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Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention







Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm

Entries in tomatoes (4)


Successes and Failures of Growing after Hurricane Irene

Zapotec and Kellogg's Breakfast TomatoesEach season brings certain expectations and, of course, certain challenges that never remain the same.  Farming and growing is subject to weather fluctuations occuring more often due to climate change.  This year we had historic rainfall in the area starting with heavy downpours in the spring and culminating in the arrival of Hurricane Irene last month.  We lost our peas early becuase of late frosts, then many of the vegetables we seeded or the delicate transplants we placed in the ground would get hit by pounding downpours.  The repeated downpours led to soil erosion, and lastly, when there was no place for the water to penetrate, some beds were in standing water on a few occasions.  We were lucky that we had the harvest we've had to date, albeit much less than we expected for the year.  Unfortunately,  many farms from New York to Vermont were devastated and several CSAs were no longer able supply their customers with weekly drop-offs.  The Union Square Greenmarket had significantly less vendors.  This letter from Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz summed up the impact of Irene on some of our local farmers and is a must read for those who buy locally.


For the home gardener, many of whom grow tomatoes, this was not a good season.  It sure beat 2009 when we all had blight, but what started as a promising season of luscious fruit ended with overwatered tomatoes.  A sure sign of overwatering are tomatoes with fissures and cracks near the top of the fruit.  Multiple linear cracks near the stem of the tomato is a sign that your plant got way too much water.In case this is happening to you are not alone.  Having raised beds, which we encourage, helps with excessive water except in the case where you are getting 8 inches in an hour.  Our tomatoes were in standing water for periods of time.  They eventually drained but the damage was done, and repeatedly. Typically we are harvesting tomatoes well into the end of October but we'll be done by the end of September.  Such is life of a grower.

 Looking back at this season and also looking forward, these were the crops and varieties that did really well for us.  We plan on being fully stocked with these seedlings next spring at the farmers markets:


Favorite tomato varieties: Kellogg's Breakfast - meaty with little seeds and super productive.  Ramapo - gorgeous exemplary red tomatoes, Sungold Cherries, Pink Berkely Tie-Dye, and Lime Green Salad.

Other successes this year: Angled Luffa (Chinese Okra), Japanese Eggplant, Red Russian Kale, Leeks, Italian Rampicante Squash, Hot and Sweet Bell Peppers, and beets.

Wondering what your successes and failures were for the season?


Tonight's tribute to the end of the Nightshades is an absolute favorite sauce for pasta where the eggplant and tomatoes melt in to become a substantive sauce and the brininess of the kalamata olives and anchovies create the necessary pungency to make this a dish that stands out.  Trust me, it's amazing.  Be warned, it's a bit more time consuming than it looks from first glance but so worth the effort.


Recipe: Robust End-of-the-Summer Spaghetti


2 lbs of eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
2 Red or yellow bell peppers, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovies
2-3 lbs of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and chopped
3 Tbs capers (optional)
1 Tbs dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmesean cheese

1. Preheat broiled.  Arrange eggplant on cookie sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.  Broil both sides until soft and slightly browned about 10 minutes per side.  Oil peppers and broil then skin side up, until blistered.  Stack on top and steam for another 15 minutes then peel and dice into small squares.

2. Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Saute the onions, peppers, garlic, anchovies and parsley over medium high heat until softened.  Lower the heat and add eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and 1/2 cup water or juice from tomatoes.  Season with S and P and simmer for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.

3. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water and drain.  Place in a large bowl with vegetables spooned over the top, showered with cheese and garnished with extra parsley.  Toss before serving.

Adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors

The amazing component here is the eggplant which literally melts and becomes the backbone of the sauce





The Art of Tomato Planting

Note all the "hairs" on the tomato stemWe kicked off last weekend with our first sale at the Palisades Farmer's Market and this week starts the first time we'll be at the Nyack Farmer's market.  It was a wonderful turnout and, as usual, the perks of having a stand is that we meet so many new people in the community as well as seeing familiar faces and friends.  As always, our tomatoes are the most popular selling seedling.  Well, our seedlings are really plants when you see how big and healthy they are.  We often get questions on the best way of growing them.


One of the reasons we plant our plants in Cowpots (made of cow manure from Connecticut dairy farmers) is that it's not only sustainable, but it allows for minimal root disturbance when transplanting - usually an added form of stress for the plant.  It's worth the extra expense.  Other "biodegradable pots" made of peat or coir, in our experience do not break down easily and you'll often find that they are somewhat still intact when you pull that plant out of the ground in the fall.  Not a good sign.  Cowpots, as long as you water them heavily at the start, will easily break down and simultaneously give your plant a boost of nitrogen for growing from the manure.  Neat huh!


The other thing to realize about tomatoes is that you want a plant that has an extensive network of roots.  The more roots the better and stronger your plant because a) the plant will have better drought tolerance and b) better access to soil nutrients.  This concept applies to all things that you grow.  What is especially interesting about the tomato are all the "hairs" that you see on the stem.  These have the potential to become roots so the deeper you plant and cover those hairs with soil the more roots will establish.  Neat, huh! 

We suggest removing the bottom 2 tiers of branches and leaves and plant to the hilt of the next level.  If your soil is not optimal when you dig down deep i.e. you hit sub soil which is clay-like or sandy, your other option is to plant the tomato sideways.  Initially the plant appears to be sideways and tilted on the ground but no worries, they plant will go towards the sun and straighten up.



Tomatoes like water and as mentioned, if you are planting in Cowpots, water heavily the first week to start the breakdown process.  Avoid watering directly on the leaves if possible.  This helps prevent diseases like blight splashing up onto the leaves and prevents leaf sunburn.  One thing we do recommend is not just watering the small area around your newly planted tomato, but the entire bed around the plant.  If you just provide water to a small localized area around the plant, the roots (yes, it comes back to the roots) have no incentive to grow longer since all the water is in close proximity.  So even though it feels like you're watering bare soil, you are indeed providing water for that nearby tomato and encouraging its roots to grow long and seek out nutrients and minerals further away from its location.


We'll be at the Nyack Farmers Market Thursdays on May 12th, 19th and 26th from 8AM - 2PM and again at the cozy and comfortable Palisades Farmers Market Saturdays on May 14th, 21st and 28th from 9AM - 1PM.  We have 27 varieties of tomatoes but much much more!  Heirloom, unusual and hard to find seedlings are what we love growing.  Everything is organically grown and have been amended with nutrient dense growing techniques for the healthiest plants in the universe.  Come visit us this month!

Palisades Farmers Market


End of the Summer Nightshade Fest

It's still August in New York but today's weather forecast calls for a high of 69 degrees.  It already feels like a premature fall and thoughts of getting my cold weather crops out now feel more of a priority than basking in the glory of my few surviving tomato plants.  The garden is now filled with expectant nightshade fruits: Tuscan and Japanese eggplant, Adirondack Blue and Nicola potatoes, purple, chocolate, orange and red bell peppers, green and purple jalapenos, thai red chili peppers and green and purple tomatillos.  It's amazing how much of the summer diet is comprised of this family of vegetables also known as Solanaceae.  The ominous sounding nightshades also include many poisonous plants such as nicotine (yes, I'd classify that one as a slow poison), belladonna, and jimson weed.  The danger comes from the alkaloid content of these plants which can cause effects on the nervous system. 


When I was a first year in medical school, one of the toxidromes commonly used to remember the side  effects of the class of drugs called anti-cholinergics was "hot as a hare, dry as a bone, red as a beet, mad as a hatter, blind as a bat."  These common drugs, all from belladonna, are used in small quantities: atropine (as eye drops used to dilate the pupils), scopolamine (for motion sickness), and Donnatal (gastointestinal spasms).  The toxidrome translated to the classic overdose symptoms of this alkaloid - fever, urinary retention, flushing, delirium/hallucinations, and dilated pupils.  Interestingly, the name belladonna means "beautiful lady" because it was historically and cosmetically used to dilate the pupils in women; apparently an attractive attribute at the time.  I can imagine these women, "blind as a bat," suffering with their atropine-induced dilated pupils all in the name of beauty.  Women have been subjected to some type of physical harm for beauty throughout the ages: bound feet in China, suffocating corsets a few centuries ago, and now the contemporary issue of eating disorders.  Yes, I digress, back to food....

Edible Nightshades

Although the alkaloid content found in the food nightshades are very minimal, there are the susceptible few that can react to the compound even with just faint traces of the substance.  Though there are few studies that examine the relationship between nightshades and inflammation, there have been many anecdotal reports that the elimination of these foods can significantly improve inflammatory conditions, most notably arthritis.  In my work with patients, a large component addresses nutritional and dietary aspects and their contribution to health and illness.  I view food as the medicine that you put in your body 3-5 times per day and your symptoms may have a huge connection to what you may be feeling.  There are few people who are willing to initially do this and would rather take pharmaceuticals to address symtomatology, but most people seeking my care have either failed that approach and are desperate or they are more interested in root causes for their symptoms and are extremely proactive in their health.  One of things that I look for are an abundance of a specific type of food in the diet, or in this case, a family of foods.  Anecdotally, I can say that there have been a few people who have reacted positively to the elimination of nighshades (much to their dismay).  These specific patients had a significant and sometimes complete resolution of their arthritic symptoms and though one can argue that there is very little scientific data to support this theory connecting nightshades and inflammation, these happy patients are not complaining.  It is also of interest to note that the compound found in chili peppers, also a nightshade, called capsaicin can be used topically for symptoms of arthritis.  The mechanism seems to be related to capsaicin's affects on pain receptors and it is likely that there is very little, if any, significant absorption of this compound.

I am in no way advocating that one should eliminate the beautiful and tasty vegetables, I wholeheartedly endorse their use as they contain so many other beneficial compounds essential for good health.  I leave you with 3 extremely tasty recipes using potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.


Recipe 1 of 3: Tomato, Eggplant and Mint Salsa 

1/2 cup olive oil plus 2 Tbs

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 cup onion, finely diced

2 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 cups medium-diced eggplant (leave skin on)

4 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tsp smoked paprika or aleppo pepper

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup finely chopped mint


1. Make garlic oil: combine 1/2 cup of olive oil with chopped garlic and gently warm in saute pan until the oil just starts to rupple.  Turn off heat and allow garlic to infuse the oil - aout an hour.  Remove garlic.

2. Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in saute pan add onions and cook until tender and slightly carmelized.  Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper.

Most people are unaware of the vast varieties of garlic. Homegrown Spanish Roja was used here.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss eggplant with remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil (or more) and 1 tsp salt.  Spread onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and place in the oven.  Gently and occasionally turn the eggplant with a spatula.  Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Combine onions eggplant, tomatoes, paprika/aleppo pepper, vinegar and mint in a large bowl.  Taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

5. Can be served with pita chips (brush slices of pita wedges with remaining garlic oil and bake at 350 for 10 minutes), tortilla chips or spooned over some warm rice and topped with feta cheese.

Adapted from Amy Goldman's 'The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table"

Recipe 2 of 3:  Spicy Eggplant Spread with Thai Basil

Eggplant is notorious for requiring huge amounts of oil to cook with.  This healthy version roasts japanese eggplant in the oven and combines it with the other ingredient thus eliminating the need for excess oil.

1 lb japanese eggplant

1 1/2 Tbs light brown sugar

2 Tbs rice wine vinegar

1 Tbs soy sauce

2-3 jalapeno peppers, finely minced

3 Tbs toasted peanut oil

3 galric cloves

3 Tbs chopped basil (can be a Thai, Holy and/or Cinnamon basil)


2 Tbs black sesame seeds, toasted

optional: fish sauce ( 2 tsp)


Roast eggplant by preheating oven to 425.  Poke eggplant with a fork in several places and bake until the point of collapse.  Let cool and peel off skin and coarsely chop flesh.  

Mix the sugar, vinegar, soy and chilis together (and fish sauce if desired).  Heat a wok or skillet over high heat and add oil.  When it begins to haze, add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add eggplant and stir fry for about  minutes then add sauce and fry for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped basil. 

Mound eggplant in a bowl and garnish with extra basil leaves and sesame seeds.  Or spread on croutons or crackers and garnish each individually.


Adapted from Deborah Madison "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone"



Recipe 3 of 3: Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary

2 lbs new potatoes (I used Adirondack Blues and Russian Fingerlings in this picture) - 3/4" pieces

1 Sprig Rosemary, leaves roughly chopped

Olive oil, enough to just coat potatoes (approx 2-3 Tbs)

2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt to taste

This recipe couldn't be more simple.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients and bake for 20 minutes turning it occasionally while roasting.  Voila!



Weekly Musings: And the Winner is.... Grilled Tomato and Basil Sauce

Enough about tomatoes and blight. I’m tired about hearing and talking about it at this point. Though we had quite a disaster, roughly 15 of our 109 plants continue to stand and though most of them are stripped down and won’t be able to continue producing much more, what we did harvest early starting in mid July, has fully ripened. I remember canning and freezing my tomatoes last year at the end of September but it is the 2nd week of August and I am nearly done with all the tomato jams and variations on marinara leaving us with enough tomatoes, sauces and jams to last us well through the winter. What I found extremely useful for my winter cooking is to use whole frozen tomatoes. This can be done with currant, cherry and medium sized tomatoes and come in quite handy when you need to cook with them. Don’t count on using them raw but if they are going into a sauce, stew or soup these are the next best thing to fresh.

Follow these simple steps:

Place tomatoes in a single layer on a baking tray. Place them in the freezer for 1-3 hours (depending on their size).
Remove tomatoes when they are quite solid, place them all in a freezer bag or container and store away.
To thaw: just remove the tomatoes you need, keep them out in room temperture for 10 minutes and use accordingly. To remove the skin, just run them under some warm water and they slip right off.

Dr. Whyches Yellow, Giant Belgium, Church and Brandywine Tomatoes
For sauces, I have tried a variety of different methods with different tomatoes. Usually, most recipes call for plum tomatoes since they have less water and seeds than regular tomatoes. I’ve played around with a few. Most of them require either peeling/seeding or a run through a food mill.

Simple Heirloom Tomato Basil Marinara
First try was a simple heirloom tomato marinara with basil which was coarsely chopped and simply cooked down for about an hour, run through the food mill, then simmered on the stove for a few hours leaving me with just a quart of sauce. I played around with the addition of different herbs, onions and garlic. Very nice and simple but definitely time consuming.

Second trial used roasted plum tomatoes. We grew the famed San Marzanos which grew beautifully and showed some blight resistance. I added the sweet Walla Walla onions we grew (1 medium, sliced) and added a few sprigs of thyme and marjoram, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. I baked these gorgeous guys at 375F for 45-60 minutes. After cooling, they were blended in the food processor. This was definitely easier (no peeling, seeding or food milling) and the result was very tasty.

The winner, however, turned out the be a grilled tomato sauce with basil and garlic. This was a winner in taste and in ease. Plus, I didn’t have to generate any heat in the house as we are trying to conserve energy as much as possible without torturing ourselves. I used all the Black from Tula Russian heirlooms to make this sauce but any variety should do.  By the way, black tomatoes aren't really black, they are a beautiful light port color.

 Black from Tula Russian Heirloom tomatoes on the grill

Recipe: Grilled Tomato and Basil Sauce

Makes 2 quarts

  • 4-5 lbs of market fresh tomatoes
  • 11 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of loosely packed basil
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Salt, Pepper (and sugar if necessary)
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste
  1. Grill tomatoes gradually turning them so the entire skin blisters and chars slightly.  Pull of any pieces that have blackened but leave everything else.
  2. Roughly puree in a blender or food processor leaving some texture.
  3. Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in pot and gently cook onion until it's soft and translucent.
  4. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat until thickened.  About 20-30 minutes.
  5. Taste and season with salt.  If tomatoes are tart, add a pinch or two of sugar to correct the acidity.
  6. Meanwhile in a food processor or blender, add 8 Tbs of olive oil (less is OK if you want to reduce the fat content) add half the basil until it is well blended and gradually add the rest along with the garlic until it is fairly smooth but still with some texture. Add this to the tomatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in 1 tsp of sea salt and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and vinegar.  


Adapted from The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison


Farmer Pam, MD