, I started to count my chickens before they hatched and told everyone I knew that I'd be handing out tomatoes any day now. There was just no way one person could consume that many big, juicy slicing tomatoes.
But then, it happened.
And I'm still not sure what "it" was, I'm assuming I should have been more consistent with the moisture in my vegetable bed ... but as soon as my half ton of little green tomatoes started turning red, their skins started splitting. I kept my fingers crossed and waited until they were a little riper before harvesting. I figured a little crack in their skins wouldn't be a huge issue. Everything would be OK, and I'd be able to save at least a quarter-ton of big, juicy slicing tomatoes.
Last Thursday I realized I had waited too long. Even though the tops of my tomatoes were still green, the bottoms suddenly split right open and all of their juicy, over-ripe innards spilled out. The carnage was unbelievable. With a heavy heart, I threw away almost every little tomato in my garden. My dreams of bushel after bushel of fat red tomatoes were now lying in the dirt, covered in sickly looking tomato goo.
I did manage to salvage about a pound of tomatoes, though. They weren't as picture perfect as I was imagining back in March, but I was determined to make them work. I butchered them all, picked out the still-unripe bits and the overripe bits and decided I was going to stew what was left.
A quick Google search lead me to a basic stewed tomato recipe
, which I altered by adding in some white beans to make up for my measly amount of tomatoes and some fresh oregano to make it a little more interesting (and to make use of something in my garden that did go well).
Salvaged Stewed Tomatoes
1 pound tomatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
Place tomatoes in a medium saucepan and cover. Cook tomatoes over low heat for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano, sugar, butter and onion. Simmer for another 15 minutes until liquid reduced. Add beans during last few minutes of cooking.
I'll admit. A warm dish is not what I had in mind for my first fresh tomato harvest of the summer. But I thought it turned out well. I'm not sure if that was the onion, the oregano, or the comfort of knowing that all my hard work didn't go to waste ... but either way, dinner was more than satisfying. All's well that ends well, and the growing season isn't over yet.
My plants are already sporting new green tomatoes. Everyone, keep your fingers crossed.