Death of tomatoes, what’s in the basket

Yesterday my daughter and I pulled up my disease- and bug-ridden tomato plants. The last few tomatoes were cracked and full of fly larvae, and with temperatures over 100 for the last week solid all the blossoms fell. I teared up as I was pulling them out and going over everything I had done wrong this year. Starting with the preparation of the garden beds (I used too much uncomposted yard clippings, which pulled nitrogen from the soil, leaving little for the plants) to overplanting the bed (the tomatoes shaded the peppers out almost completely) this was definitely my trial-and-error season, heavy on the errors. I left the herbs and peppers in place and hope they will start producing better now that they aren’t competing with the huge tomatoes for light and scarce nutrients. Many lessons learned this season. The other bed is still resting under its solarizing plastic.

The 441 market was bustling yesterday morning. We’re nearing the “season of rest” here in North Central Florida. Many gardeners take their break here in late July and August since little produces in the fiercest heat of the year. Soon all that will be found at the market is watermelons, chili peppers and eggplants, with little else in the way of variety. High summer is the challenging season here. Soon the farmers will start their fall planting soon, but until the fall produce starts arriving we’ll find lots of creative things to do with the eggplant.

Yesterday I bought: tiny striped eggplants, cherry tomatoes, large slicing tomatoes, 3 pints of the sweetest rabbiteye blueberries imaginable, the first of the sand pears, garlic chives, fresh thyme and Thai basil, sweet potatoes, huge twining striped cucumbers, red peppers, goat cheese, and a bag of squash blossoms.

I am most excited about the sand pears and the squash blossoms. The squash blossoms are destined for dinner tonight, filled with the locally produced goat cheese, garlic and fresh thyme, and a little rigani from my garden, then lightly battered and fried in olive oil. The sand pears, a local variety of pear I have written about before, will be sliced and simmered lovingly with Florida raw sugar and a whole vanilla bean and a few bruised cardamom pods, to be jarred up for the fridge. The pears are a wonderful topping for anything; I love to spoon them over pancakes with ricotta cheese, or ice cream.

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