Garden Tips, Recipes and More

Tomato Sauce Gardeners -- January 2011 Issue

Tomato Sauce Gardeners brings you timely garden tips, recipes and featured tomato varieties to help you grow a healthy, bountiful tomato sauce garden and cook up delicious treats from your harvest.

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January 2011

Brrr, it's cold! We have had snow, rain and cold temperatures over the past few weeks. The good news is that the cilantro is still growing strong in my cement-block bed that is covered in a plastic dome and I have baby bok choi seedlings in my small, unheated greenhouse! I sprinkled some seeds in one of the beds in early December, as an experiment. Didn't even look inside for a month and what do you know, there are happy baby bok choi seedlings. It's so exciting to have something sprout at this time of year.

January for tomato sauce growers is an exciting time. The seed catalogs have already started arriving with their beautiful vegetable garden photos. I've already picked out two new cherry tomato varieties I can't wait to try: "Blush" and "Cappriccio" both from Seeds of Change. This is the month to drool over the catalogs, look over your notes from last year's garden and start planning what to grow this coming season. Only a couple of months until we start tomato seeds!

My favorite seed catalogs

I usually order my seeds online, but I shop the catalogs first to get all the info and look at the pictures. There's nothing quite like a garden seed catalog for inspiration during the dark winter months. If you don't happen to be on the mailing list for some of these, you can usually sign up online at the website associated with it.

Some of my favorite seed catalogs include: Totally Tomatoes, Seeds of change, Territorial Seed Company, Southern Seed Savers, Seed Savers Exchange

Click here for a list of my favorite sauce tomato varieties and seed companies.

If you plan on ordering Natural Beginnings organic seed-starting soilless medium from Gardens Alive, this would be a good time--I just received a catalogue with a $25 off no minimum order deal on the front. Unfortunately I don't have access to a link to that coupon, but here is a link to Gardens Alive so you can order your catalog to get the coupon. Link to Gardens Alive!

In the Garden: Minimize erosion/encourage worms

If you are like me, you are still collecting spent coffee grounds from local coffee shops to top your beds. I've topped all of the beds in my lower garden where I plant mostly potatoes, beans, and lettuce. Now I'm starting to do the upper garden where I grow tomato sauce. It would have been nice to have this done by the end of December however, it takes me a while due to the size of my garden and limited amount of time to stop at coffee shops. Once you have a thick layer (3-6 inches) of coffee grounds, top that with chopped up leaves, sprinkle with safe slug bait such as "Sluggo" and place a layer of burlap over the top. That will help keep the birds from eating the Sluggo plus keep it darker for the worms to work.The burlap may even break down into the soil depending on how long it sits there.

You can use this link to my garden blog for step-by-step photos of this process in my garden.

If you are creating a NEW garden for tomato sauce, this would be the time to put on your long underwear and parka and go out there and start building. You want this done early enough to apply the plastic for 2 months of soil warming. Click here for info on building your tomato sauce garden.

My other vegetable garden activities

Encouraged by the sprouting of the baby bok choi, I recently planted several types of lettuce in the remaining space in my greenhouse. I encourage you to give this a try if you have a greenhouse or create a small cold frame with an old window pain. If it works, you just might be able to enjoy fresh greens directly from your garden in a month or so.

I'm also making my own newspaper pots right now so I can start snow pea seeds in them. I start snow peas in the house in January and they can go out in the garden about the end of February as soon as there's a nice enough day. The plants survive snow and everything although sub-zero temps would probably do them in--luckily that's pretty rare in the Northwest. Click this link to go to Gardener's Supply to check out the Paper Pot Maker.

I also just ordered my seed potatoes from Irish Eyes Seed Company. Their stock is limited due to crop failures this past year and so I wanted to make sure to get my order in because it will be first-come, first-served no matter what your shipping date might be.

This month's featured tomato: San Marzano Redorta

San Marzano Redorta is an heirloom Italian variety named for a mountain, Pizzo Redorta, in Bergamo Italy. It is related to San Marzano and Super Marzano but bears larger fruit with a much better taste. It has an indeterminate growing habit. That means it requires support to prevent sprawling on the ground, grows fairly tall (4-6+ feet), and continually produces fruit until killed by frost.

This tomato plant bears very large, thin-skinned, oblong fruit that can weigh up to a full pound in some cases. The tomatoes are delicious eaten fresh off the vine or cooked in sauce--the larger size will produce much more roasted puree than smaller fruited varieties. In other words, on a given day, even if you only have three ripe ones--you'll have plenty of sauce for dinner! The consensus from my garden club was a resounding "thumbs up" for this variety!

My favorite source for San Marzano Redorta seeds is Franchi Sementi in Italy. They are available in the U.S by calling Eda Muller, West Coast Distributor at 650.726.4980 or e-mail her at Seed packets are very large with plenty of seeds for this year and next year and maybe even the year after that. Plus it's so cool to be able to say that your Italian tomato seeds are really from Italy!

January Recipe: Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup A yummy winter warm-up soup that you can quickly make using your tomato puree from last summer.

Serves 4-6. Ingredients:

4 T. butter

1 Onion, chopped (optional)

9-10 ounces chopped carrots

32 ounces chicken broth

2 T. dried parsley

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus extra for garnish

32 ounces Roasted Tomato Puree

2/3 cup whipping cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper or your choice of seasoning (I use a salt-garlic-pepper blend available in my area called, "Russells Original Spice Blend.")


Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft. We are a no-onion household due to sensitivity, so I just melted the butter and started adding the next ingredients.

Add carrots, chicken broth, parsley and thyme. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, simmer covered for 15-20 minutes until carrots are soft.

Add tomato puree (if frozen, just put it in and it will thaw pretty quick). Pour from saucepan directly into a blender and blend until smooth. Return blended soup to the saucepan.

Stir in the cream and reheat slowly. Season the soup to taste. Serve piping hot, garnished with fresh thyme leaves.

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this e-zine and tell me what you think!

See you next month!

Robin Wyll