Care & Nutrition For Super Natural Tomatoes
The fitful summer warmth is stressing some of the heat loving vegetables, notably tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. All prefer hot days and warm nights and milder weather is not to their liking. Indeed, low temperatures (low 50‘s and below) can actually retard plant growth, not just halt it.
Cool Is Tough On Tomatoes
Our cool nights are especially tough on tomatoes and peppers. Even into July, we’ve had many nights with temperatures hovering around 48-50 degrees F, which is not conducive to tomato happiness. This year, I’m keeping some of my plants in my south-facing sunporch and others on my south-facing deck. The outsiders usually get swaddled in floating row cover, but this year, I’m trying something new; bubblewrap.
After cleaning the garage, a gigantic roll of four-foot-wide bubblewrap emerged from the clutter. Perfect! This stuff (leftover from one of Bud’s projects) is made for industrial packaging, so ought to hold up pretty well for a season, at least.
It’s A Wrap
Now the outsiders are caged and wrapped, with their tops open to let in rain and air. We’ll see whether this heavier blanket helps keep them warmer when nights turn cool, as they so often do in this maritime garden. I’m also rigging a frame so I can make a bubblewrap cover for my plants to keep them out of the cold rain, which can cause foliage problems.
Salt Water And Seaweed
I always grow my tomatoes on the dry side, partly to avoid foliage diseases and partly to maximize flavor (it can get diluted by excess water). I also give them a blend of liquid kelp (I like Maxicrop) with a moderate (5-5-5) organic fertilizer.
Because my plants are in big pots, which need very frequent watering, I feed them every few weeks. If they were planted in garden beds, I would feed them monthly, since their fertilizer would not be washed away so fast. By mid- to late August, I start backing off on both food and water.
Add A Pinch Salt
Once the tomatoes set fruit, they each get a drink of seawater, which improves their flavor significantly. Several recent studies made at Rutgers University demonstrated that salted water brings out that bright, vivid tomato taste so often missing from commercially grown fruit.
How Much Is Enough?
Each tomato, pepper, and eggplant gets 1-1/2 cups of seawater, which I get from nearby Fletcher Bay. If you lack ocean access, you can substitute a sea salt/mineral extract called SEA-90 (available online if not locally). One of my friends used coarse sea salt, adding 1/4 teaspoon to a up of water, with good results, so that might be worth a try as well.
A Summery Entree Salad
When it’s warm enough to eat on the deck, we are enjoying this luscious Italian Tuna Salad over mixed greens. Add some arugula for bite, some spinach for velvety smoothness, and ruffled lettuces for texture, top it off with a scoop of this sumptuous salad, and dinner is served!
Italian Tuna Salad With Lime Dressing
12 ounces tuna in water, drained OR 1 cup flaked cooked fish
1/4 cup Lime Dressing (see below)
2 cups red Romaine, shredded
2 cups spinach, stemmed
2 cups Butterhead lettuce, shredded
1 cup young kale, stemmed and shredded
1 cup arugula, shredded
1/4 cup Italian parsley, stemmed
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Combine tuna or fish and dressing and let stand for at least 30 minutes (chilled overnight is great). In a serving bowl, combine them with remaining ingredients, toss gently and let stand 20 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.
1 organic lime, juiced, rind grated
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
In a jar, combine all ingredients to taste, shake well to emulsify and serve. Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week. Makes about 1-1/4 cup.