Tomatoes 2010


Lazy, lazy tomato growing this year. I should be ashamed. I planted them and let them flop. Certainly not the best way to maximize yield: fruit is lost to earwigs and rot. Not many, but I hate losing any at all.


The lizard population is taking great care of the earwigs, and the Towhees are cleaning out any Tomato Hornworms, for which they have my gratitude.


Despite a cooler-than-average June and July, the tomatoes are arriving at the time they always do, though I also planted them later than normal, in May instead of April. Tomatoes have their own timetable, no matter what I do.

It's really satisfying to grow your own food, though I don't get the thrill and sense of pride from it that many people get. I've heard and read about the extreme effort some gardeners put into their tomatoes.

This spring, we attended a seminar given by a acknowledged tomato growing expert. He lost me when he started insisting that putting two aspirin (non coated!) under the root ball when planting was the correct method--not one aspirin and not three. Exactly two. One and three are bad. Gardeners who use one or three are morally reprehensible. I forget why.

The expert went on to say that watering every ten days when first planted and the temperature is below 80F (26C), or every eight days when first planted and temperatures are between 80 and 84, and a partridge in a pear tree, then moving to seven days, then five days, then increasing to seven days again as the fruit reddens, though ten days is even better, except it's temperature dependent, and afternoon wilting gets involved. Morning wilting is bad, but afternoon wilting is acceptable, even virtuous.


I think I might have let the plants flop this year in reaction to that expert's seminar. And then there was his stricture on pinching out all suckers, because they don't produce fruit. Good grief! When they are all flopped out all over, how do you even find suckers? And what are "suckers", anyway? They are not the same as rose suckers, which emerge from the ground, and are either new plants or rootstock, depending on whether or not the rose is grafted. In contrast, tomato "suckers" are new branches that emerge from the base of foliage on the main stem.

Sauce is cooking!

I'm lazy, I let the plants flop, I took the aspirin myself instead of dosing my plants, suckers went un-pinched and free to ruin my life, the automatic irrigation system runs whether they wilt or not, on the same schedule no matter what the temperature, and we still get a bunch of beautiful tomatoes every year, all delicious. I know I'm doing something wrong, I just don't know what it is.

For making sauce I use one of these processors to remove the skins, cores, and seeds. The hotter the growing conditions, the thinner the skins are. Because it doesn't get super hot here, the skins can be slightly tough, so we like to get rid of them.

Tomato processor

These machines work great if you want a really smooth sauce. They are fast and easy to use. Just a couple of tricks I've learned using our machine: The first trick is to always cut the tomato in half before running it through the machine, even if the tomato is small. If you don't, they can squirt and splash. (If you don't care about tomato splashes on your ceiling, leave them whole.)

The second trick is to run the stuff through the machine twice instead of once. The second round produces a good amount of pulp, nearly 50% of the first round. You are losing some good flavorsome stuff if you only run it once. I've tried running it through three times, but the third time you get hardly nothing. So twice is good...oh dear, I'm starting to sound like that expert and his non-coated aspirin!

No, I'm not rearranging the same tomatoes all over the kitchen counters. These are more of them:

Instead of throwing all the leftover glop in the trash, I compost it, but rather than end up with one hundred billion tomato seedlings sprouting in the compost or where the compost ends up, I first microwave the glop to kill the seeds before dumping it in the compost.

I conclude by admitting if that expert was talking about Peonies, or Hostas, and if he swore that x number of aspirin, or Advil, or imported French chèvre in the planting hole would enable me to grow Peonies or Hostas in Southern California, I would do it. Because I adore Peonies and Hostas and they don't grow here. I adore Peonies and Hostas. Tomatoes I just eat.

Italian Tomato PressThe $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect GardenVelox Tomato Press / Tomato Strainer - Made in Italy


  1. I read the advice to remove suckers I think in the LA Times and had the same reaction -- how do you tell? I've got tomatoes at my mom's this year and we've had about five so far and are thrilled to pieces. So my slim experience makes you my expert! I'd water standing on one leg to get as many tomatoes as you...

  2. I have one tomato flower. And a knife is easier to clean than a tomato processor thingy. Though if I actually had tomatoes I'd reconsider. 80 degrees is absent this summer, even the basil is short and flowerless. I hail your tomatoes-and who says it's bad to share the crop with the earwigs and other critters? They need to eat too, and there is plenty to go around. Though when it comes to snails and slugs I hope they starve and shrivel up into little grey blobs.


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