The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part,
Every day you get one more yard,
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart,
The waiting is the hardest part.
Tom Petty

For the past month or so I’ve partook in the excruciating exercise of watching my tomatoes ripen. The unseasonably cool temps in my area have not helped! Little by little, they are shifting to yellow. Two I would label pale orange. But none are ready to pick.

My pain is exacerbated by the fact that the tomatoes stand in our front yard, in the very sunniest spot possible, behind my garden that borders the sidewalk and in front of my garden along our house foundation. I can’t help but look at them several times a day. They look awkward, block the view of my finally-completed foundation planting and detract from my flowers. This is by no means “edible landscaping” at its finest. To be totally honest ,I can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen just so I can compost the plants!

You may recall this is a side-by-side comparison of the MightyMato grafted plant and the non-grafted just plain ol’ ‘Big Beef’ tomato. At this stage in the game I can’t tell any noticeable difference between the two. I would say they’re both doing well. They haven’t really come up against any challenges—no pests, I kept them watered, I pruned them according to our resident veg expert Peter Garnham’s suggestions. So I can’t really say if the MightyMato lives up to its billing as more disease and drought resistant. It does have a few more fruits and seems a smidge larger and sturdier.

As I wait for them to ripen, I’ve been thinking of ways to use the tomatoes, aside from just slicing them for sandwiches. Here is a favorite recipe—

Spinach Casserole with Tomato Topping
This is from one of Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s From a Monastery Kitchen cookbooks, though I’m not certain exactly which one.

Ingredients for white sauce:
6 T. butter
6 T. flour
3 c. milk, divided
1.5 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
dash nutmeg

Other ingredients:
4 eggs, beaten
1.5–2 c. stale whole wheat bread, cubed
16 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, drained & chopped
6–8 oz. cheddar cheese, sliced
2 or 3 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
oregano & parsley
salt & pepper

To make white sauce:
Dissolve the flour in 1 c. milk. Melt butter; when butter starts to foam, add milk/flour mixture, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the milk and the spices; bring to a boil. Lower heat and keep stirring until thick and smooth.

Add eggs, bread and spinach to the white sauce. Stir. Place into buttered casserole dish. Cover with cheese slices.

Fry tomatoes briefly with onion and herbs. Arrange on top of casserole. Bake at 350˚F until bubbly and browned—about an hour.

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6 thoughts on “The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

  1. I just found the original article about the two tomatoes. I should have looked before I posted, but it does appear you have two identical varieties and one is grafted onto a stronger root stock. That was not clear to me in your recent post. You don’t say, however whether Big Beef is a non-disease resistant variety and that the root stock is disease resistant. I believe Big Beef is quite disease resistant already and is a AAS winner so not sure how much improvement the root stock would offer. But I have to say you are very brave to grow a tomato test without ever having grown tomatoes. I lived and gardened in Massachusetts for over 20 years before moving to Kansas. I would trade a little of your cooler weather and glacial soil for my heat, lack of rainfall and clay. My first vegetable garden was in giant fiber pots on the roof of my apartment building in Brookline, MA. Grew lots of tomatoes and other vegets!

    • Yes, I can’t really complain much about our weather in New England . . . though I admit that I do. I much admire the tenacity of you Great Plains gardeners!

  2. I understand your situation completely. Waiting to get rid of the plants themselves.

    I have been told by a local farmer that he picks most of his tomatoes green, puts 5-6 in a large grocery brown paper bag, closes the bag up and watches for as long as it takes and they almost all ripen.

    I decided to do this last year because of a similar situation to yours, I wanted the plants gone from my greenhouse.

    It works, all the tomatoes turned red, were as delicious as if they had ripened on the vine and I’m thrilled. It’s important to be sure that none of the tomatoes are compromised with a crack or soft spot…as they will deteriorate.

    Best of luck in getting those plants into the compost asap.

    Peace- Jean
    my favorite tomato, hands down is the Black Krim. It can’t be beat!
    I do also like Dr. Wyche’s Yellow Tomato and the Missouri Pink Love Apple for something beyond the reds.

    • Thanks, Jean, it’s good to know someone gets where I’m coming from. I’ll try the paper bag trick especially since I doubt my tomatoes will survive Hurricane Irene!

  3. II, too, am growing Tomatoes in the middle of my front yard as my back yard garden has lost most of its sun due to neighbor trees becoming too tall. We now have 6 raised beds in our front yard with tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and some marigolds, petunias, and basil at the corner borders of each bed. Nasturtiums are another flower which is good to plant that spills over the edge of the raised bed. Too bad you feel so negative about the appearance of your plants. I now have collapsible Texas Tomato Cages & love them. We have had unseasonably hot weather here in Kansas which with many high 90 and 100 degree days have caused lack of flowering and setting of fruit. But I can tell you in my 6 beds I have 24 tomato plants probably a little crowded, but I am “testing” about 23 different varieties (I have 2 plants of my favorite early tomato). I know one plant of each type is not a valid scientific test, but I couldn’t resist. I can tell you which ones fruited in spite of the heat and which are the tallest and which are the earliest, and which so far are the most prolific. I did not read your introductory blog so you may have done the following but just in case someone else is coming in late on this they should know the following: Your test should have been done with the same variety of tomato — one grafted and the same variety not grafted. I just heard a lecture on this and the graft should not be buried, as you might know, because many diseases are soil borne and enter the plants through the root system and tomatoes root along buried stems. Some research has shown that grafting a non-disease resistant variety to a disease-resistant root stock results in the grafted plant not acquiring the soil borne diseases transmitted through the roots that would affect the non-disease-resistant variety. The purpose being that one can graft the very delicious and flavorful non-disease-resistant heirlooms to disease-resistant root stock and reduce the likelihood of these soil borne diseases and thus have better success with heirloom production. Quickly back to my preliminary results. I planted all plants except for one from seed. I bought Big Beef at a local garden center because one of the vegetable experts there said it was a tried and true good variety. If it works out well I will plant it from seed next year. I got a late start with my plants, but the variety 4th of July came through for me again this year as the first tomato to produce red and ripe fruit. Apparently it doesn’t mind the heat either. The name is due to the fact that for many people who start at the proper time, fruit is ready by the 4th of July. It is also very prolific. Even though the fruit are small – maybe 2 to 3 times the size of some cherry tomatoes, there are lots of them. It is indeterminate, and for me does not get tired and blooms well into the fall, killed only by the ultimate freeze. I have never had good success with Early Girl, First Lady, or Big Early, but perhaps my lack of sun is the cause. I may test them again in the future in my newly-claimed sun space in the middle of my front lawn. Another variety I love is Juliet – also reasonably early, indeterminant, and holds well on the plant and after picking. I have grown this one for many years even in my now-shady back garden. Two new varieties for me this year which appear to be semi-determinate but also relatively early and have produced well in spite of the heat are Lizzano and Terrific. They are both Cherry types and are still producing new growth, but are very compact and have not reached the top of my 6 foot cages. Several varieties which did well for me last year may be affected by this horrible heat and are now beginning to flower and set fruit due to a few cooler days after the end of July. They are Chocolate Cherry, Cherry Roma, Pompeii, and Country Taste, I am still waiting for Better Boy, Jet Star, Celebrity, Black Krim, Purple Russian, Prudens Purple, Purple Calabash Super Sioux, Opalka, and San Marzano.and a few others to even produce some fruit. Big Beef has also produced a few fruit. I think they must have been affected by the early intense heat, which started really early this year. All plants receive the same water, fertilzer and soil conditions. I am thinking it is the heat that is affecting the lack of flower production and the setting of fruit even if flowers are present. I just hope some of my usually-reliable producers like Jet Star and Celebrity will have time to set fruit and ripen before frost. All foliage is still pretty green. A few plants have Septoria on the lower leaves which I try to keep up with removing.

    • Wow, Susan — thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I bet your front yard looks lovely since you have so many tomato plants, other vegetables as well as flowers. Mine looks awkward because I just have the two tomatoes and they are in pots right in the middle of the yard. They really stick out and look super gangly. Thanks for letting us know how your various varieties have done in your weather conditions this summer — this should really help others looking for good varieties to try next year!

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