How to Make Roasted Green Tomatoes

The end of the gardening season, the threat of impending frost, usually leaves me contemplating ways to save and/or use all of the green tomatoes still maturing on my tomato plants. Here is one easy, delicious way to put those green tomatoes to use: roasting!

How to Oven Roast Green Tomatoes

This is another one of those non-recipe recipes. Here’s how you do it.
1. Quarter large tomatoes (such as ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Polish Linguisa’). Halve smaller tomatoes, such as ‘Roma’ or ‘Japanese Black Trifele.’ Leave cherry tomatoes whole. You don’t need to worry about removing the seeds.

2. Place the cut-up tomatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Rimmed is important — there will be a lot of juice!

3. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the tomatoes, then add salt and pepper. I like my tomatoes a little on the spicy side, so I also added a few crushed red pepper flakes to mine.

4. Use your hands to swoosh the tomatoes around in the oil to ensure that they’re all coated.

5. Place your tomatoes in a pre-heated 250 degree oven. Let your tomatoes roast for 1.5 to 2 hours, until they are soft. (Note: I’ve seen recommendations for everything from 250 to 400 degrees for roasting. I tend to get a burned mess when I roast at 400, but if you like more charring on the tomatoes, go for it. I like 250 because it results in a nice, slow, gentle roasting and very tender, sweet roasted green tomatoes.)

How to Use Roasted Green Tomatoes

You could do what Gayla Trail recommends, and eat the roasted green tomatoes slathered on a piece of crusty bread. You could use them to top a pizza, or in pasta, or as a really unique topping to a burger (roasted green tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese — yum.)

If you’re not able to use them up right away, put your roasted tomatoes (after they’ve cooled) into a freezer container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to six months. Simply thaw them overnight in the refrigerator the night before you want to use them.

This is a good way to make use of something that many of us end up composting. Have you tried roasted green tomatoes?

How to Grow Sprouts

Equipment for Sprouting:

My favorite way to grow sprouts is simply in a canning jar with a bit of cheesecloth (doubled) affixed over the opening. However, you can also purchase specialty sprouting supplies, such as bags (usually made of hemp) for sprouting, or sprouting trays or machines. These can be nice convenience items, and I’ve heard from people who love them, but I’m sticking with the jar method.

Search for “sprouters” to find different models. You can also purchase plastic lids that fit on a canning jar, if you’d rather not bother with cheesecloth or straining your water through a sieve every day.

Popular Seeds for Sprouting:

Note: Look for seeds specifically being sold as “sprouting” seeds or labelled “for sprouts.” These are certified pathogen-free. Most seed catalogs carry at least some sprouting seeds; you can usually find at least a variety or two on the seed racks at your local nursery as well.

**Alfalfa
**Radish
*Mustard
**Watercress
**Arugula
**Clover
**Beans (adzuki, black, mung, garbanzo, pinto, lentils, soybeans)
**Peas
**Broccoli
**Cabbage
**Kale
**Mizuna
**Tatsoi
**Turnip
**Grains (such as wheat, barley, quinoa, corn, millet, oata, and rice)
**Pumpkin
**Sunflower

Days from Seed to Sprout:

Depending on the variety, sprouts take about three to seven days before they’re ready to eat. Eat them when they’ve sprouted their cotyledons.

More Articles About Growing Sprouts and Microgreens:

**How to Grow Sprouts in a Jar

**Sprout Safety

**Growing Microgreens

**Five Tasty Sprouts to Try

Pickled Watermelon Rind

How to Make Easy Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

 

This was one of those projects I approached with some trepidation. On one hand, the phrase “watermelon rind pickles” is not exactly yum-inducing. On the other hand….I have yet to meet a pickle I didn’t like.

And we can now add watermelon rind pickles to the “pickles I will devour with abandon” list.

We had about half of a decent-sized watermelon, which I cut up and we snacked on. And since hearing about watermelon rind pickles a few years ago, I feel a little guilty not putting those rinds to use. We do compost them, so it’s not like they go to waste, exactly. But if you can get one more edible use out of them, why not, right?

So I Googled, and I compared recipes, and I ultimately ended up making something of my own based on what I found, what sounded good, and what I had on hand (I wanted to make them NOW, without going to the grocery store.) Also, most of the recipes I came across had what seemed like ridiculous amounts of sugar. I wanted just a hint of sweetness, plenty of sour, and a bit of spicy kick. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out!

Here’s the recipe I used (this made 2 quarts and 1 pint of pickles).

Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

  • Rinds from 1/2 of a large watermelon, prepared as described below
  • 4 cups vinegar (white, apple cider, or white wine would all be good — I used regular white distilled vinegar this time)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (you could toss a stick or two into the brine, if you have sticks instead of ground)
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1. Prepare the rind. If you slice your watermelon into 1-inch slices, that will make prep easy. You want to end up with roughly one-inch chunks for your pickles. Try to leave at least 1/4 inch of the pink watermelon flesh on the rind — this adds nice flavor and really pretty color to your brine. You need to take off the outer green layer of rind. It was really easy to do this by using a regular vegetable peeler to remove the green parts. Do this, and you’re left with slices that look like this:

 

After you’ve got the slices peeled, then just cut them into roughly 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. TIP: The areas of the rind that have turned yellow are much tougher than the green areas. Avoid using this part, or, if you choose to use the yellow part of the rind, forego the vegetable peeler and use a paring knife instead; you’ll have to remove more of the rind to get down to the softer white part.

Set your cubes aside while you make your brine.

 

To make the brine, just add your vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a pan that will be large enough to accommodate the brine plus all of your watermelon rinds. Bring this to a boil, stirring regularly to help dissolve the sugar and salt.

Once the brine has reached a boil, add your watermelon rind and bring the mixture up to a boil again. Let it boil for about a minute, then remove it from the heat. Add your cinnamon and red pepper flakes, and let the mixture sit and cool for an hour or so.

Once the mixture is cool enough to handle safely, add the pickles to jars or other containers, adding enough of your brine to cover the pickles completely. Store them in the refrigerator. You can eat them as soon as they’re cool, if you want (and I did….) but they’re even better if the flavors are allowed to meld a bit overnight.

These pickles will keep for about a month. Please note that these are not pantry storage pickles — they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a fairly short amount of time.

These were SO good. And you can really mess with the recipe quite a bit. I wanted something fast, and many of the traditional recipes recommend making the brine, soaking the rind in it overnight, and then doing a hot water bath process so you can store them in the pantry. I may try that later on. You can also play quite a bit with the spices:

This is definitely a pickle you can tailor to your own tastes. Have fun with it!

More About Preserving the Harvest:

How To Make Quick and Easy Refrigerator Dilly Beans

How to Make Dill Pickles

How to Make Pickled Green Tomatoes

How to Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

Dog Vomit Mold

Wet Weather Can Lead to Unsightly Blooms

Dog Vomit Mold

Dog Vomit Mold in it’s tan phase

Wet spring/early summer weather can bring out some not so lovely growth in Michigan gardens. One of the most colorfully named of these is “dog vomit fungus” (scientifically speaking that would be Fuligo septicai).

The fungus typically appears as a bright yellow mass on mulch or other decaying wood in the garden. It eventually goes to a brown or tan phase that lasts for the rest of it’s life cycle.

While the fungus is unsightly, it will not harm your plants. It feeds solely on the already decaying matter in your garden beds. So if it shows up in an out of the way spot you can leave it alone if you’d like. But, it is somewhere more visible you might want to scoop it up.

For more information check out this pdf from the University of Arkansas.

Dilly Beans

How To Make Quick and Easy Refrigerator Dilly Beans

I don’t know about you, but I reach that point every summer, right around mid-August, where I can’t look at another bean. I don’t care if they’re yellow or green, or even the pretty purple ones I’m growing this year. That’s when it’s time to pull out the big guns: time to make some dilly beans. Dilly beans are vinegar-y, garlicky, dilly (obviously…) bits of crisp deliciousness with just a little bit of a kick to them thanks to the addition of hot peppers. The heat can be adjusted to your liking, so whether you like them mild or zippy, it will work just fine. Oh, and the best part: you don’t need any canning supplies for this project. You don’t even need special jars. I reused a jar from store-bought sauerkraut for mine. Use whatever you have on hand, as long as it’s glass and has a lid. This really couldn’t be easier. Here’s what you’ll need: 2 cups of beans (about one huge, overflowing handful), 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced thinly, 2 sprigs of fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds), 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, and 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want them) — you can also add a whole dried chile if you have one. I didn’t, so I used flakes. 1. Make your brine. This is the longest part of this process (and it only takes a few minutes!) so do this first. Add your water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic (which you’ve minced) to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn it off and set it aside to cool down to room temperature. 2. Trim the beans. You want them all to fit in your jar with about an inch at the top so the brine covers them completely. You can trim both ends, or just the stem end. I think the pointy blossom end of beans are pretty, so I leave them. It’s up to you. 3. Blanch the beans. Bring a saucepan of water to a full boil, then dump the beans in and boil them for thirty seconds. Drain them, and quickly add them to a bowl of iced water to shock them and stop the cooking process. You want your beans to be brightly colored and still crisp.

4. Drain the beans and set them aside. Add your onions, dill, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns to your jars.

5. Now add your beans to the jars. They look prettiest standing upright, but don’t worry about being perfect. The easiest way is to lay the jar on its side, or hold i

t horizontally, and place the beans inside.

6. Go ahead and pour your brine in once it has reached room temperature. Fill the jar to 1/2 inch below the top of the jar, and put the lid on. Place the jar of dilly beans in the fridge, and let them sit for at least two days before eating them. They’ll keep for up to six months in the fridge, but I’ll bet you foldable money that you won’t have them around nearly that long!

I hope you give these a try. They’re really easy, and a great way to preserve all of those crisp beans from your garden.

More About Preserving the Harvest:

Red Twig Dogwoods

Cornus stolonifera

If the only reason you plant a Red Twig Dogwood is for the bright red branches in the middle of winter, it would be reason enough. And, even though that is what most people think of when they think of Red Twigs, it is only the beginning for a shrub that guarantees four seasons of interest in your landscape.

In the spring, the Red Twig Dogwood produces clusters of white blooms that have a light fragrance. During the summer, the dogwood has very pretty, medium green leaves that provide a nice backdrop for annuals and perennials. My favorite season for the Red Twig Dogwood, though, is fall. In late fall, the leaves will start to change from green to a beautiful, rich coppery purple. This was one of the last shrubs in my garden to drop all of its leaves, and I just loved seeing it every time I walked to my garage.

 

The Red Twig Dogwood has a fairly loose growth habit, with new stems growing up from the ground yearly. It will grow to six to eight feet tall, and equally as wide, if left to itself. However, regular pruning will keep this shrub looking its best, since the reddest stems are those that are younger. Older stems will get grayish red with time. Pruning should be done after they bloom, or in late winter if you aren’t concerned with the flowers. If you have a very overgrown specimen, you can cut the entire shrub back to the ground, and it will be just fine, rewarding you with a flush of young red stems within a year. Fertilizing should be done in early spring. I use some organic granular fertilizer scratched into the soil around the base of the plant, and then I foliar feed with fish emulsion just as the shrub is starting to leaf out. The Red Twig adapts to almost any soil, but prefers slightly moist conditions. It does well in full sun to part shade.

You can propagate Red Twig Dogwoods by taking hardwood cuttings in late fall. To do this, cut a stem that is about the thickness of a pencil. Cut the stem with bypass pruners into six to nine inch sections. Cut each section so there is a bud just below the top of the cutting and just above the bottom of it. Remove all side branches. Dip the cuttings into rooting hormone. The cuttings can be placed either directly into the ground (as long as the garden soil is mixed with some perlite or vermiculite for drainage) or in pots with a mixture of potting soil and vermiculite or perlite. A cold frame is a good place to put your cuttings, whether planted directly into the soil or in pots. Keep the cold frame closed over the winter.

 Once spring arrives, you can leave the cold frame open, or remove your pots to another area. Once the cuttings have rooted, you can plant them in a nursery bed (an out of the way area where they can grow a little bigger) or directly into your landscape. This can take up to twelve months, so be patient!

Should you decide to plant a Red Twig Dogwood, it would be a good idea to place it where you can see it from your windows. It will give you something to look at in the winter months. Red Twigs are excellent used in mixed shrub borders, along fence lines, or wherever you would like a bit of attractive screening. Overall, the Red Twig Dogwood is an extremely easy-care plant that gives you a ton of interest in the garden.

Heuchera

For a low-growing plant with incredible foliage, it’s hard to beat heuchera. When you add pretty, delicate blooms and the fact that most heucheras are evergreen, what you end up with is a “must-have” plant.

There are nearly 300 known varieties of heuchera (a North American native), also called “coral bells” or “alum root.” In general, heucheras grow to about eighteen inches tall (not counting the flower spikes) and around eighteen inches wide. Their blooms grow on spikes of delicate “bells” in shades of red, pink, white, and purple, generally blooming for four to eight weeks in late spring through early summer. Recent varieties have made the blooms more prominent. But it’s the foliage that makes heuchera a winner. Purple, black, red, orange, brown, silver, chartreuse-you name it, you can most likely find a heuchera in that color.

Planting Heuchera

Heuchera prefers part shade, although some cultivars do better in full sun. They like soil that is average to rich fertility, moist, and well-drained. Heavy soils can be amended at planting time by incorporating compost or leaf mold into the soil from the planting hole. Heucheras are great plants for either edging a bed or using a group as a focal point. They suffer from very few pests and diseases, but powdery mildew can be a problem. Be sure to give them some room so they will get good air circulation. Heucheras tend to be shallow-rooted, and will heave in the winter if there is a lot of freeze/thaw action. To prevent them from heaving, give them a good, three inch layer of mulch in late fall.

Caring for Heuchera

Since heuchera prefer moist conditions, be sure to water in hot, dry weather, giving the plant about one inch of water per week. They can be fertilized with a balanced organic fertilizer in early spring. Divide plants every three years or so, or when you notice that the stem is looking woody or blooming diminishes. Mulch heucheras in the fall to prevent heaving, but don’t put the mulch up against the crown of the plant, or it will rot. Pull the mulch back from the crown two to three inches. Deadhead after the blooms fade to promote re-bloom.

Propagating Heuchera

There are three main ways heuchera can be propagated: seed, division, and leaf-bud cuttings.

  1. Seed: The thing to note when trying to propagate from seed is that cultivars will not come true from seed-only species will. So, for example, Heuchera americana is a species heuchera that will grow true from seed. Heuchera americana ‘Chocolate Veil’ is a cultivar of H. americana, and will not grow true from seed. To grow from seed, the most important step is to stratify the seeds, meaning that the seeds are stored in the cold (a refrigerator will do) for at least six weeks. After stratifying, sow the tiny seeds on top of your seed starting medium, as seeds require light to germinate. They will germinate fairly quickly. Care for them as you would any other plant grown from seed, including hardening them off after danger of frost. Seedling heucheras can then be planted in their desired location in the garden, or placed in a nursery bed for a growing season until they reach a larger size.
  2. Division: Divide heuchera as you would any other perennial. Dig the plant out of the ground and cut the root mass into pieces with a shovel or knife. Replant divisions with the crown at the soil level. This can be done every two to three years to keep the plants vigorous.
  3. Leaf-bud Cuttings: Leaf-bud cuttings are a type of cutting that consists of a few leaves, but most importantly, of a section of the stem from the main plant. This is important because only the main stem has growth buds on it, which is where foliage will grow from. Take leaf-bud cuttings of heuchera any time during the growing season, although spring is best because it allows the parent plant plenty of time to recover before winter. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone, and place it in either seed-starting mix or a 50/50 mix of peat and perlite. Keep it moist, cover the cuttings with a plastic bag (supported so it doesn’t come into contact with the leaves) and place it in a shady location. Once you have roots, you can plant it out in your garden or into a nursery bed.

Recommended Varieties

Crimson Curls

‘Crimson Curls’ has curly, rich purple leaves with pinkish undersides. This variety works well in beds as well as containers. ‘Crimson Curls’ is compact, growing about eighteen inches wide and tall. Blooms in late spring, sporting long-blooming cream flowers. Hardy in zones 3 through 8. Photo Courtesy of Proven Winners.

Sparkling Burgundy

‘Sparkling Burgundy’ has large, deeply lobed leaves that open bright magenta and mellow to a deep burgundy color. The white blooms appear in spring on eight inch purplish-red stems. ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ is hardy in zones 4 through 9, and can be planted in full sun to part shade. Photo Courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Hollywood

‘Hollywood’ is a gorgeous heuchera with purplish-black leaves frosted with silver. The leaves are nicely ruffled. In spring, bright coral-red blooms will appear, and will reappear all summer. ‘Hollywood’ is hardy in zones 4 through 9, and can be planted in full sun to part shade. Photo Courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Lime Rickey

‘Lime Rickey’ has bold, beautiful chartreuse leaves topped with spikes of white blooms in spring. The chartreuse leaves darken to a pretty lime green color by fall. ‘Lime Rickey’ is very compact, growing only 8 inches high and about 15 inches wide. It is hardy in zones 4 through nine, and should be planted in partial to full shade. Photo Courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Marmalade

‘Marmalade’ has unique foliage that starts out as a bright copper color, and changes to a raw umber color by fall. A bit of a surprise-the undersides of the softly scalloped leaves are hot pink! ‘Marmalade’ has spikes of dark red blooms in summer. It grows to about 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide. ‘Marmalade’ is hardy in zones 4 through nine, and should be planted in part shade. Photo Courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Obsidian

‘Obsidian’ has maroon leaves that are so dark they appear black. They keep this color all season, contrasting beautifully with the creamy white flowers that appear in early summer. It is a compact plant, growing only 10 inches tall and about 15 inches wide. ‘Obsidian’ is hardy in zones 4 through 9, and should be planted in full sun to part shade. Photo Courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery.

Mocha

‘Mocha’ has dark, coffee-colored, deeply lobed leaves that will darken to near-black in the sun. It will grow up to 15 inches high and 24 inches wide. Creamy white blooms appear in mid to late summer. ‘Mocha’ should be planted in full sun to part shade, and is hardy in zones 4 through 9. Photo Courtesy of Darwin Plants.

Combinations

Heucheras play well with many different plants. Shade tolerant varieties can be planted with hostas, bleeding hearts, hydrangeas, astilbes, tiarellas, heucherellas, and ferns. Sun tolerant heucheras would look beautiful planted with irises, campanulas, daylilies, columbine, and phlox. With so many colors available, the combinations are nearly limitless!