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This chart is doubled sided. Click on each side below to read in more detail. Also available to purchase here
Wow, I’m loving the Spring, I feel as though I’ve been saying “look at everything bursting” for a while now, but it literally is all bursting here. There’s a Maakia amurensis here right outside the house truck window, the buds get huge before they burst and suddenly they have 6 inches of beautiful silvery leaf growth, and the mulberries burst then send out their fruit before you know it. Elanor and I have been walking around checking out all the mulberries, they all have some differences in their crops we can see and we have found one that has very long pendulous fruit so we’re excited to taste that.
There is a green mantle over the grass layer now, somehow the energy that goes down into the earth over winter lifts again slowly but very powerfully in Spring… and the layer including the top soil right up to the tops of the tallest trees holds the layer of life that we live in and do our best to interact with. What a joy that is.
This week it’s tomato growing ideas.
I’ve given you mine in Blog 7 and since I designed that process I have been talking with Grant (my mentor at Environmental Fertilsers) many times, and he has given me a recipe based on his experience and that of the guys at International Ag Labs in the USA who are also doing this kind of stuff!
This recipe looks pretty far out…. Only for the brave and strong! I’m going to plant a few tomatoes like this as well and keep careful results.
Over in the USA they are trying to define a nutrient dense tomato. They say that if they are grown like this they grow much larger plants and crop much more heavily and the fruit tastes unbelievable and has a very high BRIX. If any of you out there are keen to join our trial then please register with us we’ll send you a free packet of Watermouth Tomato seed but you will need your own refractometer. We’ll all use the same seed this year for a start. You could follow any of the three methods we are using to join us on this trial.
That means here at Koanga we will have our tomatoes growing under 3 different recipes, these will be:
All of these methods will be compared along with your results at home and we will publish that next winter. In the mean time we will hold a special Tomato/Potato Guided Tour in February and Grant and Kay will be here to talk about growing nutrient dense tomatoes and potatoes.
Once you have a good look at Grants’ tomato recipe, you’ll see that it requires digging a small hole or trench if you have more than 1 plant like this. Quite a job. There is a lot of evidence to show that trees grown on holes like this grow to the size of a usual 8 year old tree in 2 years and outperform all others in terms of health and crop. For me the main issue about growing tomatoes like this is that they will also grow very very large and we’ll have to plant them much further apart as well as have a strong structure to grow them on . I know for many people that is to hard, so I’m trying to find some ways that could be made easier. The best idea we have come up with so far is top have a tube of netting for them to grow up the middle of and then, let several of the first laterals can be left on and tied vertically up the outside of the cylinder, so you have a lot more vine to hold tomatoes. The cylinder would have to be firmly anchored to the ground as it will act as a sail once covered in tomato leaves.
This recipe brings up as many questions as it does answers but I think we will learn heaps and if we can use these tomato holes and structures year after year it may not be be so much more work after all!
I’m going to have to make sure I collect a lot of leaves next autumn to have enough leaf mould to do this and use for many other things, next season like mulching perennial beds and putting in potato trenches. I decided not to buy in any more fertiliser this year after I’d lost my chance to collect the leaves too late. I think everybody at Kotare Village will be heading for the leaves under the Tilia (Linden tree) as we now know they have ideal leaves for ideal fertiliser, both calcium and phosphate bio accumulator.
Based on my understanding that my soil is low in magnesium compared to calcium and they both need to be raised, and that tomatoes need a lot of both but balanced, as well as a lot of phosphate. We have high levels of potash and need more phosphate. The more microbes the better and we need nitrate nitrogen to get growth and ammonium nitrogen to encourage fruit set and filling.
From our newly updated Koanga Garden Guide.
Tomatoes are always a challenge if you want to do it organically, especially if you want to do it without copper sprays. This is the program we’ve developed over the years: (copper kills the microbes on the leaves of the tomatoes .. and in the soil…. so they become even more susceptible to disease than they were before the spray went on)
Note: As described on within the Koanga Garden Guide, you could keep your tomato plants in pots for a further 4 weeks maximum if you repot them after 4 weeks into deeper flats or individual pots of 20 cm diameter. For those of us in short growing seasons this is a must!
Many people ask me why we have to delateral our tomatoes, they obviously were not created with a delateraler in place, so why now? This is a really valid question that I have asked myself many times I believe it is that tomatoes evolved in a low humidity climate (highland central America) In places around the world like Australia, California and even Seed Savers in Iowa. These all have low humidity climates too and they grow them without the need to delateral, I have seen that many times, and there is research showing that delateraling lessens the crop, which also comes later. However – if you try to grow them without delateraling here, you will probably find as I did, that you get blight really badly and you lose the whole plant, and do not get a crop at all. Basically tomatoes are not suited to our climate. If we want to have them as part of our diet we have to adapt, as we have – and it works well enough to be able to take huge crops off the plants and roast and bottle and dry, and make sauce and soup and eat the delicious products all year round!! So take a deep breath and
* ensure your plants receive even regular watering on the soil not the plant leaves, remember tomatoes come from an arid climate, they do not like water on their leaves.
If you’re having trouble with shield bugs then you don’t have enough moisture in the soil to keep your planst happy which also creates mineral deficiencies. 5 liters per sq m every day is essential for tomatoes
Planting Spacing for Best Results in a Biointensive System
50 cm diagonal spacings
We can speak from vast experience that this is AMAZING!!! She makes it then just add’s it to her fresh baked beans and BAM! Amazingness! It’s also perfect with scrambled eggs for a quick and easy lunch!
Eggplant pepper tomato oil pickle
2kgs eggplants, any kind
1kg onions, any kind
1 kg peppers (any kind, if they are hot the sauce will be hot)
2 kgs fresh tomatoes
2 bulbs of fresh garlic
unrefined seasalt to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 litre olive oil
Char eggplants, peppers, onions on the BBQ (ours is a rocket stove BBQ)until soft. Remove and when cool peel off charred skins. Chop into chunks, then ¼ tomatoes, removing hard cores. Finely chop garlic.
Add oil to wok, the garlic and soften, then add cumin, and mustard seeds, cook 2 minutes then then add all ingredients except tumeric, and gently simmer until all the runny liquid is gone and it is a thick consistency.. add turmeric stir while gently cooking 5 more minutes. .
Pour into small hot jars with hot lids ready and seal.
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Last season our garden crew grew out 17 of our most popular tomatoes for seed. (This is by no means all of the most popular, we just didn’t need to grow out all of them for seed last season). When I say ‘most popular’, I really mean the cultivars that stand out to us from our huge collection, the best of the best!. We have been growing out our NZ heritage tomato collection every year for 30 years now, not all of them every year but all of them many times.
Initially I was very tempted to import seed from all the sexy tomato catalogues and companies around the world, there are amazing looking variations on the tomato theme around! About 20 years ago after having been spending time each summer over at Heronswood in Melbourne with David Cavagnaro who was then working with Seed Saver’s in the USA, I decided to bring all of their best cultivars here and trial them to see what I thought of them.
The big thing that came from that trial was that none of them performed anywhere near as well as our own heritage cultivars. We have a very unique climate here in NZ. It is far more humid than most other places they are grown, we have a maritime humid climate, and tomatoes come from places with a humidity of around 10%. It become very that year that those that have been in this land for 100 years or more are simply better adapted to this climate.
A couple of years after that trial the NZ Herald ran a large article complaining about how bad heritage tomatoes were….. they had been asking people what they thought of heritage tomatoes. The feed back they were getting was that they were very, very prone to blight and were not standing up well. They were not asking where their heritage tomato seed was coming from. If they had, they would have discovered that those people they had asked were buying their seed from companies selling heritage tomato seed from overseas mainly California and Italy.
If they had asked us we would have been able to explain why they got such bad results. (They are somebody else’s heritage tomatoes, they are not adapted to a climate with around 80% humidity, California having 10 % humidity year round!) They did ask us later and we showed them our tomatoes and they ran a story on them which was great.
Our own tomatoes have had a process of around 100- 150 years of adaption to our own soils and climate and have been selected to do well in these conditions! It makes a big difference. Nothing has changed… this season we added a new tomato to our range for trial, the tomato that is being touted as the most nutritious tomato these days… Earl of Edgecombe, a yellow tomato. It performed so badly that it basically produced almost nothing compared to all of the others , all NZ heritage lines.
There is no use being the most nutritious tomato if it s not adapted to NZ conditions. We had psyllid in our tomatoes last season, and so did not harvest as heavy a crop as we should have, however we learnt a lot about which cultivars are the most resistant to them , there were big differences between them in terms of being able to handle a psyllid infestation.
The outstanding tomato was Oxheart, it cropped the heaviest, and we love that tomato anyway great for every thing…. It is an old Dalmatian gumdigger introduction to NZ in around 1880!
We had 5 tomatoes vying for second place in terms of production and resistance to psylllid:
Burbank (a really red reliable beefsteak by well known USA psychic plant breeder of the 19th tomato)
Hawkes Bay Yellow (our best cropping best tasting yellow, flattish, beefsteak type)
Scotland Yellow while not a beefsteak did very well and is super hardy in the South Island, good flavour when fully ripe goes orange when really ripe,
Wonder was also in the top producing range and that is our earliest fruiting tomato (apart from Henry’s Dwarf Bush Cherry which we grow under cloches and in containers for very early fruiting).
Garden Peach, is a super productive tomato that has a peach like look about it and some people love it, others don’t. It is a super healthy plant with high production. And some of our best were not in that growout eg Watermouth, J Walsh, Russian Red, Tommy Toe, Kings Gold, Calrton Victory and Black Roma.
Recipe from Change of Heart by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker
8 heritage tomatoes – quartered and cored
2 cups cooked spinach
1 cup panir 1cm cubed* see recipe below
1 Tbsp lard, coconut or olive oil
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
1 cup posole (ground) or breadcrumbs* see below
1/2 cup grated butter
Place tomatoes, spinach, panir, seasoning and oil into a bowl and mix well.Place into a baking dish and cover either with breadcrumbs or ground posole, mix well with the grated butter. Bake at 180degC for about 30 minutes or until brown on top.
*Posole – which you can buy in some supermarkets as Masa flour
Pasole is a traditional way of eating corn where the dried corn is processed with either wood or shell as to increase its nutritional value (up to 60 times more available calcium hydroxide. It’s best made in large batches as it is quite a process. If you have experience of making posole, please get in touch [email protected]
To begin soak six cups of dried corn overnight in water. Pour off the water and put in a pot with 2 cups of bone/shell ash-water, and cover with extra water. Make sure the corn remains covered throughout the cooking process. Simmer for one hour or longer, until the skin can be rubbed off the kernels.
Remove from heat and drain. Place in a colander and rub under running water until you have removed as many of the skins as possible. Then put everything into a bowl or bucket and float off the skins.
Return to the pot and cover with water. Continue cooking for another hour and repeat the whole de-skinning process until the corn kernels are white, fluffy and skinless. They are now ready to be ground for tortillas, added to soup, or dried.
3 litres milk
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
1 cloth (30x30cm)
Bring your milk to the boil. Slowly add just enough apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk. (I prefer the taste of lemon juice in panir, but either is good).
Next turn heat off and gently stir as little as possible with a wooden spoon until you have a clear yellow why and a mass of panir. If you do not have clear yellow why, add a little more vinegar or lemon juice. Leave the curds in a solid mass, do not break up by stirring.
When you are happy your curds and whey have separated as much as possible, put a cloth inside a colander in the kitchen sink and ladle in the curds. Hang your curd-filled cloth up on the kitchen hook and leave to drain. this will happen very fast and not a lot of whey will come out.
Leave the curds to cool, than remove from cloth and use or freeze for later.
I usually cube the panir and to add to soups or fry and add to veggie dishes.
Because the whey has been boiled and will not contain the life raw whey contains, (although it still has many nutrients), I prefer to feed it to the animals rather than use it in the kitchen, but it can add excellent flavour to soups and stews in place of stock.
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