By Jenny Spring
I put at a lot of time and effort into growing my tomatoes. In fact, I have a volunteer this year who is pretty much only tending to the tomatoes. It’s almost a full-time job.
I start my tomato plants from seed in February. I grow the plants under lights in my house or basement. I continue to pot them up as they grow larger and eventually they go into a heated greenhouse in March.
I then tend to my potted plants for about a month in the greenhouse and eventually plant them in the ground (in the greenhouse) 18 inches apart with loads of compost. I trellis the plants up a string and prune them hard which sends energy into producing fruit instead of leaves.
Tomatoes hate the cold so we heat the greenhouse and try to keep the temperature no lower than 18 degrees at night. I think it is very difficult to grow tomatoes outside in Muskoka: it gets too cold at night time. To get a large yield I suggest building a small greenhouse. I also suggest growing them in the ground and not in pots. Their roots are very large and need space.
Planting tip: We grow our basil at the bottom of each tomato plant as they are companion plants.
This year I grew 12 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes – all different shapes, colours and sizes. Here are a couple of pictures of our Muskoka harvest. We are in the thick of tomato season right now and you can get the tomatoes at the Huntsville Market.
Fresh Tomato Basil Pesto or Pasta Sauce
1 glove of garlic or 1 garlic scapes
3 large tomatoes
1 bundle of basil
¼ cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
a squeeze of lemon
1/3 cups of pine nuts
Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve over cooked pasta. Place pasta in a cooking container and cook at 350C for 20 minutes.
Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad
(Photo and recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt)
Fried Chickpeas & Capers:
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or another high heat oil) divided
3 tablespoons brine packed capers, drained and patted dry
1/2 cup chickpeas (if from the can drained and patted dry)
pinch of smoked paprika
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons dill (sliced)
2 tablespoons minced basil, + full leaves for garnish
1 tablespoon minced parsley + additional sprigs for garnish
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
crumbled feta cheese for serving (optional)
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown and burst open, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Carefully add the additional oil to the pan along with the chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas begin to brown and crisp up. About 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle the chickpeas with a pinch of smoked paprika and sea salt.
- Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, dill, basil, and parsley. Drizzle in the olive oil and continue to whisk together until smooth. Stir in the salt and pepper and set aside.
- Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a large platter. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the fried capers, chickpeas and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
Jenny Spring and Oliver Wolfe are co-owners of The Spring Farm with Andrea and Brian Currie. Each week, Jenny will share a recipe featuring in-season, Muskoka-grown produce from their local farm, which is just five kilometres from downtown Huntsville. She’ll also share a gardening tip about the chosen vegetable. You can find these vegetables and more at the Huntsville Farmers’ market on Thursdays after Victoria Day in the Canadian Tire parking lot, or at The Spring Farm gate on Bethune Road North starting in June.
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