Can you guess what fruit we think is essential for any vegetable garden? It is one of the juiciest fruits and is full of flavor, though they aren’t too sweet. They come in a variety of colors from yellow to purple, though usually they are red. If you haven’t guessed, we are thinking of tomatoes!
That is right; technically tomatoes are classified as fruit, though they are obviously used more often in savory dishes and nutritionally they pan out more as a vegetable. However you want to label them, they are delicious and one of the easiest things to grow. Furthermore, if you have ever had a home-grown tomato then you know that there is not much else that can compare to their rich color and burst of flavor. Here are our best tips on how to grow this sought after produce and our favorite recipes that are full of them!
Our Top Tips on Growing Tomatoes
Plant After the last Frost
The most important piece of advice we can give you is to make sure you don’t plant your seedling outside until your area has had its last frost. The handy map below can help you determine when this usually is in your area. For us here in the Ozarks, we can be sure the last frost has come when May rolls around.
Until then, you can start your tomatoes from seeds inside near a window, or you can pick up seedlings at your local nursery after the last frost has come and gone. Some say it is best to let your plants spend a little time outside each day leading up to planting them so that they get used to the temperature.
Make Sure to Plant in Direct Sunlight
Tomatoes are native to South America, so it is no wonder they naturally like it hot! Most varieties do best in full sunlight. Make sure to give them a couple feet of space between each plant and use a tomato cage to allow them to grow tall toward the sun.
Water Every Morning
Tomatoes like their water. It is best to water them in the morning so that they have the moisture they will need to bare the drying sun all day. Spray near the roots, not on the leaves. This is said to prevent disease, strengthen the root system, and to keep sunlight from damaging the leaves.
Harvest when Plump and Rich in Color
Tomatoes can very in color anywhere from orange to dark purple color when they are mature. It is best to become familiar with they type of tomato you have selected to determine what color you should be looking for it to reach. Regardless of the color, every variety of tomato becomes a very rich color when it is ripe and is firm to the touch with just a bit of give.
The very best way to get familiar with when your type of tomatoes are ripe? A good old fashioned taste test will do the trick!
The Best Homegrown Tomato Recipes
Now for the grand finale of growing tomatoes in your garden… eating them! One of the most exciting times of the year is harvesting home grown tomatoes, or seeing them at the farmers market for the first time this season. Now it is time for all the tomato recipes! Here are a few of our favorites.
There are no amount of words that could describe our obsession with a classic BLT sandwich with homegrown tomatoes. Here is the recipe: Toast up 2 slices of your favorite bread (depending on our mood we use anything from white bread to potato bread to 9 grain whole wheat); spread one side of each slice with a generous amount prepared BLT Cheeseball Mix; pile the bread high with slices of your fresh tomato, crispy thick cut bacon, lettuce and if you are like us you won’t be able to resist the addition of thinly sliced red onion. BLTO? Enjoy!
Prepare to impress your garden party guests with this one! Added bonus: this recipe is just as easy as it is beautiful. Follow along our recipe here that shows you how to use a pre-made crust and your gorgeous homegrown produce to create this side dish that will double as a centerpiece.
Tomatoes and Italian seasonings combine perfectly in this simple recipe. This is the perfect appetizer for a summertime cocktail party or big summer family get-together. It is easy to double or even triple the recipe, and trust us it will go fast. To make this dish extra special, drizzle balsamic vinegar reduction over the top of the mixture once it is spooned on to toasted bread.
These stuffed zucchinis are filled with meat and topped with tomatoes and cheese, making them an quick side dish or an easy weeknight meal. We just love how they showcase our fresh tomatoes right on top.
Pretty much that first BLT recipe.. but teeny tiny! These BLT bites use pre-made croutons instead of toast, and we LOVE the ratio of Cheeseball to all the other ingredients. They are flavorful, portable, and adorable. What more could one want?
There is nothing more satisfying than watching something that you have planted and watered every day grow into something beautiful, except then getting to eat it! Growing your own veggies (and fruits) is a great way to spend more time outside, eat more nutritious food, and get the satisfaction of having created something yourself. Let us know how you end up pairing Spring and Summer veggies with Wind & Willow by tagging us on Facebook and Instagram @WindandWillowFoods.