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June 2, 2009

Italian Tomato 101

Caring for your tomato plants 1.

growingtomatoes

Caring for your tomato plants

1. Plant your tomatoes 12-24” apart, in rows if you are planning a large planting.

2. Plant in a sunny location as the tomato plants need as much light as possible to grow and fruit in our short season.

3. Water your tomato garden slowly and make sure to give the soil a good soaking, as there is little or no value in giving it a light watering that only wets the soil surface.

*Using tomato cages is a good idea, as this gives your plant support, especially later in the growing period when your large, juicy tomatoes can begin to weight the plant down.

*Only YOU can prevent blossom end rot!  (That nasty black spot on the bottom of the tomato.)  Use a fertilizer high in calcium and be sure to never let the tomato plant stress from lack of H20.

*And as someone who would willingly do battle against a rabbit for just one fresh tomato, keeping the critters away from your tomatoes is important.  There are plenty of organic solutions to the critter problem just come and ask us in the garden center if the critters are bothering you and we’ll give you tips on keeping your precious tomatoes safe!

Tomatoes the Italian Waytomatosauce

When you see the tomatoes redden on the vine you’ll know its time to mangia! (eat!)  While biting into a tomato like an apple is never a bad thing using your tomatoes to cook a multitude of foods is the great strength of our red Mediterranean super food.  In honor of the mustached waiter that shared with me the great Italian secret of Fresco I will share this simple recipe of fresh, Italian pomodoro sauce:

•    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in large frying pan
•    Add two cloves minced/chopped fresh garlic and fry lightly
•    Add four-six fresh tomatoes, chopped/crushed/blended – experiment with the consistency to taste and peel tomatos if you want a smoother sauce
•    Add LOTS of sugar
–I suggest adding what you think an appropriate amount would be and then doubling it.  Eventually you will be able to add sugar to taste but in my experience more is better.
This comprises the base of tomato sauce in Italy.  I know it seems too simple, but I’ve watched two amazing Italian cooks just use this for their sauce.  Freshness is indeed the key ingredient.  The beauty of this base it that you can add anything – meat, fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, a splash of red wine… whatever you fancy.  And after you’ve learned to cook the Italian Fresco way, you’ll never be able to walk down the grocery store isle again without wincing at the sight of packaged Prego or Ragu or any other horrible bottled sauce.

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