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We Are Serious About Homegrown Tomatoes!

Every year at Raincatcher’s Garden we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes.  Not so last year. Not enough water and too much fertilizer caused the problem. Well, we are not going to duplicate that this year.

Jeff Raska, our horticulture program assistant, has put the “R” back in our Research, Education, and Demo title. We are embarking on tomato trials with the goal of higher and better tomato production. Jeff reminds us that his tomato plants at his home produce 40 pounds of tomatoes per plant. Ok, Jeff! Game on!

Fertilization Comparison Study 2018

Week 1-March 20, 2018

Celebrity Tomatoes


  • Prepare three raised beds and plant two tomato plants in each. Fertilize each bed with a different fertilizer (compost, organic, chemical) following label directions.
  • Each fertilizer is slow release and requires re-application every eight weeks.
  • Each Tuesday, measure the plant heights and weigh and record any tomatoes that are harvested.

    Syann dutifully measuring tomato plants last year. She has agreed to help with our 2018 study.


Bed #9- Compost

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 cup  Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 16 – 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Bed #1- Organic Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Blood Meal (12-0-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Bed  #2- Chemical Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Tomato & Vegetable (12-10-5)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro,Bold Flowers (15-30-15)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Bold Flowers (15-30-15)


Celebrity tomatoes characteristics: All-American Winner Selection, 7 oz, determinate, harvest 70 days. Tom Wilten calls Celebrity the preeminent mid-sized tomato.


Fertlization Comparison study write up by Jim Dempsey.

Picture by Starla Willis

Ann Lamb

Read up on tomatoes by using our search box. We have recipes, growing tips, and advice to produce tons of tomatoes.



Tomatoes For Dessert!

Green Tomato Brown Betty

Green Tomato Brown Betty


2 cups crumbs (graham cracker, whole wheat cracker or cookie crumbs)

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

3 pounds (approximately 3½ cups) unripe green tomatoes, thinly sliced

¾ cup raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

1¼ cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ cup apple juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and melted butter. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, raisins, lemon juice, sugar and spices together.
  3. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Spread a third of the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom. Spread half of the tomato mixture on top of the crumbs. Sprinkle with half the apple juice. Cover with another third of the crumb mixture, followed by the remaining tomatoes. Sprinkle with the rest of the apple juice. Finish by covering the tomatoes with the remaining crumb mixture.
  4. Cover and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove the cover. Raise the heat to 400˚ and bake for another 10 minutes or until browned on top. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8

Adapted from TOMATOES: A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool


Tomato Ginger Upside-Down Cake


1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 to 3 ripe tomatoes (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan as you would a pineapple upside-down cake), skinned, seeded and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups brown sugar

½ cup molasses

2½ cups unbleached white flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚.
  2. Combine the melted butter with the ginger and sugar and spread evenly on the bottom of a parchment paper-lined 10×14-inch pan. Cover with tomato slices.
  3. In a mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and molasses. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed butter and sugar. Pour batter over tomatoes in baking pan.
  4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when testing the center of the cake. Remove from the oven, loosen outer edges with a knife and invert onto a platter larger than the baking pan. Let stand at least 5 minutes before trying to remove the pan. Carefully peel back the parchment paper. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8 or more

Adapted from TOMATOES, A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

Recipes and Picture by Linda Alexander

Editing-Lisa Centala

Tomato Sampler Lunch Recipes From August 1, 2017

Cream of Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons


2 pounds large, ripe tomatoes

Olive oil to coat tomatoes

8 shallots

1 small carrot

1 small fennel bulb

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

5 to 6 sprigs fresh tarragon

5 to 6 sprigs fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

Parsley Croutons:

12 thin slices baguette

Olive oil to generously coat both sides of each piece of baguette

3 cloves garlic, cut in half

½ cup Teleme cheese, grated (or use your favorite semi-soft cheese, such as Brie, Havarti, Monterrey Jack or Port Salut)

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚. Cut tomatoes in half, seed them and coat with olive oil. Place tomatoes on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until the skins begin to darken and blister. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove the skins and reserve the pulp and all the juices.
  2. Coarsely chop the shallots, carrot and fennel. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté chopped vegetables until they are very soft. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the stock and herbs and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the tomato pulp and reserved tomato juices. Remove the herb sprigs. Puree the soup or run the pulp through a food mill or fine sieve for a smoother soup. Season with salt and pepper and extra herbs, if desired. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Lower the oven to 400˚. To make the parsley croutons, brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Rub one side of baguette with garlic. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley and bake until brown.
  4. Add the cream to the soup if desired and heat until warm. Ladle soup into warm bowls and float 3 parsley croutons on top of each.

Serves 4

Adapted from TOMATOES, A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool


Summer Cherry Tomato Dressing

Summer Cherry Tomato Dressing


8 ounces small cherry or other tiny tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons drained, oil-packed sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons drained capers, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir gently to combine. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes) to let the flavors mingle and to let the tomatoes marinate some. Stir gently before serving over fresh green salad. May also be refrigerated overnight.

Yield: About 1 ¼ cups

Adapted from Edible Dallas and Fort Worth, Summer 2010

Curried Tomato Pickles

Curried Pickled Tomatoes


2 pounds unripe green tomatoes

2 medium yellow onions

4 to 5 fresh whole red chili peppers

3 to 4 cups seasoned rice wine vinegar

3 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon whole allspice

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon whole cumin


  1. Sterilize 4 or 5 pint-sized jars by boiling in hot water or running them through the dishwasher without detergent.
  2. Cut tomatoes into wedges. Cut the onions into wedges approximately the same size as the tomatoes. Alternate layers of the onions and the tomatoes in the sterilized jars. Place 1 chili pepper in each jar.
  3. In a large, nonreactive pot, bring all the remaining ingredients to a boil for 5 minutes. Strain and pour evenly over the onions and tomatoes. Let cool.
  4. Add enough liquid to the jars to completely cover the vegetables and reach within ½ inch of the top of the jar. Add more vinegar if more liquid is needed. Cover with the lids and store in the refrigerator. Give them a minimum of a few days before eating. Good for at least 2 months in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 to 5 pints

Adapted from TOMATOES: A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad over Whipped Burrata Cheese 


2 heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

4 yellow pear tomatoes, cut in half

2 ripe peaches, sliced

2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline

12 zucchini spirals, thinly sliced longwise on a mandoline

2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

16 ounces Burrata cheese (may substitute fresh mozzarella and cream for thinning) 


1. Whip Burrata cheese in a food processor until creamy and spreadable.

2. Spread equal amounts of the cheese onto four salad plates, forming a circle.

3. Arrange an even number of tomato wedges, peach slices, radish slices and zucchini spirals on top of the cheese.

4. Sprinkle the pine nuts evenly over each of the four plates. 

Serves 4

Tomato Tart


1 unbaked 10-inch pie crust (boxed, refrigerated type preferred)

Pinch ground nutmeg

1½ pounds Roma tomatoes, thickly sliced

1 rib celery, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped and firmly packed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (½ cup)

1 large tomato, seeded and thinly sliced

Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish


  1. Unroll pie crust and roll out slightly to fit into and up the sides of a 10” tart pan. Gently press into place. Dust with nutmeg and prick bottom with a fork. Place aluminum foil with pie weights or dried beans over pastry. Chill 30 minutes in refrigerator or place in freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425˚. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Continue cooking until crust is golden and dry in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 15 minutes.
  2. Place Roma tomatoes, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and parsley in a large skillet. Drizzle olive oil over top. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. Transfer mixture to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add butter. Process to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer tomato mixture to a medium saucepan or back into the skillet. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in basil. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  3. Preheat oven to 350˚. Add eggs and Parmesan to cooled tomato mixture. Pour tomato mixture into tart crust. Arrange tomato slices over filling. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and filling is firm in the center. Cool 12 to 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish slices with basil and Parmesan.

Serves 8

Adapted from Stop and Smell the Rosemary by Junior League of Houston

Recipes and Pictures by Linda Alexander

Editing by Lisa Centala

More Tomato Recipes Tomorrow!


Tomato Class and Tomato Sampler, Tuesday, August 1st

Growing Fall Tomatoes


There’s still time (just a little…) to get your tomatoes in for a fall crop. Jeff Raska, horticulturalist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and longtime tomato grower, will share his recipe for success with this garden favorite. We will also have a few extra tomato plants available for sale after the class.

Jeff has helped design a tomato trial, which we are implementing at Raincatcher’s. Our volunteers will plant two of the same variety of tomato into each of three raised beds to demonstrate results from different types of fertilizer: compost, organic and chemical.

Raincatcher’s is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the fellowship hall, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south church building.

After the class, we will be hosting a tomato sampler lunch with suggested donations of $10 per person. Details below.

Bring a friend, the public is welcome to either or both events.

Lisa Centala

Tuesday, August 1

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX 75229


“Just-picked, Homegrown and Vine-Ripened”

Welcome to the World of Tomatoes!

Join us at the tasting table immediately following Jeff Raska’s presentation…“Growing Fall Tomatoes”

$10.00 per person suggested donation


Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad over Whipped Burrata Cheese

Summer Cherry Tomato Salad Dressing Tossed with Mixed Greens

Tomato Tart

Curried Pickled Tomatoes

Green Tomato Brown Betty or Tomato Ginger Upside Down Cake

Linda Alexander

Leave a comment on our blog if you have a question!

Spring Is In The Air-Raised Bed Gardening

Good morning, Dallas Garden Buzz readers! If you are a subscriber and receiving emails of Dallas Garden Buzz posts, you can watch our informative videos by clicking on Dallas Garden Buzz at the top of your email. Pictures and videos are better if you go to our actual site rather than staying with the post in your inbox.

For those of you who have not become subscribers, please sign up to follow Dallas Garden Buzz by entering your email in the right hand column at the top of the page. We hope to have two posts a week during spring of 2017.

Recap of Jeff’s advice:

  • Top 12 inches of a raised bed should be a mixture of loamy soil amended with finished compost. We like homemade compost but it can also be purchased at garden centers by the bag or in bulk from companies who make it. Raised bed prepared mix by bag or bulk can also be purchased with compost already included.
  • Bottom portion of your raised bed could be hardwood mulch or even cut logs
  • 1/4 inch galvanized hardware cloth can be placed under the soil to deter unwanted critters from entering the bed by digging under it

What’s growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills?

Garlic, potatoes, onions, spinach, leeks, radish, and mesculun were planted earlier.

Tomato varieties, Black Krim, Celebrity, Sun Gold, and Green Zebra have been planted. We were able to plant them in late February  because of our early spring weather.

Raincathcer’s will also be planting a Three Sisters vegetable bed, Ambroisa melon, okra (of course!) and peppers.

Ann Lamb

Thank you Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.





My Garden Journey

In my first five years as a Dallas County Master Gardener (class of 2011), I have learned and experienced so much from working at our demonstration gardens; however, I had never attempted growing vegetables at home except in pots until this past fall when I saw sunlight streaming in a section of the backyard after a tree had been removed.

So this new adventure began – raised beds were found, plants were purchased and the garden grew – well some of it grew…

Brocolli by StarlaBroccoli and cabbage went in first along with a few herbs, followed by lettuce and arugula in October. I had some success with broccoli, but not so much with the cabbage, lettuce or arugula ( they bolted). Radishes and carrots were planted from seeds. After the first of the year onions were added and then potatoes came and went (I had the wrong soil, so they never sprouted).  There was minimal success with the radishes (not properly thinned), but the carrots – I waited, looking for a glimpse of the carrots(roots)? under the leafy tops — until right before Mother’s day, and then I pulled them. Once again the results were mixed;  I had a range of carrots from 1/4 inch to over 6-7 inches long  and counted 26 of the prettiest multicolored carrots I have ever grown.

Homegrown Carrots

Homegrown Carrots

This summer I’m trying things that we will eat as a family – tomatoes, peas, green beans , peppers. I have a space for cucumbers with hopes to make pickles like my family put up years ago.  My beds are few in number but just right for my learning curve. You can take this journey. it takes some planning, a little time and patience, but is well worth the effort.

Here are a few of the things I’ve gleaned from my raised beds:

  • Gardening with a group of people brings a broader depth of expertise
  • Information—ask questions, listen and apply–repeat.
  • Realize early on that everything won’t go according to plans. Don’t dwell on failures, but learn from them  — water properly, use the correct soil, compost, mulch, weed…
  • Celebrate success, no matter how small–they are victories!
  • Try new things, take notes (my garden journal currently has one entry, several months back, but there is value in the process)
  • Trial and error is another way of learning
  • Share your story, your experience, and the fruit of your labor —
  • Enjoy the adventure!



Tomatoes and North Texas

In selecting varieties of tomatoes for North Texas, the most important criterion to consider is the one in the trade called, “Early Season”. The less time required for maturation the better, because the extreme heat of our summers for tomatoes is like falling off a cliff.

Tomato varieties can also be described as being either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate varieties have the characteristic of reaching a point during their maturation at which most of the bearing of fruit occurs within a short time.  Indeterminate is just the opposite, where bearing occurs on a more gradual and sustained basis.

Indeterminate varieties that perform best here are mostly the smaller sized varieties. These can bear fairly prolifically even in mid-summer.  My own personal preference is for this class of tomatoes.  They are just the right size for popping into the mouth.  A usual day in my life finds me eating them every morning and about half the time that evening.

Tomato" Yellow Pear" an indeterminate variety

Tomato” Yellow Pear” an indeterminate variety

Larger sized tomatoes that perform best are the mid-sized varieties. The most popular 8- 12 oz. tomato for many years has been the determinant variety, Celebrity.  Its sister, Carnival is good also.  A typical year will find this variety bearing typically most heavily from early June to early July.

The largest fruited varieties require too long to mature, where anything past 65 days is marginal. The large fruited varieties also are susceptible to splitting and sun scald.  These do not appreciably affect the taste but certainly do affect the esthetic qualities of the fruit.

Celebrity Tomato Ripening on the Vine

Celebrity Tomato Ripening on the Vine

Perusing the catalog, “Tomato Growers Supply Company”, there are listed 16 varieties of Early Season varieties, many from which to choose.

Over the years, varieties come and go. Some are described as being highly heat resistant, but I would be wary of accepting that description as being accurate.  I would recommend acquiring a tomato catalog along with using my advice in choosing your selection(s).  Celebrity remains the preeminent mid-sized tomato.

Tom Wilten

Pictures by Starla




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