Starting Tomatoes, Planting Peas and Lettuce

Three days ago I took a chance and planted my peas.  It’s not St. Patrick’s Day, which is when I usually do this, but with such a mild season I think it’s worth the risk of trying it 10 days early.  Even more risky, I set out a dozen of my little lettuce plants which I’ll protect with a plastic cover on frosty nights.  I usually set some out into the cold frame on St. Patrick’s Day so this may also be OK.  We’ll see.

Now to the tomatoes.  First I check with children and friends to see if they want me to start some plants for them.  As a result of these requests, I am starting nearly 50 plants.  When choosing which seeds to order, I look for organic seed, heirloom varieties and I always try at least one variety I haven’t tried before.  We like a medley of colors in our salads and we like to have some cherry tomatoes as they come in early and we love them in our own version of Caprese.  I plant three cherry tomato varieties;  purple, red and yellow.  For “beefsteaks” (big globular slicing types) I also choose a color variety, this year; purple, orange, red and a yellow striped with pink one (Pineapple) which is one that I really love the rich, slightly acid flavor of.   For utility tomatoes (sauces and drying for winter use) I plant two heirloom types; Opalka, which bears huge plum shaped, meaty fruits  and Principe Borghese, which has been bred for drying and has a low moisture content.

I don’t use the newspaper pots I posted about earlier as I have found the roots of the tomatoes are so vigorous that the plants grow into each other and I break off a few roots when I pry them apart.  For my tomatoes I have saved three-inch pots over the years as they fit well into my planting trays.   Be sure the potting soil is well hydrated before you plant the seeds and label each pot, especially if you are starting seeds for friends!  I plant two seeds per pot, snipping off the weaker plant with a pair of scissors after they show their first true leaves.  Just to whet our appetites for fresh, home grown tomatoes, I give you our Caprese recipe, so simple, so delicious…

Caprese with Feta

  • Halved cherry tomatoes, preferably a combination of contrasting colors
  • Crumbled feta cheese, as much as you like
  • Your finest olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil (I use a miniature leafed variety but any non flavored variety is good as long a large leaves are shredded.)

Sprinkle olive oil over the halved tomatoes and let them sit for half an hour or so, until the tomato juices begin to run.  Toss with the crumbled feta and basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste.  I don’t use much salt as the feta is quite salty.  The juices from the tomatoes provide the acid for this simple salad.  Some recipes call for balsamic vinegar but, to me, this just masks the fresh tomato flavor.

The tomatoes are on the top shelf of the light stand.  Be sure to label each pot.

The tomatoes are on the top shelf of the light stand. Be sure to label each pot.

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