Monday, August 27, 2007


Diving around the country roads near my home lately I've come across the following signs: Fresh Apples Next Left, followed a little ways down the road by Pears 69 cents/lb. The former price of $1 a pound had been painted over with the new price. A large billboard announced 4H Chickenque at the Fairgrounds the first weekend in September. Another sign tacked to a telephone pole offered: Stone Free Hay Delivered and a phone #. You can tell that this is still a rural area and it's possible to buy locally grown fruits and nuts and, sometimes, vegetables right in the driveway or front yard of the folks who have grown them.

Turning up my driveway I notice the pink trumpets of the Naked Ladies near the mailbox on the left, the olive tree overgrown with the muscat grape vine on the right. A little way up the drive on the left the pineapple quince are weighing the branches down almost to the ground and turning from fuzzy green to a bright gold. Straight ahead where the driveway turns left I can see the Gravenstein apples thick on the tree.

On Wednesday I hope to make some more applesauce from them. The blackberry vines to the right have almost finished up for the year. Berries now often have an unripe spot somewhere on the berry that looks ripe. Up near the house are the vegetables I have grown from seed: butternut squash in a pale pinkish tan partially hide under heart shaped leaves. The cucumbers have been happy lately and producing round prickly balls that look a lot like lemons when they are ripe. The zucchini which have been feeding us since May are finally slowing down.

But my favorite right this minute are the tomato bushes, which are finally producing ripe tomatoes in yellow, orange, yellow streaked green, bright red and deep brownish red. There is something wonderful about harvesting something that you grew from seed, especially when it is something that you've never grown before.

I bought two packets of heirloom tomato seeds, each a mixture. The Brandwines have not yet ripened, but today I can plate a rainbow of slices of Marvel Stripe which is a beefsteak type and has wonderful red and yellow streaks throughout, of Green Zebra which have small fruits, but look great with yellow stripes under the kelly green stripes when ripe, of the mild flavor and softer texture of the orange Persimmon tomato, of small intensly red Costoluto tomatoes which are deeply lobed and have a full tomato flavor, of strangly colored Black Krim tomatoes...swirled with brownish red, bright red, lime green and dark green on the outside near the stem. They have the best tomato flavor of all and are a wonderful firm, juicy beefsteak size, too.

From tiny seeds, to little seedlings,

to big bushes that sprawl and grow like crazy and produce lots of tomatoes...homegrown tomatoes are something to really enjoy. Check out the Grow Your Own 2007 event at Andrea's Recipes to see more examples of homegrown goodies.

I prepare something this delicious very simply, with just enough added to highlight the flavor. First of all, never put these good tomatoes in the refrigerator. It wrecks havoc with the true tomato flavors.

I slice the tomatoes, fan them on a plate, sprinkle lightly with a good balsamic vinegar and drizzle lightly with a good quality olive oil. A bit of salt and/or freshly ground pepper goes well. Then mince some fresh basil, or cut in a chiffonade, then sprinkle on the tomatoes. Heavenly!

I couldn't choose which tomato photo to post, so here are a bunch. Enjoy!


  1. Oh Elle, I am so envious with your home-grown tomatoes. I wish i had a garden to grow tomatoes in! :)

  2. If you were to attend that Chickencue, you'd probably run into a curious vehicle. That vehicle would be a hybrid created from one heck of a large barbecue plus a trailer.

    Charlie, the guy who built it is a Sonoma County native, who grew up picking hops over near the Luther Burbank farms; his dad was a cooper who came over from Italy around the turn of the century specifically to make barrels for a winery in Healdsburg. Charlie is now in his 80's and still fairly with it, although he is starting to lose track of things a bit. His wife, Rita, is also a Sonoma County native ... and, although she's nearly as old as Charlie, she jogs a couple of miles each morning, just about every day.

    They were our next-door neighbors when we lived in Santa Rosa, and we still go back to visit.

    You live in a fabulous place, Elle. Truly. It's totally unlike anything people think of when they hear that you live in either California or Wine Country.

    And I want your tomatoes. ;)

  3. Your tomatoes are a rainbow of colors! Lovely! We're putting our raised beds in this fall, so hopefully we'll have a lot more tomatoes next summer. Thanks for participating in Grow Your Own!

  4. Anonymous4:36 AM

    They're all beautiful, but I think the header photo with the purple basil is my favorite.
    Love, T.

  5. WOW! Makes our little cherry tomatoes which didn't do brilliantly due to the weather look quite poor! Catching up on our return from travels - loved the Harmony Restaurant post too.

  6. All of the photos look blogworthy!!! I am envious of your home grown veggies as well. I couldn't enter this particular event..unless sprouts count as being homegrown???

  7. Anonymous9:07 AM

    Fresh out-of-the-garden tomatoes are the best thing about summer! Yours look so pretty! I bet they tasted fantastic!

  8. Home grown tomatoes have always been my favorite garden treat!

  9. Oh, I would rather have a plate of tomatoes with basil than chocolate cake.
    Those are beautiful! I'll have to buy mine from the market this year. I couldn't keep up with the drought.

  10. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Nothing is better than homegrown! Beautiful tomatoes, Elle!

  11. Elle, I would love to have these beauties growing up at my house - they look wonderful and delicious!

  12. My mouth is just watering looking at those tomatoes. I'd like to sprinkle them with some fleur de sel and wolf them down :)

  13. Your tomatoes look so delicious!!! They are like pieces of art. Wendy

  14. Your tomatoes are gorgeous! Mouth watering!

  15. Anh, Maybe a small pot next year with cherry tomatoes? You can grow those on a window sill.

    Davimack, I know Charlie and know that vehicle. When you visit, come by and see me. Would love it!

    Andrea, this is a great event. Hope that you have tons of tomatoes next year.

    T, I added it to the post, just for you, once I replaced it with the next header photo. Hugs!

    Amanda, Thank you. Maybe next year will be better for 'maters in your neck of the woods.

    Valli, sure, sprouts count. Go for it!

    Cyd, Yes it was worth all the daily watering all summer.

    Deborah, Wish you were here so I could serve you some.

    Sandi, So sorry about the made a mess of a lot of crops. Might be a problem here next year.

    Thank you, Ivonne!

    Patricia, They are delicious, wish you were here to taste them, too.

    Cynthia, Bring on the fleur de sel!

    Wmpe, Thank brings out the artist in me.

    Rose, Thank you.