“Toe-mate-Os” or “Toh-mat-Os”…? Garden Planning Excitement!

It’s garden planning season!! One of my favorite things to do is to go through our seed catalogs and pick our lucky victims for planting in the upcoming year 🙂 We really love and have used Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  since we’ve first started growing our own food about 5 years ago. This company has so many unique offerings and are 100% organic and GMO free, something my husband and I think is very important. I always get really excited about my tomatoes, I LOVE them and am always ready and willing to change the varieties up each season. Last year we planted a “Blueberry” variety from Baker Creek that were absolutely amazing, in addition to some San Marzanos and Striped Romans (good for canning, freezing, and slicing). This year I was lucky to find a small organic non GMO tomato farmer in Pennsylvania who I ordered all my “babies” from. As an added bonus the farm is called Happy Cat Farms !!! For a girl who loves her cats and tomatoes it was love at first glance 🙂

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Happy Cat Farm Tomatoes!

Since our garden is fairly small, these are the varieties I’ve chosen. 

1. The Lloyd E. Frey– This is a great tomato for slicing. If you love beefsteak tomatoes, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with the flavor, texture and juiciness of this fella!

2. Sweet Pea– These tomatoes are VERY teeny tiny, the size of a pea! Why am I excited about something so small? Well, these little guys are the perfect addition to salads, a dish I enjoy almost every single day. They may be little, but they pack a nice sweet punch 🙂

3. Reigart– These medium sized tomatoes are GREAT for freezing and canning. Yes, you can freeze tomatoes and let me tell you, they are awesome to use in soups, stews, curries and sauces when you’re craving the flavor of freshness over the long winter months.

Peppers!

Peppers!

In addition to the awesome tomatoes, I’m also pretty excited about these peppers. I’ve never planted the Corno Di Toro Rosso peppers but have heard they are a great and sweeter alternative to bells, especially great for pan frying due to the thinner skin.

Each year my husband and I plant Shishito Peppers. OMG are they amazing! They are tiny little peppers that when simply sautéed in butter with salt are the most amazing little treat you can have. They are a sweet, slightly smokey, very mild pepper that grows amazingly well and produces a significant yield when pruned properly. I would recommend these to anyone who loves a good pepper, even just one plant can give you a good amount to enjoy.

Homemade Garden Markers.

Homemade Garden Markers.

Lastly, my very talented sister in law made my husband and I these really unique garden markers for christmas. She hand fire etched each name of the plant onto the wood and soaked them in linseed oil to help seal and protect. This is such a great idea that will add a great look to our garden, and the smell of the linseed oil will deter little critters from the plants 🙂 Win win!

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Canning? Don’t Waste Those Tomato Skins!

I LOVE tomatoes and luckily this year we got a really great yield from our garden! We planted san marzanos, striped romans, and blueberry tomatoes (seriously a variety you must try if you love sweet goodness)! This year my husband decided to can a simple sauce instead of making something fancier. It made more sense to do something simple that we could open and add stuff to as we used it. He also froze the san marzanos whole and as a result we had a bunch of skins leftover. This got me thinking…what could we do with the skins? Well, read on to find out!

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A mix of our san marzano and striped roman yield.

So what did I do? I dried them and made tomato flakes! These flakes add a deep, earthy and sweet flavor to anything they are sprinkled on. I’ve heard they taste amazing on ice cream adding a subtle sweetness and helping to compliment flavors such as vanilla. Read on for step by step instructions…..

Step One: Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After the sheet is lined place the tomato skins on top. Don’t add anything else just the tomatoes.

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Step Two: Place the tomatoes inside the pre-heated oven and use a dishtowel or oven mitt to prop the oven open to help in the evaporation process. Make sure none of the towel is dangling in the oven otherwise you risk it catching on fire. Keep tomatoes in the oven for a good 90-120min checking the crispness every so often.

Step Three: Take out the tomatoes 🙂 When the tomatoes are done they will be very crispy and crumble to the touch. Taste one, you’ll be surprised at the sweetness!

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Crisp and crumbly tomato skins.

Step Four: Crumble!!! This can get messy…but its fun. You can put gloves on if you don’t want tomato crumble all over your hands. If you want the flakes to be more like a powder you can put them in a food processor to your desired consistency.

Tomato flakes!!

Tomato flakes!!

Step Five: Package them up to enjoy later! 🙂

Finished tomato flakes in a simple canning jar.

Finished tomato flakes in a simple canning jar.

Thats all, till next time….!

Modern Simple Succulents

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One of my favorite displays of potted succulents accenting our backyard dining table.

If you ask me, succulents are one of the most incredible looking plants around. They add unique pops of fresh color and texture to both pots and landscape. As an added bonus, they are super easy to care for! Many are intimidated by succulents because they think they require special care, but succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to keep and are very rewarding. If cared for correctly succulents will last a lifetime. No joke. Here are some simple tips for planting and keeping succulents.

Tips For Planting and Caring for Succulents:

  • Succulents can be purchased at almost any nursery and often can be found at big box outdoor stores as well.
  • When planting succulents make sure to use a pot with multiple drainage holes. Succulents will rot easily if they are left to sit in damp soil.
  • Use a potting mix formulated especially for succulents or cactus. You can also make your own by using regular potting soil mixed with sand and small stones for easy drying and drainage.
  • Now that you’re ready to pot, pot succulents as you would any other flower. Gently manipulate the roots, place in pot or ground and cover roots with soil up to the base of the succulent.
  • DO NOT WATER succulent immediately as you would regular potted plants. Wait 24 hours and then provide the succulent with a light watering. Thereafter you only need to provide a light soaking of water every 2-3 weeks.
  • Most succulents thrive in sunlight with the exception of a few varieties. So indirect sunlight is usually a safe bet.
  • Lastly, there is no need to fertilize your succulents they tend not to handle the excess nitrogen well.

There you have it, all you have to do now is enjoy!!!

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Some seriously large and old growth succulents I inherited from my husbands grandmother. Are they not stunning?!

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Here is a simple unassuming succulent display I have near my front door entrance.

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A close up of the rubbery leaves.

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Simple succulents resting on unfinished ash tree table in the backyard.

My favorite bunch of succulents making the backyard table (which my hubby made out of repurposed wood) look even more amazing.

Keep posted for a feature on our transformed backyard that my husband built himself from the ground up 🙂