Dealing with Early Blight by Patty G. Leander

Though I am still singing hallelujahs for the abundant rains earlier this year (lakes are full and, for now, exceptional drought is a faded memory), the moist environment did contribute to an unfortunate outbreak of Alternaria solani, known in gardening circles as early blight, or EB for short.


Warm, wet conditions encourage the spread of early blight.

Early blight is a fungal disease that afflicts members of the nightshade family and though it’s never been a problem on my eggplant or peppers, tomatoes are especially susceptible. The fungal spores can be introduced into the garden in a number of ways – they can arrive on infected transplants, can be carried by wind, rain, people or equipment and can also overwinter in the soil. If you have grown tomatoes for several years you probably have fungal spores in your soil. Infected fruit that is left in the garden can transmit the disease to seeds yielding volunteer seedlings that carry the spores and perpetuate the cycle.


Infected leaves have dark, dry spots surrounded by a yellow halo.

The fungus starts as a small dark spot on the leaf; round or angular in shape and often surrounded by a pale yellow halo. A pattern of concentric rings may be observed as the lesion enlarges.


The fungus generally strikes lower leaves first, infecting healthy foliage as it spreads up the plant.

Symptoms generally appear on the oldest leaves at the bottom of the plant and gradually progress upward. If conditions are favorable, meaning wet leaves and warm temperatures, spores can multiply rapidly and spread.


Diligently removing infected leaves may slow the progression of the disease and prolong the harvest slightly but a stressed plant facing summer’s heat without good leaf cover is a no-win situation.

One of the basic concepts of plant pathology is the plant disease triangle. In order for disease to occur there must be a pathogen, a plant host and a suitable environment. Remove any one of these factors and voilà – no disease.  In the case of tomatoes we have a host and most likely a pathogen already present and if the environment is conducive the disease will occur.


Developed by: University of Kentucky Multidisciplinary Extension Team

Controlling the environment thus becomes our primary way of controlling the disease. If early blight was a problem in your garden this year, here are some steps you can take to minimize its effects in future plantings:

  • Space tomato plants 2-3 feet apart to provide adequate air circulation around plants. Fungal spores will germinate and reproduce on wet leaves so the quicker leaves dry out after a rain event the less chance that spores will spread. Also cage or stake tomatoes to encourage air flow and minimize foliage contact with soil.
  • Plant in full sun for optimum photosynthesis and to insure that wet leaves dry quickly.
  • Mulch around the base of the plants to prevent soil (and potential spores) from splashing up onto the leaves.
  • Avoid overhead watering. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to minimize wet foliage.
  • Rotate nightshades to another part of the garden for a minimum of 2 years.
  • Fertilize and water tomatoes as needed to maintain healthy growth; stressed plants are more susceptible to disease.
  • Remove and discard infected plant debris and volunteer seedlings which may harbor plant pathogens. Weed the garden regularly as weeds can also harbor disease-producing spores.
  • Seek out tomato varieties that have resistance or tolerance to early blight, indicated by the capital letter “A” (for Alternaria) after the variety name on plant tags or seed packet descriptions. A few varieties to look for include ‘Iron Lady’, ‘Jasper’, ‘Mountain Magic’ and ‘Big Beef’.
  • Purchase seed and transplants from a reputable source.
  • Use a fungicide. Most fungicides work by altering the environment (in this case the leaf surface) to prevent development or spread of disease. They are most effective as a preventive control and should be used as soon as symptoms appear – once the disease takes hold it is dang near impossible to get it under control. Products recommended for control of early blight include Serenade®, sulfur or copper based fungicides, potassium bicarbonate and fungicides containing chlorothalonil. All are considered organic except chlorothalonil. For maximum control continue to treat plants as long as environmental conditions are favorable for disease development. According to Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Vegetable Specialist, chlorothalonil is the most effective; potassium bicarbonate is the least effective. If the thought of using a non-organic control concerns you it may be worth noting that the dilution rate for chlorothalonil concentrate is low; one tablespoon product to one gallon of water. Whether to use organic or synthetic products is your choice, but no matter what you use, read the label and apply according to the directions.


    These healthy tomato plants are mulched, staked and have plenty of room to grow.

Watering, fertilizing, mulching and otherwise tending tomatoes through the heat of summer can become a full time job, even more so if they have lost their healthy spring vigor.  If yours have succumbed to pest or disease it is better to pull them out than to let them fester in the garden.  Harvest the healthy fruit, dispose of the diseased foliage, enjoy a plate of fried green tomatoes and start thinking about plant rotation and tomato varieties for the 2017 season. fried-green-tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

This is a non-traditional take on a Southern classic from the folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

6 large green tomatoes, sliced ¼” thick

White flour

Pat tomatoes dry and dip both sides in flour to absorb moisture. Set aside.


1 package (12-14 oz) silken tofu

2-3 Tbsp water

Crumble tofu in blender and blend, adding water gradually until the mixture becomes creamy. Pour batter into pie plate and set aside.


1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup cornmeal

2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp turmeric

½ tsp cayenne

½ tsp salt

Parsley flakes


Stir all ingredients together and transfer to a shallow pan. Dip tomatoes in batter then into panko mixture, patting the breading onto tomatoes so it adheres well. Heat about ¼” of oil in a cast iron skillet and fry tomatoes on both sides until browned. Serve warm.

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (of the 2016 Spring Garden) by Patty G. Leander

You’ve probably heard the saying that the weather in Texas is one long drought interrupted by occasional floods. It’s also a series of El Niño (wet) and La Niña (dry) weather patterns that affect the temperatures and precipitation. Here in Austin we are coming out of an El Niño which contributed to delightfully mild spring temperatures and the wettest May on record at Austin-Bergstrom Airport – 15.82 inches.

The resulting rains promoted vigorous – I’m inclined to call it rampant – growth in the vegetable garden. An interesting season for sure. Here are some observations that some of you may relate to: the good, the bad and the ugly, with a weird and a wonderful thrown in for good measure.


Even when juicy heirlooms and big, round slicers fail cherry tomatoes produce generously.


My Water Bill: The lowest in a long time!


Spring-planted containers thrived without supplemental water until early June.

Containers: It was a great year for my spring “pot” garden. I used large containers (mostly 7-10 gallon) and planted compact varieties of green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, squash and okra in late March; by early June I was harvesting from every container. Then it got really hot, really fast and the rains turned off. All I have now is ‘Baby Bubba’ okra, ‘Peppermint’ Swiss chard and okra, but that’s ok because I’m ready to give the pots a rest until cooler temperatures return in fall.


Country Gentleman’ (left) and ‘Glass Gem’ (right)

Corn: No raccoons – that alone is a minor miracle in my backyard! They tend to show up every year for the corn but not this time. Maybe the rain deterred them or perhaps they didn’t care for the varieties I chose.  This year I planted an old-fashioned shoepeg variety called ‘Country Gentleman’ (an heirloom from 1890); I also made room for a small section of ‘Glass Gem’, a beautiful, jewel-toned flint corn carefully selected for its vibrant colors by a seed saver and corn grower from Oklahoma named Carl Barnes.

Carl was part Cherokee, and he was devoted to preserving the colorful, traditional corns of Native Americans. The sturdy stalks of ‘Glass Gem’ are 8-9 feet tall which makes the individual ears look disappointingly small, but once you pick them and pull the husk back the striking colors and translucent sparkle will make your jaw drop. I never knew Carl Barnes but I thought about him when I planted my ‘Glass Gem’ seeds in March and was thankful for his lifetime fascination with corn. He passed away a month later, on April 16, at the age of 87. You can help keep Carl’s legacy alive by planting ‘Glass Gem’ in your own garden. Seeds are available from Victory Seeds (, Baker Creek ( or Seeds Trust ( ). The kernels can be ground or popped but frankly they are so stunning I plan to just admire mine for awhile.


Cherry Vanilla’ quinoa got off to a great start but quickly rotted in the wet, rainy environment.


Quinoa Fail: I picked up a packet of quinoa at a garden show thinking it would be fun to try.  It takes 90-120 days for the seed heads to form and dry.  I planted seeds in mid-February and it grew impressively during March and April, developing beautiful crimson blooms, then it rained and rained and rained some more and the beautiful pink flower heads rotted under the constantly moist conditions. One packet contains plenty of seeds so I will try again, perhaps this fall.


Snails were everywhere! This bucket o’ snails was brought to the June meeting of the Austin Organic Gardeners by a member who presented a brief show and tell on how to collect and prepare snails for the dinner table…I think I’ll stick with vegetables and more familiar protein sources.

Crunch, crunch; buzz, buzz: The snails and mosquitoes came out in full force with the wet weather; I could hardly walk to my garden without hearing the crunch of a snail shell below my shoe or the buzz of a mosquito around my ears. Now that the rains have tapered off so have the snails, but no matter how often I empty standing water or replenish the mosquito dunks in collected rainwater the mosquitoes just keep buzzing. Be sure to eliminate all sources of standing water – even the ones you don’t think about or see, like shallow plant saucers, gutters, depressions in plastic tarps or folds in bags that might hold even a small amount of water.

When working outside follow the four D’s: DRAIN (standing water), DEET (apply repellent to clothes and exposed skin), DUSK & DAWN (stay indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active) and DRESS (wear long sleeves and long pants).


Blight-infected tomatoes were a common sight in many gardens this year.

This was an especially bad year for early blight in tomatoes, a soil-borne fungus that appears as small dark spots on the lower leaves, which gradually turn yellow and dry up. The fungus spreads quickly, moving up the plant, infecting healthy green leaves as quickly as you can remove dying diseased foliage. Unfortunately, once plants are heavily infected no amount of fungicides, fertilizer or magic sprays will save them so at this point in the season it may be best to cut your losses. Harvest remaining tomatoes (fried green tomatoes, anyone?), remove infected plants and plan to rotate the next round of tomatoes to another spot in the garden. We’ll have more on early blight in a future post.



How can such cute critters do such an ugly deed?

Critters: I’ve always heard that squirrels and birds eat tomatoes because they are thirsty, but not in this case. There was water everywhere yet they still opted for the red, juicy tomatoes. Squirrels always seem to go for the best tomatoes so at least you could say they have good taste.



These squash truly grow inches overnight – be careful or their vines will take over!

Tromboncino Squash: This vigorous Italian heirloom starts out green like a zucchini and ends up tan like a butternut squash. Eating quality is best when fruit is less than 12 inches long, but it will quickly and effortlessly reach 3 feet in length – especially with lots of rain! It’s crunchier than zucchini and perhaps a little nutty – I have heard its flavor described as walnuts combined with pumpkin and a touch of artichoke. It can be sautéed, grilled, baked, eaten raw in salads or spiralized into zoodles. It is supposed to be less susceptible to squash vine borer, however in my experience the borer still gets in but the vines quickly outgrow it. And if you like squash blossoms this may be the squash for you – they are big, beautiful and plentiful. Sources for seed include Territorial Seed ( and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (



One of five siblings born to a farmer and a teacher in Burlington, North Carolina, my mom definitely has some strong stock in her genes. She catered weddings, cooked Wednesday night church suppers and helped start the Meals on Wheels program in Midland. A Registered Dietitian, she was usually wearing a white uniform, white shoes and a hairnet and was often known as Liz-The-Whiz-The White-Tornado.

Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!!  We celebrated my mom’s birthday earlier this month. She has always loved purple – growing up in Midland we were “the house with the purple door”. So at age 90 we went all out with a purple party. I even presented her with purple beans, purple eggplant, purple tomatoes, purple potatoes and a big, purple artichoke bloom. All fresh from the garden. She picked out her favorite purple shirt to wear that day – the one that says “It’s all in the attitude”.

Her stamina for physical activity has dwindled over the last couple of years but she’s great at shelling. She lives close so I do my best to supply her with butterbeans, cowpeas, pecans, peanuts, shrimp and anything else that needs to be shelled. She works so fast that by the time I get home she’s calling me saying, “Your peas are done, do you have any more?” Those farming genes run deep…sometimes I think I ought to hire her out.

© 2012 Tomato Season Wrap Up by Bill Adams

There weren’t many new tomato discoveries to brag about this year.  What started out as a pretty good season with low insect/mite numbers due to last year’s extreme drought combined with the blessing of occasional rains, wound down with persistent heat and a buildup of stinkbugs—both the Leaf-footed variety and the shield-shaped ones.  It does seem curious that the only tomato varieties that are coming back from the spring planting are the hybrids that have nematode resistance and heirlooms that were grafted on nematode resistant rootstock (Emperador from Johnny’s Seeds).  Emperador is not in the 2012 catalog but Colosus F1 is listed as a more productive replacement.

2012 was a bad year for stink bugs

The most outstanding new heirloom for us in 2012 was Marianna’s Peace.  This large, somewhat oblong and cherry-red tomato had some slight folding but not a drastic amount of core typical of these large heirlooms.  It had good acidity and the complex, sweet tomato flavors that we lust for in a tomato.  In short it was “lap over a burger wonderful” and “lick the juice off the plate tasty”.  These large fruits are produced on a potato-leaved plant and production continued into early August.  This variety will definitely be tried on hybrid rootstock this year.

The most outstanding new heirloom for 2012 was Marianna’s Peace. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

I had almost forgotten how good Juliet is.  This small saladette type tomato has excellent flavor and it is extremely productive, often surviving into the fall.  The skin might be a bit tough but it’s really not objectionable.  Restaurants even mention it on the menu—“Bibb lettuce with Juliet tomatoes”.

Viva Italia is almost like a big sister to Juliet, great flavor, bigger and productive long into the season.  Gets some Early Blight in a wet spring but usually recovers for production in late summer and fall.  Fungicides can keep it productive throughout the season.

Jaune Flamme has good nematode resistance. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

Speaking of fall—this year we planted Fourth of July a Campari style tomato (golf ball size/large clusters) with great flavor.  This is one of Burpee’s best and here it produces long before Fourth of July when planted in early spring and it often lasts into late summer and fall.  Planted in June/July it looks like a good fall targeted tomato.

Purple Calabash is a great black heirloom with good nematode resistance. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

Rowdy Red is supposedly a favorite of Clint Eastwood and though not much larger than a baseball with a nipple end it has great flavor and production.  Our plant is still alive in October and trying to produce more fruit.  We would plant it again—maybe I’ll set an empty chair next to it for support.

Kosovo was a great tasting oxheart but the plants faded in the heat. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

Kosovo, a big Oxheart type was a surprise.  It not only grew well and was fairly productive, it tasted great too.  Might have to try this one on nematode-resistant rootstock since it did fade out in the heat.  Thinking about using Celebrity or Better Boy since the seed is cheaper compared to the specialty rootstock varieties from Johnny’s.

Tycoon looks like it could be our new mainstay tomato variety.  Grown commercially and harvested green, is not much to brag about.  But vine ripe out of the garden, it is delicious.  My Champion tomatoes got ringspot virus rather quickly this year so they may not be a good main crop choice anymore where you’ve grown tomatoes for a long time.  Celebrity is still a good main variety too.

Cherokee Purple is a great tasting heirloom with good nematode resistance. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

Some other good candidates for hybrid/nematode resistant roots include Persimmon, Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, Flamme, any of the black tomatoes like Black from Tula, Purple Calabash, etc.  Brandywine has been a disappointment in this area—on its own roots or when grafted.  Even some standard and hybrid varieties don’t claim nematode resistance anymore—perhaps too much emphasis on breeding for virus resistance—so don’t rule them out for nematode-resistant roots either.  Check out Johnny’s website for tomato grafting info, pick up some single edge razor blades and order some clips from Johnny’s.

German Johnson was another great tasing tomato with good nematode resistance. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

The 2013 catalogs will start arriving soon.  Don’t wait until after December 21 to order (word is the Mayan’s ran out of rock and scientists have found an addendum calendar rock) or you may not get the varieties you want.  If you plant early (Mid-February in south-central Texas) you need to start seed in January.

Black From Tula is a great tasting slicer. Plus, it is very resistant to nematodes. This photo is the copyrighted property of William D Adams and cannot be published without written permission from William D Adams.

TLC for Your BLTs (Big Luscious Tomatoes!) By Patty Leander

I came in from working in the garden the other day and declared to anyone that would listen that my vegetable garden was looking AWESOME, and my dear husband hardly looked up from his work as he replied, “EVERYBODY’S vegetable garden is looking awesome this spring”. True enough, the rain and mild temperatures have been just what we needed here in Central Texas to shake off the drought doldrums, but I can still revel in the beauty and bounty of my own little piece of earth. It is my sincere hope that you are experiencing the same success.  One reason our vegetable gardens are so splendid is because tomato time is finally here, and for tomato lovers, especially those who try to eat local and in season, it has been a long and mostly tomato-less winter.

Hopefully by now your tomatoes are growing strong and you may have already savored that first juicy bite of your home-grown and sun-ripened treats.  But just when tomatoes are in the home stretch it seems a plethora of plague and pestilence begin a full assault, and that is when our plants will benefit from a steady diet of attention, inspection and TLC.

As we move toward summer make sure your plants receive at least 1½” of water each week, preferably from drip or soaker irrigation that places water at the root zone and avoids wetting the leaves. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch is essential to moderate soil temperature, to keep water from splashing soil onto the leaves (fungal spores are often lurking in the soil underneath plants), and to conserve moisture in the soil.  Dried leaves or grass, alfalfa hay, pine straw, or even partially decomposed compost are suitable mulches. Side-dress your plants with fertilizer as soon as the first fruit set, and then continue to dole out small servings of fertilizer every 4 weeks. One way to side-dress a tomato plant is to pull the mulch back and apply 2-3 tablespoons of fertilizer (feather meal, blood meal, ammonium sulfate or other packaged fertilizer) around the diameter of each tomato plant, scratch it into the soil, water lightly and then replace the mulch. Some gardeners prefer to spray their tomato foliage with a water soluble fertilizer every week (using a product like Miracle Grow or liquid fish emulsion) and that seems to work well, but remember that plants are not designed to take in nutrients from their leaves, so it’s important to also get fertilizer into the root zone. A hybrid approach may be best – side-dressing at the root zone every 4 weeks and applying a foliar spray every 7-10 days.

Tomatoes generally stop setting fruit when the daytime temperature hits 90º and nighttime temps reach the mid 70s, though cherry varieties may often produce through the heat. If your tomato plants are healthy and you can keep them that way you might be able to carry them through the summer for a fall crop. If you would rather start with fresh tomato plants for the fall garden most local nurseries will have transplants available in late summer or you can grow your own. It takes 6-8 weeks to grow a good size tomato transplant so plant those little tomato seeds in early June so you’ll have decent size transplants by late July or early August.

Inspect your tomatoes every few days for signs of insect damage or disease, and as the plants grow gently guide the stems so they stay within the cage. Eventually those stems will be laden with fruit and they will need the support that the cage provides. Below is a rundown of some of the most common problems associated with tomato cultivation:


Leaf Footed Bug. Photo By Bruce Leander

Leaf-footed Bugs: these grayish brown bugs with the flattened hind legs are a common pest of tomatoes. They have what entomologists call “piercing-sucking” mouthparts, and that is exactly what they do to tomatoes. They pierce the skin, inject an enzyme to dissolve the juices, and then suck the juice out, leaving small, hard, white spots or lesions on the surface of the tomato.

Leaf Footed nymphs and eggs. Here you can clearly see how they are laid in "a chain". Photo By Bruce Leander

Their eggs are laid in long chains along the stems or leaf midrib; after hatching the nymphs, with their orange bodies and black legs, congregate together making them easy to spot. Do not be deceived – the nymphs may not look like adult leaf-footed bugs, but they will in approximately 30 days after morphing through five instar stages.

Adult and nymph Leaf Footed Bugs on a tomato leaf. Photo By Bruce Leander

These soft-bodied orange nymphs cannot fly, they can only scatter, so this is the preferred stage to treat them with insecticide, squish them or drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Also destroy any egg cases that you find. Spinosad and insecticidal soap may be effective against the nymphs, but nothing seems to bother the adults – they just glare at you and fly away. Handpicking is the best way to get the adults, but beware – they are a type of stink bug and when you squish them it is not pleasant.


The first sign of early blight. Photo By Bruce Leander

Early Blight: Alternaria solani, a common fungal disease that attacks tomatoes, especially during rainy periods. Foliage starts to yellow at the base of the plant and then gradually moves upward. Ideally we should prevent this disease by providing adequate spacing and air circulation, mulching below the plants and avoiding overhead watering that wets the leaves.

Early Blight can decimate your tomatoes. Photo By Bruce Leander

Once the disease takes hold it can be treated with an approved fungicide; if early blight is a perennial problem it’s best to start treatment early in the season, to prevent spreading of the disease. Serenade and neem oil are organic controls and Daconil (active ingredient chlorothalonil) is a conventional fungicide that is effective in combating early blight. Using these products on an alternating schedule may give better results. Even though Daconil is not organic, it requires approximately ½ teaspoon per quart of water and the solution can be judiciously directed at foliage, not fruit.


Spider mites can cause a strippling effect on leaves. Photo By Bruce Leander

Spider Mites: a nuisance in most spring and summer gardens, this tiny pest inhabits and feeds on the underside of leaves, causing a stippled effect on the surface of the leaf. If left untreated spider mites can quickly destroy a crop. It is amazing how many teeny tiny mites can be on the back of a leaf, they are just near impossible to see without magnification. Their numbers usually increase in hot and dry conditions, but I am already seeing huge numbers of spider mites on my tomatoes even though we’ve had more rain than usual this spring and the temperatures have been mild.

Patty is blasting away her mites with the MiteyFine mister created for her by her brother. Photo By Bruce Leander

Spider mites are difficult to control, but my first line of defense is to wash the mites off using a strong spray of water directed at the underside of the leaves every 3-5 days. My favorite tool for this purpose is the Mite-Y-Fine Sprayer™ – a tool that my engineer brother built for me. It is a long-handled tool with a high pressure nozzle that allows me to wash mites off of leaves efficiently and without stooping – it’s such a useful tool I told my brother he should make more and sell them – and he is! They are made of quality materials, hand built by him, his wife and their son. I use mine almost every week during the spring and summer growing season. See for more information.

Insecticidal soap, neem oil and wettable sulfur are labeled as miticides and can be sprayed on leaves to help control mites. Many gardeners swear by a weekly seaweed spray to keep them at bay though I prefer to use the Mite-Y-Fine because I like to eat tomatoes off the vine while standing in the garden, and I’d rather not spray them with anything.


A great shot of a serious tomato predator - the hornworm. Photo By Bruce Leander

Tomato Hornworm: prevention is the best control here. A single tomato hornworm can defoliate a tomato plant in short order if left unchecked, so it’s best to scout the plants for signs of damage (large chunks of missing leaves and moist, dark green worm poop on the soil or in the branches. These large caterpillars usually show up as an army of one, rarely do I see more than two on a plant. When there’s only one or two it’s easy to pull them off and toss them into your neighbor’s yard, or do as one lady told me – she just goes after them with a pair of scissors (ugh).


Nematodes can decimate a tomato's root system. Photo By Bruce Leander

Nematodes: if your healthy tomato plant begins to gradually decline, turning yellow, drooping, losing vigor and/or wilting without reviving by the next morning then you may have nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that get into the roots and form small galls or knots in the root, blocking the uptake of water and nutrients and causing the plant to gradually decline. Once a plant has nematodes you might as well pull it up as there is no treatment and leaving it in the ground will only allow the nematodes to increase in numbers. When pulling an infected plant be careful not to fling nematode-infested soil to other parts of the garden.

Below are two of my family’s favorite recipes for utilizing the season’s tomato harvest:


Patty's salsa is made with only fresh veggies from her garden. Photo By Bruce Leander

4 fresh tomatoes, chopped (peeled and seeded if desired, but I usually don’t)
2-3 jalapenos, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup cilantro
1-2  tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2-4 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar

Chop the onion, jalapenos, garlic and one tomato in a blender or food processor. Then add the seasonings and the remaining tomatoes, and blend till it seems right. This is personal taste. You can leave it chunky but I usually blend out most of the chunks. Then I taste and usually end up adding more tomatoes, lime juice and sometimes another jalapeno. I let it sit a bit and then go back and taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. It gets a little redder and a little spicier as it sits.

** You do not have to use a blender/food processor. If you prefer, finely chop the first five ingredients by hand, then stir in the seasonings and adjust to your taste.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted tomatos - Yum! Photo By Bruce Leander

Roasting tomatoes brings out an amazing, concentrated flavor – they can be used in sauces, pasta, sandwiches or simply as a savory snack. They don’t last long around my house, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks or frozen for up to three months without compromising the flavor. ‘Juliet’ tomatoes and small roma varieties are perfect for this recipe.

Wash, dry and slice tomatoes in half vertically. Remove seeds and juice (don’t worry about removing every single seed, you just want to scoop out most of the wet pulp). Arrange on a foil-lined pan, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 325º oven for 1½ -2 hours. Watch carefully to be sure they don’t burn and adjust temperature or time, depending on size of tomatoes.