Garden to Kitchen

How-To Tips for Growing and Cooking Your own Produce

Garden to Kitchen

Creating connections between your kitchen and garden can be so rewarding. From having a convenient source of herbs and produce to getting exercise to enjoying nature, there are so many benefits to gardening with edible plants. Each month, the Poe Center’s expert health educators post how-to instructions for growing and maintaining edible plants and how to use them in the kitchen.

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Meet the Authors

Anna Glasgow


Read Anna’s bio

Quinn Griffin


Read Quinn’s bio

Herb Gardens

Growing herbs is a rewarding way to garden. They thrive indoors and outdoors, are fairly pest free, and are low maintenance.

If you don’t have an herb garden, follow this link for steps to make a simple herb garden at home with the whole family.

Tips for Your Herb Garden:

  • Herbs love sunlight. Put them by your sunniest window if indoors or in your sunniest location outside (often on the South-facing side of your building). Herbs prefer 6-8 hours of sunlight and 8 inches of well-drained soil.
  • Cut back or prune your herbs regularly. Cut the longest stems with scissors regularly even if you don’t plan to use them right away. This will encourage the plant to grow more. Just be sure to leave at least one third of the plant intact at all times. Basil especially loves to be cut regularly! Live clippings can be put in a glass of water or in a ziplock in the fridge for a few days before adding them to a recipe.
  • Water your herbs slowly each week. It is actually possible to water too much or too fast! If you water too quickly, the water can drain straight through the soil before roots can absorb enough. Herbs like for the soil to dry out some before the next watering. If you touch the soil and it is damp, wait a day or two. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Feed your herbs with an organic fish or seaweed based fertilizer if they look alive but unhappy.

Be sure to enjoy your herbs, use them in a recipe like this Kale Pesto recipe.

 


Additional Resource:

Culinary Herbs Are Easy to Grow

As daily temperatures and sunlight decrease you may be wondering if your herbs will survive. With the right care, many of them can!

Tips to Help Herbs Survive Fall and Winter:

If your herbs are indoors…

  • Keep them indoors in a nice sunny spot. The best growing temperature is 60-70F. If an extra cold night is predicted, pull your herbs away from the window about 6 inches to keep them cozy. It’s also a good idea to move herbs away from any heat vents to avoid drying out.

If your herbs are outdoors, a few options are…

  • Dig them up and bring them inside. You can do this in stages. Transfer your herbs to pots, water well, leave the pots outside in partial shade for 1-2 weeks, and then bring them in. This is especially recommended for your parsley.
  • Leave cold-tolerant herbs outside and winterize. A layer of organic mulch 2-3 inches thick around the base of the plant will help protect the roots from cold damage. In the spring, you should see new growth emerge. This technique works well for chives, oregano, and thyme but will not work for tender annuals like basil.
  • Take cuttings and root them indoors. Herbs like basil, rosemary, and lavender can grow roots easily from clippings.
    • Cut at a node (where leaves attach to the stem) around 4-6 inches from the top of the plant.
    • Remove lower leaves. Place in water.
    • After a few weeks, roots should appear, and it’s ready to be planted in a pot with soil.

Parsley is so delicious that sometimes black swallowtail caterpillars eat it down to the stems in a matter of days. Amazingly, parsley can recover. Harvest and enjoy when the plant looks lush again.

Try this delicious recipe for Parsley Puree. Use it as a dipping sauce, spread on sandwiches, or drizzle on top of a protein!

 


Sources:

NC State Extension Publications – Winterizing the Herb Garden

Illinois Extension – Herbs All Winter: Grow Them Indoors

You may find that chives are the last herb standing in your herb garden. This is because chives are surprisingly tough. They are cold and drought tolerant.

Read below for more fun facts, tips, and uses for chives.

Chives Facts:

  • Chives are a perennial herb meaning they come back year after year.
  • Chives are in the onion family. They grow from underground bulbs in clumps.
  • Chives have long hollow leaves and produce edible purple flowers in the spring. You can eat the whole plant!
  • Eating chives can help improve heart and bone health, as well as boost your immune system.

Chives Tips:

  • How to harvest – regularly cut leaves 1-2 inches from the base.
  • How to store – best when fresh, but store in a ziplock back in the fridge or freezer to make them last longer.
  • How to divide – in the spring, dig down to the bulbs of your outdoor chive plant and pull a clump of 10+ bulbs away from the group. Plant this bunch in a new spot. Repeat every 2-3 years.

Chive Uses:

  • Create a chive border outside – divide chives over the years and transplant along the edge of a garden bed. The border will be edible, beautiful, and may even deter some pests.
  • Clip chive flowers in the spring to make a lovely bouquet.
  • Experiment with chives in fun recipes like these:

Sources:

Almanac – Chives

Nutrition and You – Chives Nutrition Facts

University of Illinois Extension – Herb Gardening: Chives

Kids Do Gardening – Growing Chives

GrowVeg – How to Harvest Chives All Year Round

Rosemary is an evergreen herb originally from the Mediterranean. It is deer resistant, drought resistant, and delicious all year.

Read below for more about the planting, maintenance, and uses of rosemary.

Rosemary Growing Tips:

  • Start from Cuttings:
    • Clip stems 4-6 inches from the top of the plant.
    • Remove the lower leaves.
    • Place the stems in a jar of water on a windowsill.
    • Wait 4-8 weeks for the roots to grow.
    • Plant in a potting soil/sand mixture.
    • Transplant outdoors once you see new growth and after the last spring frost.
  • Where to plant:
    • Full sun – Rosemary thrives in 6+ hours of sunlight a day.
    • Well-draining soil – Plant uphill or on a mounded area if possible. Avoid heavy clay and low-lying areas where water pools.
    • Plenty of space – Rosemary can grow to a 4 foot tall 4 foot wide shrub.
  • Harvesting/Pruning:
    • Rosemary can be harvested at all times of the year, but is best after new growth in the spring.
    • For ideal flavor, harvest from the tips just before flowering when the oils peak. Harvesting in the morning after the dew dries but before midday heat also enhances flavor.
    • Feel free to prune (cut back) severely after the blooms fade. This will encourage dense growth and allow you to shape the shrub.
    • When pruning, always leave at least one third of the plant for photosynthesis purposes.

The Many Uses of Rosemary:

Nutritional Benefits of Rosemary:

Rosemary is high in antioxidants and can help boost the immune system. Even smelling rosemary can help reduce stress!

Storage:

  • Store fresh rosemary in a glass of water or loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.
  • Dry rosemary by hanging several sprigs upside down in a cool, dry place with adequate airflow for several days. Once rosemary has dried, store in an airtight container for later use.

Recipe:

  • Rosemary compliments most meats and poultry, along with roasted vegetables and stews. It pairs well with garlic and oregano.
  • Rosemary can be used dried or fresh in many recipes thanks to its bright but earthy flavor.
  • Tip: Make rosemary-infused olive oil by adding a sprig of rosemary to a jar of olive oil.
  • Try rosemary with this recipe for Chicken, Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Hash.

Sources:

North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox – Salvia rosmarinus

Almanac – Rosemary

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension – Rosemary: Its Flavor Makes It Indispensable for Every Kitchen

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

This more sensitive annual herb gives us edible leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds. Did you know that cilantro and coriander are the same plant? “Cilantro” refers to the leaves and stems whereas “coriander” refers to the seeds. Both pack a unique flavor and are used in kitchens around the world.

How to Grow:

  • Start from seed: Cilantro is a cool season crop preferring 50-85F. Plant seeds outside from Feb-Mar for a spring harvest and in late Sept for a fall harvest (Central and Eastern NC). Space the seeds 2-4 inches apart in a sunny, well-draining location. Water regularly.

Plant Part Tips:

  • Lower Leaves: the outer lower leaves are most flavorful and best used fresh in recipes. Cut stems that are 4-6 inches long near the base of the plant just before mealtime. Removing these older leaves encourages the plant to “stay young” by focusing energy on new leaves.
  • Upper Leaves: You may notice thin fern-like leaves starting to grow as the weather warms. Your plant wants to bolt upwards to produce flowers. Avoid bolting as long as possible by cutting out these leaves at their base. They are also edible but more bitter.
  • Flowers: When your cilantro eventually bolts, it is okay and even a good thing. The white to pink flowers attract beneficial insects like butterflies and predatory hoverflies. The flowers can also replace leaves in a recipe for a more mild flavor.
  • Seeds (a.k.a. Coriander): If you’d like to harvest the seeds, be sure to allow flowering and pollination. When the seed heads look brown, cut them off, hang upside-down in a paper bag in a cool dry place, and let the bag catch mature seeds as they fall. After fully dried out, store your coriander seeds in an airtight container.

How to use fresh cilantro:

Cilantro makes an excellent addition to many dishes thanks to its fresh and vibrant flavor. It can be finely chopped and incorporated into mixed dishes, or sprinkled on top for added flavor as a garnish.

How to prepare cilantro:

  • Thoroughly rinse the cilantro stems and pat dry with a towel. Allow cilantro to completely dry before using.
  • Cilantro leaves provide the most flavor. Remove the leaves by picking them off the stem. Young children can help with this easy kitchen task. Alternatively, you can cut the leaves off the top of the cilantro bunch in one chop, and remove the stems by hand.
  • Next, chop the cilantro to your liking. Bunch leaves together in a pile and roughly chop for a garnish or topping. Finely chop if incorporated into a mixed dish like salsa or sauce.
  • Want to use the stems and the leaves? Turn the cilantro into a pesto or sauce (see recipe below) to use both the leaves and stem.

How to store fresh cilantro:

  • Place fresh cilantro stems in a glass of water. Cover the leaves with plastic wrap or a bag to keep them fresh. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Store already chopped cilantro leaves in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container to absorb extra moisture. Change out the paper towel every few days to keep chopped cilantro fresh. Make sure that cilantro is fully dry before storing. Cilantro leaves may turn brown and soggy if stored wet.
  • Have lots of leftover cilantro? Mix chopped cilantro leaves with some water or oil and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze cilantro cubes and add to cooked dishes for extra flavor, year round.

Recipes:

1. Use freshly chopped cilantro in this Poe Center recipe, Peach-Mango Salsa.

Ingredients:

    • 1 mango
    • 2 medium peaches
    • 1 jalapeno (seeds removed)
    • ½ bunch cilantro
    • 1 red bell pepper
    • 1 medium tomato
    • 1 lime
    • ½ red onion
    • 1 clove garlic
    • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

    • Dice mango, peaches, bell pepper, tomato, and red onion into uniform pieces. Combine into a medium sized bowl, including any juices as a result of chopping.
    • Finely chop jalapeno and cilantro. Mince garlic. Add into the bowl and stir until combined.
    • Squeeze the juice from 1 lime into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste preference. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    • Note: you can adjust the flavors of this recipe by adding more garlic, onion, cilantro, or jalapeno depending on your preference.

2. Try out coriander in this Roasted Falafel Chickpea recipe.

3. Use both the cilantro leaves and stem in this Cilantro-Herb Pesto.


Sources:

MasterClass – How to Plant Cilantro

North Carolina State University: NCSU Edibles – Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

This month, Poe’s Garden to Kitchen highlights Richardson Herbal Farm in Bladen County, NC. We spoke with lead farmer Linda Tyndall to get her insights on growing herbs.

At her family farm, Tyndall grows a variety of herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage, camomile, mint, and mullein. In addition to herbs, they also grow produce and have a growing beehive. Containers, box gardens, and repurposed old tires are used to create garden beds.

Tyndall makes tinctures, soaps, and teas from the herbs she grows and sells them on-site at her farm and at the Robeson County Farmers’ Market. She also travels to the Black Farmers’ Market in Raleigh and Durham.

Herbal farming has been instrumental in Tyndall’s life since birth. She grew up on a farm, and her family always used herbal remedies for illness. Tyndall believes that everyone has natural and spiritual connections to plants. This connection drives her passion to share her gifts with the community.

Richardson Herbal Farms has generously provided community members with extra produce during the pandemic. Additionally, they plan to do community outreach and workshops in the near future. Tyndall would like to continue helping people from the inside out to become whole, and encourage youth to recognize that food helps healing.

Favorite Herb: Mullein
Tyndall favors mullein because it has small, fuzzy hairs that are similar to the cilia in our airways. This herb is traditionally used to support the respiratory system.

Tips on Herbs/Favorite Recipes:
Tyndall’s favorite way to eat herbs is to mix fresh herbs into salads for added flavor. She loves mixing cilantro, basil, sage, and oregano together in salads.

For more information on how you can purchase items from Richardson Herbal Farms, e-mail [email protected].


Guest Author: Catherine Wills, Assistant Garden Specialist

Farmers Market Kickoff

produce displayed at farmers marketGet ready to get local! Many farmers markets around the state kickoff their produce-selling season in April or May. Other year-round markets tend to increase their hours during these months to accommodate more farmers and larger harvests.

Why choose the farmers market over the grocery store?

  • Health Benefits: The fruits, veggies, meats, and many other goods that are often available at farmers markets tend to stay fresh longer because they have not had to travel as far. Fresh local foods are often more colorful, more delicious, more nutritious, and are not loaded with preservatives. This makes these foods better for your health and the environment.
  • Better Deals: You often can get more bang for your buck at farmers markets. In times of plenty, small-scale farmers need to sell their product directly to individuals because they lack large-scale distribution ability. This means, in-season high-quality produce can cost less than its supermarket equivalent.
    • Double EBT Dollars: An increasing number of markets are accepting, matching, and even doubling EBT dollars. For example, spend $5 of EBT and get $10 worth of food. Find which markets take EBT.
    • WIC & Seniors Coupons: The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FNMP) is also issuing coupons to eligible low-income participants to increase access to locally grown products. Learn more about WIC coupons and Senior coupons.
  • Family Fun: Farmers markets tend to be a lively community event bringing people of all ages together. You can enjoy live music, playgrounds, arts and crafts, and grassy patches for picnicking. Take the whole family and make a day of it.

What’s at the market now?

lady in hat holding greens at farmers marketRight now at your local farmers market you will find collards, spinach, herbs, sweet potatoes, peanuts, asparagus, and other cold season crops. Use this chart to see what will be in season for each month. For example, strawberries are just a month away and will be available in mid-April. Beyond fruits and vegetables, you can also purchase locally sourced honey, eggs, meats, brews, baked goods, jewelry, dog treats, flowers, soaps, and so much more. Most market websites give you a good idea of what’s available through a list of vendors.

What is a CSA? Should I join?

CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. Some farms at the market offer CSA membership options in which you pay a certain amount regularly and get a pre-packed box of produce on a weekly or monthly basis. This is a great way to simplify shopping, save money, try new recipes, and help sustain small-scale farms. Some even offer delivery options. Check out your market website or talk to farmers directly on market day to learn more.

Find a Market Near You

Download the Visit NC Farms app to locate nearby farms, markets, fisheries, and activities for the whole family.

Colorful tomatoes shot from aboveIt’s Tomato Time

Get excited for tomato season, it’s just around the corner. Tomatoes are one of the most popular summer crops amongst NC gardeners. They are fun to grow, highly productive, and diverse in size, color, and taste. Now is a great time to prepare your planting site and choose the tomato varieties that will best suit the needs of your family.

Tomato Plant Preferences:

    • 70-80°F daytime temps
    • Full sun (6+ hours of direct sunlight)
    • Well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5-7.0
    • 2 inches of water per square foot each week
    • Generous spacing for airflow
    • Physical supports

Site Prep:

Tomatoes do well in traditional garden beds, raised beds, and containers. Choose the sunniest spot near a water source, and if possible, conduct a soil test to determine soil pH. Add lime to raise the pH of your soil as needed. 

Two weeks before planting, most gardens will benefit from 1-2 inches of compost incorporated into the top 6 inches of soil. When able, grow tomatoes where members of the nightshade family (tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato) have not grown in the last 3 years. This will help reduce soil-borne tomato disease and pest issues.

Planting

Home gardening concept. Watering tomato seedlings. While you can start tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting, most gardeners prefer to buy transplants from a nursery and plant them directly outside after the danger of frost. This ideal planting time will be mid-April for Eastern/Central, NC and May for Western, NC. 

Planting Tips:

    • Space plants 2-3 feet apart depending on variety. Airflow reduces disease.
    • Bury tomato plants up to their first leaves. Roots grow from the buried stem, which creates a stronger base. If you don’t have enough depth, dig a 4 inch trench and cover the stem sideways.
    • Place tomato cages or stakes in the soil at the time you plant. This will keep the fruit off the ground, and is much easier to do at the start.
    • Water generously, aiming for the roots and avoiding the leaves.

Tomato Varieties:

There are thousands of tomato types to choose from. It can feel overwhelming so start by trying 3-5 varieties that do well in NC, and that are different in size and growth style. This diversity will provide an ongoing harvest and more recipe options. Below are a few favorites.

    • Sungold Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet, orange, bear many small fruits early and all season. Great for kids and salads.
    • Cherokee Purple: Heirloom, large, rich sweet flavor, dusky purple-pink. Great in caprese.
    • Red Brandywine: Large, beefsteak shape, red, meaty, juicy. Great for sandwich slices.
    • Dwarf Blazing Beauty: Shorter plant, medium size fruit, orange, a bit tart. Nice for smaller gardens or pots.
    • Lemon Boy Hybrid: Mild flavor, yellow, medium size fruit, thrives in the ground.
    • Better Bush: Strong, compact plant, medium size fruit, red. Great for containers.

Learn more about tomato varieties and return next month to learn about tomato plant maintenance, pests, and companion plants.

To the Kitchen:

Tomatoes make the perfect summertime kitchen companion. They complement a variety of other summer herbs and vegetables, and can be added into any cuisine. Freshly grown tomatoes picked ripe off the vine offer a burst of flavor for your summer kitchen. Thanks to the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes have a bright red color and help protect the body against both heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes are also full of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

Try your freshly grown tomatoes in these delicious recipes:

Confetti Orzo Salad:                     Greek Salad Kabobs:

                        Greek Salad Kabobs

 


Sources:

Tomato Factsheet – Clemson Cooperative Extension

What Are the Best Tomato Varieties – NC Cooperative Extension

Tomatoes – Almanac

Tomato Maintenance, Problems, & Companions

Here in the South, tomatoes feel right at home in the warmth of the summer. With this extended heat and humidity, tomato-loving insects, diseases, and other growing challenges are likely to emerge. Do not fret, the benefits of tomatoes far outweigh the challenges. Below you can learn simple ways to set your plants up for success and mitigate common tomato problems.

If you are just getting started with tomato-planting, be sure to first read our April 2022 post about preparing your planting site and choosing tomato varieties.

Support:

Close up staking of green tomatoes by farmer

Physically supporting your tomato plants in an upright position maximizes sun exposure, fruit yield, and airflow. Increasing airflow is one of the most effective ways to reduce disease and pests. Plus, tomatoes are vines that need to climb. Set up supports as soon as possible after planting. You can use wood stakes, tall wire cages, steel remesh sheets arranged in a cylinder, a nearby fence for draping, or even a deck railing. Use soft string or strips of old cloth to attach tomato stems to the rigid supports. These flex with growth and prevent damage to stems.

Pruning:

There are many reasons to prune, or strategically remove branches, as your tomato plant grows. This practice will improve airflow, reduce humidity, decrease disease problems, help encourage flower/fruit growth, and can help produce larger fruit.

Pruning Tips:

  • Find out if your tomato variety is determinant or indeterminant.
    • Indeterminate vining varieties (that keep growing) should be pruned all season.
    • Determinant bush or dwarf varieties (that stop growing after fruiting) should be pruned sparingly if at all.
  • When cutting out branches, aim to maintain 1-3 main stems. Enjoy the following energy experiment:
    • One main stem will make less, but larger tomatoes.
    • Three main stems will make more, but smaller tomatoes.Gardener pinching off the suckers on tomato plant. Organic gardening, healthy, homegrown food, self-supply concept.
  • Cut out “suckers” (small shoots growing between the main stem and a branch) when they are 4 inches or less.
  • Once 4 feet tall, remove the lowest 12 inches of leafy branches to decrease soil-borne diseases from splashing up during a rain.
  • Prune in a way that keeps tomato fruit in the shade of its leaves. Sudden sun exposure can cause sun scald.

View tomato pruning in action:

Watering:

Water regularly and evenly throughout the season but especially during drought periods. This helps reduce your tomato fruit from splitting open, called growth cracks. The best time to water is in the morning as the plant is gearing up for a day of photosynthesis. Be sure to aim watering towards the roots and not the leaves to reduce disease issues. A great way to retain moisture and decrease soil splash is to add 2-4 inches of organic mulch around the base of the plant.

Pests and Problems:

Tomato diseases and pests are quite numerous, but do not let this deter you. Many varieties have been made resistant to common infections. Additionally, a lot of tomato types grow aggressively enough to outpace tomato troubles. Despite diseases and pests, growing tomatoes are a worthwhile experience.

Below are some common tomato pests and problems in North Carolina and what to do about them:

  • Aphids: Tiny, pear-shaped, green/pink insects. They pierce and suck sap, and can spread viral diseases. 
    • Water punch them off with the jet stream setting on your hose nozzle.
    • Spray an environmentally safe insecticidal soap (such as diluted Dr. Bronner Pure Castile Soap) directly onto the leaves with aphids.
  • Tomato hornworm: Two inch green caterpillars with diagonal white stripes and a horn-like structure. They eat tomato leaves.
    • Hand pick them off unless it has white cocoons on its back.
    • A Tomato Hornworm with wasp eggs. A wasp has injected her eggs into this hornworm. When the eggs hatch into larvae, the caterpillar will be eaten.If it has white cocoons, leave it on your tomato plant! These are the pupae of the beneficial Braconid wasps that will not sting unless abused. The wasps will emerge and help control the next generation of hornworms.
  • Bacterial wilt (aka. Southern bacterial blight): Caused by soil-borne bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum that thrives in hot, moist conditions. It enters through microscopic wounds and causes rapid wilt and decline.
    • Remove infected plants immediately. Discard in a garbage bag to reduce spread.
    • Practice crop rotation by planting non susceptible crops like corn, beans, or cabbage. 
  • Blossom-end rot: The fruit has a brown decayed area opposite the stem. It’s caused by a lack of calcium in the soil often due to uneven watering.
    • Leaf sprays with calcium nitrate can restore calcium. Always follow the label.
    • Easy to prevent next year by following lime/fertilizer recommendations from a soil sample well before planting.

Here are a few resources to help troubleshoot other tomato diseases and pests.

Companion Plants:

Companion planting is a fun way to garden. These are plants that are beneficial to grow together. Consider planting some of these tomato companions for the benefits they bring to your garden and kitchen.

Companion Planting with plants that compliment one another

  • Garlic, onion, chives: Repel some pests like aphids.
  • Basil: May improve tomato yield. Compliments tomatoes in recipes.
  • Peas: Legumes which add nitrogen back to soil.
  • Lettuce: Acts as living mulch keeping soil cool and moist for tomatoes.
  • Carrots: Loosen soil for tomato roots.
  • Cucumber: Has similar soil, water, and sunlight needs. Fill in well along the ground under tomato plants.

To the Kitchen:

Want to try eating your tomatoes before they are fully ripe? Try tasting green tomatoes. Green tomatoes are not fully ripe yet, and are pale green in color. They taste more tart than ripe tomatoes, and can be ripened in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter. Try out green tomatoes with the following recipe.

Crunchy Baked Green Tomatoes:

Ingredients:

  • 4 large firm green tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cup bread crumbs
  • Cooking spray or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Slice tomatoes ⅛ inch thick. On a large plate mix flour, salt, and pepper. Place yogurt and buttermilk on a second plate, and Panko Bread Crumbs on a third plate. Coat tomatoes with the flour mixture, then the yogurt – buttermilk mixture (you may want to put the yogurt in a small bowl so that dipping them is easier), then the Panko bread crumbs.
  2. Place coated tomatoes on a cookie sheet and spray with Pam cooking spray liberally on both sides or drizzle them on both sides with olive oil. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 7 minutes on one side then flip them over and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with extra salt and serve warm.

Want more recipes or to learn more about green tomatoes? Check out this link from NC Cooperative Extension.

 


Sources:

N.C. Cooperative Extension – Pruning for Healthier, More Productive Tomatoes

Almanac – Tomatoes

University of Florida IFAS Extension – Organic Vegetable Gardening Companion Planting

Tomato Harvest and Uses

Different tomatoes in baskets near the greenhouse. Harvesting tomatoes in a greenhouse. Home grown tomatoes outdoor.

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) range in color from yellow and red to purple when fully ripe. They originate from western South America and have been spread worldwide with Spanish colonization. Read below to learn about harvesting, cooking, and storing tomatoes.

Harvesting Tips:

  • Adult Woman Holding Tomatoes PlantBe ready! Tomatoes can be harvested mid to late summer, sometimes on a daily basis, depending on the variety.
  • Harvest individual tomatoes right away once they are fully ripe to achieve ideal flavor and to beat any pests that might enjoy your ripe tomato.
  • The best tomato quality results from temperatures averaging around 75°F. Harvest every 1-2 days when air temps hit 90°F. Extreme heat softens the fruit and diminishes flavor.
  • If you have trouble staying ahead of the heat and/or pests, try harvesting tomatoes when they have just a touch of color, and allow them to continue ripening indoors.
  • If a killing freeze is expected, harvest all tomatoes (greens included) and bring inside to continue ripening.
  • Store freshly harvested unwashed tomatoes on the counter around 60-70°F and watch them ripen.
  • Learn 4 indoor ripening strategies that include the bag, box, window sill, and upside down methods.

Warning: The leaves, stems, and green unripe fruits contain small amounts of toxin alkaloids known as tomatine and solanine. The tomato plants are toxic to dogs if a significant amount of the fruits or foliage are eaten.

Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes:

Tomatoes are delicious and nutritious. In addition to keeping you hydrated, just one tomato can provide 57% of your daily vitamin C, 25% of your daily vitamin A, and 8% of your daily iron.

Storage:

  • Fresh: Tomatoes can be stored fresh on the counter, out of the sun. Refrigerating them will change the texture and the flavor.
  • Frozen: Fresh tomatoes can be frozen if you have extras. Core tomatoes and put them in a freezer bag or container. Remove air, seal, label, and freeze. Pull them out of the freezer in the dead of winter for a fresh summer flavor! The skins will slip right off when they thaw, and they are great for sauces and soups.
  • Canned: Tomatoes are also a great candidate for being canned. Make sure to use fresh tomatoes, sterilized materials, a clean kitchen, and always follow a canning recipe from a reliable source.
  • Resources for Home Preserving Tomatoes.

Chopping Tips:

Tomatoes have a very slick skin and require a very sharp knife for slicing or dicing. A serrated knife is also a great option. Grip your knife with your dominant hand. Your palm should be on the handle of the knife, and your thumb and index finger should hold the top of the blade.


Your helping hand will stabilize the tomato, using the “bear claw” method to keep your fingers safe. Move the knife slowly in a rocking motion.

Slice vs. Dice:

  • Slicing a tomato works best with a very sharp knife or a serrated knife. Wash and dry the tomato, first. Then, place it on a clean cutting board. Use your helping hand to hold the tomato firmly and your dominant hand to firmly hold your knife and gently cut off the top of the tomato. Continue slicing the tomato, each time parallel to the last slice.
  • If you need your tomatoes diced, stack a few slices on top of each other and make parallel cuts in one direction first, and then the other.

Professional chef slicing roma tomato on white background

Recipes:

Greek Salad Kabobs:

Try these fun kabobs as an afternoon snack or a compliment to go with your dinner. These are great for getting kids involved.

 

Tortellini Salad:

Nothing pairs better than pasta and tomatoes. This salad makes a perfect side dish, and with the addition of cheese and/or beans it can be a great main dish too.

 

 


Sources:

N.C. Cooperative Extension – Solanum lycopersicum

Almanac – Tomatoes

Chop Chop Family

University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow – Tomato

Farmers’ Almanac – 4 Easy Ways To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

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For more helpful tips and information on gardening and nutrition, follow The Poe Center’s weekly tweet series, #PoeFit.

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