HELEN LANG: Plant the seeds now for ripe tomatoes by August

Tomatoes are possibly the most popular vegetable (fruit) we plant.

Outside my bedroom window the clematis that I’ve been talking about clings to a sort of trellis.

The poor plant is a tangled mass of skinny vines clutching the structure with every ounce of strength they possess. I should be ashamed, but the space is limited (excuses, excuses!) and I am running out of brilliant ideas. I love clematis, but may have to give this one away as I had planned earlier — but not replace it with the Jackmanii clematis I yearn for.

I have been looking at pictures of dwarf iris in a garden magazine and think maybe they would satisfy my desire for blue flowers. I used to have both iris reticulata (blue) and danfordia (yellow) when I had a proper garden, but maybe this fall I can buy some of those bulbs and have them in a big pot on the balcony.

There are wonderful iris in many colours, and several different sizes, all of them lovely, but the big ones seem somewhat brash, with their large size and wild colours. The dwarf ones are so dainty, but are so elegant and sort of balcony-sized.

I believe iris are the national flower of France, but am not certain I’m right. They are beautiful enough to be the floral emblem on any flag!

Most gardeners will grow at least one tomato plant and many of them will grow several of the plants.

Tomatoes are possibly the most popular vegetable (fruit) we plant.

They have so many uses either raw or cooked. They are great bottled or frozen (hold a frozen tomato under the hot tap for a few seconds and the peel will shear right off).

I won’t attempt to suggest one variety, as there are so many to choose from. Some are best  in salads and others wonderful in soups, or baked.

I have a recipe for baked tomatoes that my darling husband was crazy about. (See recipe at the end of the column.)

I’ve worked myself into a frenzy thinking about them. I used to grow several different varieties from seed but I no longer have a greenhouse, so I buy the plants — Early Girl and Big Beef were beloved, but there will be many new varieties for sale now.

Tell the vendor what you plan to use your tomatoes for and they will guide you to suitable plants.

It’s still too early to put tomato plants outside but you could start seeds now and be in lots of time for ripe tomatoes by August.

 

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.

 

Baked Tomatoes

 

1. You will need four, or five slices of either brown or white buttered (on both sides) toast, cut or broken into approximately one inch chunks.

 

2. Use canned or home bottled tomatoes. Use the juice as well as the fruit.

 

3. Put the tomatoes in a fairly deep baking container and gently mix in the pieces of buttered toast. A sprinkle of cheese on top adds a certain amount of flair!

 

4. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 25 minutes, and serve in a separate dish if it is too watery. Maybe put a spoon beside each plate. A bib might be a good idea too.

This recipe makes a tasty addition to a meal (the tomato casserole, not the bib!)

— Helen Lang