The lone tomato in the above photo constitutes our entire tomato crop this year. Seriously. How is this possible, you might ask. I know it sounds inept, gardening-wise, but here’s what happened…
We’ve always enjoyed growing vegetables, even when we had only a small garden in Virginia Beach, so when we moved to the country a few years ago, we had visions of row after row of all our favorite produce, ripe for the picking. Boy, were we naive.
The first couple of years we managed to grow some decent tomatoes and green beans. Our herbs were fantastic. The lettuce, spinach, and other greens were amazing, too — what little we actually got to eat of it. To the rabbits, deer, and other wildlife who share our property, our vegetable garden was their all-you-can-eat buffet. The following year was much the same, as we tried to pick at least a small portion of the produce before everyone else got to it. Then came a drought, and everything basically dried up — even our wonderful blackberries. It was discouraging. (At least I still had some blackberry coulis in the freezer from the previous year’s harvest.)
Long story short, this year we decided we’d had enough of gardening disappointment. Aside from an herb garden, all we planted were a few tomato plants in pots on the deck. We figured this was a safe bet since none of the animals really bothered our tomato plants anyway, and they’d be less likely to venture up onto the deck.
Over the last several weeks our tomato plants were doing well. They greened, grew, and became heavy with tomatoes, a few were just starting to turn red. Then one day last week I did a double-take. ALL of the tomato leaves were GONE. Bitten off, leaving just little stubs of stems. Looking closer, I saw that some of the tomatoes were bitten into as well. A bite here and a bite there — just enough to ruin all of them! It seemed like a practical joke. The bite marks didn’t look like they came from any animal I recognized. Then I saw the culprit, clinging to what was left of one of the plants. I was too flustered to get the camera and have since missed other opportunities to snap a photo, so I found this photo of the perpetrator online to show you:
A giant green caterpillar like this (only ours is even bigger, if you can believe it) has eaten into all of our tomatoes — all but one.
A consolation: we think he is going to metamorphose into a Spicebush Swallowtail (pictured below). On the other hand, it appears that we will never metamorphose into gardeners.
EDIT: I take back the assumption that it was going to be a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. Knowledgeable readers have informed me that it is probably a tomato hornworm. Yikes! (although there was no horn on the one I saw).
We plan to feast on our lone tomato this evening. At least we got one tomato out of our “bumper” crop! Sometimes it’s those little victories…
UPDATE: So we ate our lone tomato, and guess what? It wasn’t even that good. So go ahead and eat the tomatoes, you caterpillars! I’ll get mine from the farmer’s market.
And now, by special request, here are my current favorite recipes for both a tofu and chickpea salad. Use these recipes as guidelines, adding more of less of the seasonings, according to your own taste.:
I think the adage about a watched pot never boiling holds true for ripening blackberries as well. Every day I check on my almost-ripe blackberries and even with the crazy hot days we’ve had recently, they’re still not ripe — almost, but not quite.
Yes, your call was heard, dear blog readers! When I posted photos awhile back of some of the wonderful gluten-free meals prepared by Seattle chef, Francis Janes during his family’s visit to our home, many of you e-mailed me asking for the recipes. When I told Francis about it, he gladly shared them with me. So, as requested, here’s his recipe for Mac and Cheese — and I can personally vouch for how delicious it is!
The photo above shows my version of it. I didn’t put the peas in it that Francis calls for in his recipe, but that’s only because I didn’t have any on hand — I love it with this peas added in for extra bursts of color and flavor. I also used regular (not gluten-free) elbow macaroni, because that’s what I had on hand, but wow, I really love the Tinkyada brand brown rice pasta.
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 (4-ounce) jar pimentos, drained
Juice of 1 small lemon
3/4 to 1 cup nutritional yeast (recommend Red Star Large Flake)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup thawed frozen petite green peas
Minced fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley, for garnish
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, combine the potato, onion, carrot, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
When vegetables are tender, pour the vegetables and broth into a VitaMix or other high-speed blender. Add the pimentos, fresh lemon juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and onion powder and blend on medium speed until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine the sauce with the pasta and green peas. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro or other fresh herb.
Note: For a “baked” style mac and cheese, transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
If you try this recipe, be sure to tell me (and Francis) what you think of it!
What a haul we got at the local farmer’s market yesterday. I thought I was buying enough to last the week, but it all looked so good that I cooked up most of it yesterday and now, barely 24 hours later, about two-thirds of it is already gone (but not forgotten!).
Dinner last night was chopped zucchini, spring onions, and tomatoes, all tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted until tender. Before serving, I added about a cup of fresh basil and tossed to combine. It was so delicious.
We also had some of the corn — and it was fantastic! I often find that the very early corn and the very late corn of the season aren’t all that flavorful, but this stuff was great. While I had the oven on, I also roasted the little potatoes, ostensibly to use in potato salad tomorrow — but, of course, we had to sample them at dinner, tossed with fresh parsley and a little Earth Balance. I roasted the beets too, but somehow we managed to leave them uneaten for now — we’ll probably have them with dinner tonight.
Not shown in the photo is some lovely leaf lettuce that I also got at the farmer’s market, along with peaches and a nice-looking watermelon — a 4th of July tradition at our house.
Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday weekend and be sure to keep the animals inside so they’re not frightened by fireworks!