Reviving the Garden: Tomato Victory
by Celia Hayes
The curse on growing tomatoes in my garden has definitely been lifted: we have ripe red tomatoes on the vine, and promising clusters of green ones – and although they are not all very large, they are tasty. So the Topsy-Turvys do the trick as promised; even if they haven’t resulted in simply bushel-baskets of tomatoes, they have indeed tomatoes, which is about three steps farther than I have ever been able to go before. Next spring we will try out some of those heirloom varieties, and if my daughter, the queen of all garage sales, manages to score a few more Topsys at marked-down rates, we’ll soon have so many suspended from the tree in the back yard that it will be more than your life is worth to walk out there in a stiff wind without a hard-hat. Just consider it the marvelous hanging gardens of Spring Creek Forest, one of the seven wonders of suburbia.
The Cayenne peppers are bountiful and some of them are just beginning to turn red. I expect that when they are ready, I will pick and dry them, and turn them into pepper flakes, or pepper powder, which will keep us stocked for the foreseeable future, since that is one of those things that get used rather sparingly. My grandmother had a little tin box of Ben Hur brand cayenne pepper which lasted her forty years; no, she was not the most adventurous cook in the world. There are some bell peppers also coming up to ripening too, although the biggest is so heavy and the stem of the plant bearing it is in danger of toppling under the weight.
In other garden news, the two butterfly and humming-bird Topsys are thriving; the plants in them are, although since they are hanging in direct sunlight, the plasticized fabric they are constructed from is fading entirely. At some point, we might have to move the plants in them to the ground, if the sun disintegrates the fabric entirely. The plants that I bought in Wimberly at the beginning of summer are all doing extraordinarily well, especially the vine-thingy which is well on it’s way to taking over the trellis, and the pink-leafed potos which is . . . well, in the pink.
We hit the SA Herb Market two Saturdays ago, and added some more replacements for what was killed by last winter’s brutal cold snap: a pot of parsley, which is something I always like to have on hand, ditto some patchouli, a scented geranium . . . and a pot of sorrel, which I always used to have luck with, since I liked to make this particular dish with it.
This is from Sunset’s French Cookbook: Roast Chicken with Sorrel Stuffing
Clean and pat dry one 3-4 pound whole chicken, reserving liver, which should be chopped and sautéed in 3 Tbsp butter for about 2 minutes. Remove liver, and add 2 Tbsp minced shallots or green onions, and ¼ pound sliced mushrooms. When mushrooms are limp and lightly browned, add ¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs, ¼ cup whipping cream, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp each salt and basil, and ¼ tsp each pepper, rubbed sage and thyme. Blend well, remove from heat and add 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley and 2 cups finely chopped sorrel. Fill body cavity of chicken with it, place on a rack in a 375 degree oven. Baste after 20 minutes with melted butter. Bake for about an hour, until leg moves easily when jiggled. Cut into quarters, and serve with stuffing, and pan juices to spoon over.