28 July 2010

Patio Garden Experiment: Part II

L to R: Green Zebra, Yellow Cherry in bowl,
Yellow Pear, Riesentraube, Roma, Cream Sausage
The other day (as I cut up these beauties from our patio garden) I told my husband that summertime is one of the best times to cook because it's so colorful and fun. It wasn't until we signed up for our first CSA box (with Avalon Acres) that I realized tomatoes came in such wonderful varieties in color, size, and flavor.

Sure, I should have a general knowledge of produce as a California native, but somehow it got lost in all of the modernization of food. If you're in for some great information on how that happened, check out some books by Pollan or my current fave, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

So far our patio garden experiment has proven to be less than ideal. Of course, the potted plants bring the ease of watering and harvesting. It's the productivity that we've been disappointed in, as well as the amount of ants that seem to invade the plants as soon as the fruit begins to ripen. With the amount of rain we've had, the fruit has been cracking. Some crack and mend up (see Green Zebra in the photo), and some crack open to be eaten alive by the ants. These tiny black boogers actually bite!

Yesterday I was harvesting what I could from Sophie's Choice, Arkansas Traveler and Yellow Pear. As I was holding a bunch in my left hand and picking with the right, I suddenly felt little ants biting in between my knuckles. They were obviously upset that I had disturbed their meal. Rarrrrr!

Here's the 4-1-1 on potted tomato & herb production (as far as our patio goes). I'll save seeds and replant the ones in bold:

* Sophie's Choice: short plant ideal for pots, slow to ripen, ideal for ants 
* Cream Sausage (aka Banana Cream): VERY productive, no cracking. 
* Japanese Black Trifele: very productive, sweet and full of water. The ants get them before they turn black.
* Cherokee Purple: little to no production. Seriously disappointing! Native plant that probably wants really badly to be in the ground.
* Arkansas Traveler: strong, sturdy looking plant with only a handful of fruit. Again, the ants love it.
* Green Zebra: not much fruit, but the cracked skin mends itself better than the others. We'll give it another try next year.
* Riesentraube: decent production, but not necessarily prolific. Great fruit, hardy skin and tasty.
* Yellow Pear: ridiculously productive! Even with the cracking and ants it produced enough for us all to enjoy. 
* Sweet Genovese Basil: who doesn't use fresh Genovese in just about everything, all summer?
* Lime Basil (our new FAVORITE!!): a definite YES to this plant. Amazing flavor, aroma and growth!

Grilled Free-Range Chicken with Fresh Garden Tomatoes & Lime Basil Salad
I'll let you know how the saving of the seeds goes. Something else I need to learn and grow with! Exciting.