When heirloom tomatoes are ripening by the basket full in our garden, I experiment with all sorts of ways to feature them on our farmhouse table. I really love preparations that require little to no cooking, allowing the natural texture and delicious flavor of an heirloom tomato to be the star.
This pico de gallo definitely fits the bill. It’s packed with delicious flavor, texture, and bright color. It’s so beautiful on the plate and a wonderful way to enjoy the glorious flavor or tomatoes fresh from the garden without heating up the kitchen on a hot summer’s day.
I love to use cherry tomatoes of varying colors when they are available to celebrate the range of red, purple, yellow, and black colors we grow here in our garden. The burst of color and flavor on our plates is always a welcome sight.
Garden Fresh Heirloom Tomato Pico de Gallo
I love to use cherry tomatoes for this recipe. They can easily be quartered to create the perfect size bite. If you are using larger slicing tomatoes, simply seed the tomatoes before chopping to prevent the pico de gallo from being too runny. If you like a bit of heat with your Pico de Gallo, add a bit of minced jalapeno pepper to the tomatoes and onions.
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, tomato, and cilantro. Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice and a generous sprinkling of salt. Stir to combine and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine and the tomato to release its juice. Stir, taste for seasoning, and add more lime or salt as needed.
Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!
Pico de Gallo means "rooster's beak" in Spanish. It is thought that the name originated from the appearance of the red tomato pieces in the dish. It seems like the perfect name to me!
By Jennifer from 1840 Farm
Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2016/08/garden-fresh-heirloom-tomato-pico-de-gallo/
Here in New England, we’re still counting the days until it is safe to plant our tender perennials in the gardens. Heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and the like are all being held in the farmhouse under lights until our overnight temperatures are warm enough to not cause damage to those tender plants.
We’re almost there, but I am growing increasingly impatient. I find it so difficult this time of year to wait for planting time even though the calendar begs me to. I just want to have my hands in the dirt, planting the seeds that will become homegrown food for our family table this growing season.
While I count the days until I can plant my beloved heirloom tomatoes, I can thank the rhubarb patch for giving me something to celebrate. Each spring, the rhubarb patch comes to life long before the rest of the garden. Those beautiful stalks seem to reach higher and higher each day, supporting their enormous green leaves.
We allow our rhubarb to go to seed each year, encouraging the patch to add new plants naturally and increasing our harvest each year. As the rhubarb harvest increases, the volume of rhubarb that we put up in the freezer each year grows exponentially. As the pounds of rhubarb pile up in the deep freeze, I start to dream up new uses for our homegrown rhubarb in the farmhouse kitchen.
I make upside down cake, pies, and rhubarb and strawberry crumble each year. This year, I added a delicious new rhubarb recipe that has quickly become a family favorite. Raspberry Rhubarb Syrup has been finding its way into icy glasses of lemonade, homemade cocktails, and on top of ice cream sundaes and slices of my Great Grandma’s Daffodil Cake. It even inspired my husband and I to craft a cocktail that we lovingly named the Franklin Cooler in honor of Benjamin Franklin who is thought to have introduced rhubarb to the colonies around 1770.
This recipe is so simple and the results are delicious. The color is so beautiful and each drop is bursting with fresh flavor. It’s the perfect way to use up any bits of last year’s harvest from the freezer as we prepare to make room for this year’s. The proportions of fruit can be adjusted to match what you have on hand and other berries can be added or substituted with equally delicious results.
A drizzle of this syrup will bring the taste of summer to your next meal or family gathering. I hope that you’ll enjoy this taste of summer as much as we do!
Raspberry Rhubarb Syrup
This syrup is delicious added to tall glasses of lemonade, iced tea, or your favorite summery cocktail. You'll also love it drizzled over vanilla ice cream, pound cake, or your favorite sponge cake recipe.
Husk Cherries (Physalis pruinosa) are related to the tomatillo and tomato. They share the same scientific family with tomatoes and the same genus as the tomatillo. The marble shaped fruits are sweet and earthy with a tropical note. Their flavor defies easy explanation. Each bite is equal parts sweet and citrusy. Imagine a sweet, ripe cherry tomato married with the citrus flavor of pineapple and mango. You really have to try one to understand how beautifully these seemingly unrelated flavors meld together.
The husk cherry isn’t just delicious. It’s also simple to grow and hits its stride just as the rest of our garden is wrapping up for the season. It sets beautiful lantern shaped husks on its low growing vines during the summer. Inside those husks, the little fruits ripen until they are ready to harvest. The husk provides a measure of protection from pests and I have found them to be vigorous even during years when pests are helping themselves to other plants in our garden.
When the fruit is ripe, the husk begins to change from its brilliant leaf green color to a straw, parchment color. It takes on a dry texture and will fall to the ground when ready to harvest. This habit of falling to the ground when ripe gives the husk cherry their other name, “ground cherry”.
The past few years, I have planted Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry, a variety that has a Polish heritage. This variety has produced a lovely harvest of beautiful gold fruits with an amazing flavor. This variety has a high pectin content, making it perfect for sweet or savory jams. I find that these little papery husks can be kept at room temperature for nearly a month before the fruit begins to suffer.
I remember the first time I tasted a husk cherry. It was nearly a decade ago. I was at one of our local farmer’s markets shopping for fresh produce. One of the farmers had a small basket of husk cherries. I asked if they were some sort of tomatillo given their papery husk. The farmer was happy to tell me all about this interesting little fruit. He even passed over a few for my small daughter and I to taste. One bite and I was hooked. The flavor was so unique, so completely original from anything I had ever tasted. He went on to tell me a bit about them and I purchased several ears of corn and heirloom tomatoes from him before moving on.
I remembered those little husk cherries and looked for them at our local community seedling sales. I never found them and worried that our painfully short growing season wouldn’t allow me the time needed to grow them from seed for our garden. A few years ago, I finally decided to try. I was overjoyed when I picked that first ripe fruit from our garden. I was even more excited when we had enough of them to make something with them in our farmhouse kitchen.
Of course, then I had to decide what I should make with them. I couldn’t seem to find a recipe that didn’t mask their distinct flavor. I was looking to highlight their unique flavor, not cover it up. So, I kept trying until this simple preparation was bubbling away on the stove. It may be the simplest option I tried. It was undoubtedly the most delicious. This savory jam celebrates the best of the husk cherry’s flavor and offers a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity accented by rosemary fresh from the garden. It’s delicious served with a cheese course or as a spread on a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich.
I hope that you will find husk cherries at your local farmer’s market and that you’ll join me in planting them in your garden. Trust me, one taste and you’ll be planting them along with me year after year.
Savory Husk Cherry and Rosemary Jam makes about 4 ounces of jam
6 ounces husk cherries, papery husks removed
2 Tablespoons (24 grams) brown sugar
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4″ sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped finely
1 pinch sea salt
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer before reducing the heat to low. Using the back of a large spoon or a potato masher, gently crushing the fruit to break the skins and release the juice. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. This savory jam can be stored in a Mason jar in the refrigerator for several weeks. Serve it chilled or at room temperature with a cheese and charcuterie course.
To make sure that you don’t miss any of our original content or favorite recipes, DIY projects, and homesteading advice from around the web, subscribe to The 1840 Farm Community Newsletter. Visit our subscription form to become the newest member of The 1840 Farm Community.
Planting Depth: 1″ below the soil’s surface
Plant Spacing: 12 inch hills containing 6-8 seeds each
Row Spacing: 18-24 inches
Days to Maturity: 60-65
The West Indian Burr Gherkin is a native of Africa. It is believed that it was brought to the Caribbean and then the United States through the slave trade during the 1780s. It was first sold by Minton Collins in his store located in Richmond in 1792.
President Thomas Jefferson grew the West Indian Burr Gherkin in his vegetable gardens at Monticello. He was also known for keeping a pickle barrel for guests visiting him at the President’s House in Washington during his two terms as President.
The West Indian Burr Gherkin has an assertive vine and small leaves resembling those of a watermelon. The resulting gherkins are round, firm fruit approximately 2” – 3” in width. They are covered with small, blunt spines protecting them from garden pests.
I find that the prickly vine and leaves of this plant provide an excellent deterrent to garden pests. I often plant it among our heirloom tomato plants. Tomato hornworms and other crawling pests dislike crawling over the spiny vines and leaves, making our garden a less appealing place to spend a summer day.
Plant the West Indian Burr Gherkin in full sun after the danger of frost has passed. Plants can be fed monthly with a side dressing of compost or fish emulsion to increase yields. Harvesting the ripe gherkins on a steady basis will encourage the vine to continue setting and producing more gherkins.
I like to create a quick pickle with the ripe gherkins. I simply slice the gherkins and toss them in a bit of white vinegar with salt and sugar to taste. In less than an hour, the crisp slices are filled with the bright flavor of the brine. They’re delicious served with grilled meats or on a burger.
We have been planting the West Indian Burr Gherkin in the heirloom gardens here at 1840 Farm for over five years. It’s hard for me to imagine our garden without them. We enjoy them so much that they’re a member of our 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection year after year. You can rest assured that they’ll be part of the 2016 collection which will be in our Etsy Shop in October.
Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2015/09/heirloom-west-indian-burr-gherkin/
I love to find a new purpose for materials that would otherwise be discarded. I enjoy the challenge of re-imagining the use of items found in our recycling bin or stored in the old hay loft of our barn. I also much prefer using materials that I already have on hand instead of buying something brand new.
A few of my favorite repurposed materials are put to use here in our gardens at 1840 Farm each growing season. We have found them to be incredibly effective and cost saving. I hope that you will enjoy using these no cost, repurposed materials in your garden this year.
Dairy Carton Seed Starting Containers
We give our garden a head start by planting seeds indoors long before the weather outside would permit us to plant directly in the garden beds. Here in New England, our growing season is painfully short, averaging about 120 days from start to finish. In order to have a successful harvest, we need to give our heirlooms a good start inside the farmhouse.
In the spring, we plant our seeds down in the old root cellar of the farmhouse. With enough light and attention, they grow well and ensure that we will be able to harvest our beloved heirloom tomatoes before the first frost occurs in fall. Because we grow our plants from seed, we are able to purchase a diverse variety of heirlooms. For less than the price of one healthy seedling from a nursery, we can purchase a packet of heirloom seeds to grow at least 20 seedlings. We also love having the ability to seek out extremely rare and interesting varieties that are not available at our local garden center.
We use many of our seed starting supplies year after year. No matter how many trays and containers we have, we always seem to need more. We discovered last year that we had the perfect containers for our tiniest seeds right in our recycling bin.
We like to broadcast plant the tiny lettuce, herb, and onion seeds and then divide them by hand as they are added to the garden. We find that this saves time by allowing us to tend to the young plants for several weeks without needing to thin them or move them to larger and larger containers. The resulting plants are strong and healthy with well developed root systems.
We discovered that paper dairy cartons made ideal containers for these seeds. By removing the top surface of the empty cartons, we create fantastic seed starting containers for these crops. The money we save by using these containers easily covers the cost of the seeds we plant in them.
Simply rinse out the used paper container before removing one side of the carton with a sharp knife or scissors. Fill the container two-thirds full with your favorite seed starting mix. Scatter the tiny seeds over the top of the mix before covering the seeds with more seed starting mix. Label the container and tend as you would any newly planted seeds. After moving the healthy plants to your garden, the container can be added to your recycling bin.
Paper Feed Bag Weed Barrier
I love to spend a summer day working in the garden. We plant close to 100 heirloom tomato plants each year along with cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and countless other crops. With so many plants, there is always something that needs to be done. I enjoy the work, knowing that my efforts will produce delicious, fresh food for our family table..
One garden job that I could do without is weeding. I know that weeding is necessary, but I want to spend as little time as possible pulling weeds. Weeding our raised beds helps our plants to have all of the soil’s nutrients instead of sharing them with the weeds that will happily take over. Yet I find weeding to be my least favorite chore in the garden. I love sharing the weeds with our hens as a fresh treat, but I can find plenty of fresh treats for them from the garden without spending hours pulling weeds. I also find the prospect of spending a large portion of my gardening budget on weed barrier to be rather unpleasant.
Luckily, we have a steady supply of weed barrier materials thanks to our chickens and goats. Our animal feed is packaged in paper bags that make a fabulous weed barrier. I stockpile them all winter long in the barn for this purpose. When planting time finally arrives, I can transform each large bag into a flat piece of paper weed barrier with a few snips of my garden shears. Using landscaping staples, I secure each piece to the soil, covering all but the perimeter of the beds where I will plant onions, herbs, and zinnias to attract beneficial pollinators.
Using my shears, I cut holes exactly where I want to plant, I then tuck the plants into the soil warm soil. When we mow our untreated grass, I collect the clippings and add them on top of the paper surface. With very little effort and little to no expense, I have added an effective weed barrier to our garden and made use of materials that we have on hand.
The paper and grass mulch help our garden beds to retain moisture while minimizing weed growth. Over the course of the growing season, both the grass and paper begin to decompose. When we clear the beds in the fall, we simply remove the staples, reserving them for the next season, and add the paper bags to our recycling bin.
We also use this paper feed bag mulch for our garden paths. We cover the paper bags in the paths with untreated wood chips and have a weed free path all summer long.
I’ll be sharing a few other tricks for using repurposed materials in the garden in the coming weeks. Until then, you can take a photo tour of the gardens here at 1840 Farm. I’d love to hear about your strategies to use repurposed or recycled materials in your garden. I’m always looking for new, great ideas to use in ours.
Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2015/04/repurposed-gardening/
Mother Nature was kind enough to give us warmer temperatures and abundant sunshine this week. The garden responded by ripening a bounty of heirloom tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and herbs. We’re in the midst of making the most of the harvest: eating something fresh and delicious every day and preserving the surplus for the long New England winter ahead.
I have my fingers crossed that we’ll see more sunshine and more of our beloved heirloom tomatoes this coming week. I’ll hope that you see the same!
Here’s a glimpse at what’s been going on here at 1840 Farm during the last week.
The last week has marked the start of heirloom tomato season which is news worth celebrating! We’ve also been busy baking and cooking in the farmhouse kitchen. Here’s a glimpse at what’s been going on here at 1840 Farm during the last week.
I am proud to introduce you to 1840 Farm’s newest sponsor: Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club. The Seeds of the Month Club offers a unique opportunity to receive a collection of open pollinated, heirloom, non-GMO seed varieties delivered to your mailbox each month. Their club offers seasoned and novice gardeners alike a wonderful opportunity to add new heirloom, non-GMO varieties to their gardens.
It’s no secret that I love to garden. There’s something so fulfilling about planting a tiny seed and tending it for months until it produces a harvest to be served at our family table. We grow our entire garden from seed and I can’t seem to say no to a new interesting variety when planning our garden each spring. Throughout the season, I walk through the gardens contemplating how I might be able to squeeze in one more row of lettuce or carrots. I am forever looking at a small bit of grassy yard space and visualizing how I can convince my family that we should construct a raised bed to plant more heirloom tomatoes next year.
Along with my continual garden planning, I seek out companies that offer non-GMO seeds. I like to spend my gardening dollars on seeds that help to ensure the diversity that I so love to grow in our gardens here at 1840 Farm. I like to support the companies that feel as I do, that more diversity in our seed choices and resulting food supply is good for everyone whether they choose to plant a garden or frequent their local farmer’s market.
For that reason, I encourage you to click on the “Join Now” button here on our page to learn more about the Seeds of the Month Club. By using this link, you will receive a 25% discount on your membership. As a member, you will receive non-GMO seeds hand selected for your growing zone. The first shipment of seeds will consist of eight packets and will be followed by four seed packets each month throughout the length of your membership. The producers of the seeds offered by the Seeds of the Month Club have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.so you can be confident that the seeds you receive will be non-GMO varieties.
My first month’s collection of seeds are in the mail, on their way to our mailbox here at 1840 Farm. I can’t wait to plant them in our heirloom garden and share my experience growing these varieties with you throughout the growing season. I’ll be sharing photo updates on our Facebook page, Instagram, and in our Garden Tour Photo Gallery right here on our blog. I hope that you’ll join me in becoming a member of the Seeds of the Month Club and share in the fun with me.
French Marigolds have a centuries old secret: they aren’t really French. It is believed that they made their way to France in the 1500s. An illustration of a striped French Marigold appeared as early as a 1791 edition of Curtis’ Botanical Magazine. This marigold was described as being yellow with red striped petals.
Centuries later, we still refer to some varieties as “French”. Perhaps this is a nod to the gardeners of France who worked diligently to cross their most beautiful specimens in a quest to better the blooms. Or, it could simply be due to the fact that all things French were thought to be beautiful and of the highest quality at the time that the marigold first came to America.
American gardeners in that era were eager to attempt to replicate the beautiful gardens in France. Travelers took garden tours, carefully noting both the species and methods used to create France’s most notable gardens. One of those travelers was the man who would become our young nation’s third President: Thomas Jefferson.
The French Marigold was a common sight in Colonial gardens, bringing beauty and utility to the garden plot. In 1808, Jefferson wrote in his garden journal about having two varieties of marigold in his gardens at Monticello in Virginia. It is believed that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties that he had growing on the grounds at Monticello. He often referred to the French variety as the “lesser African marigold” as it was thought to have made its way to France via Africa.
Jefferson enjoyed marigolds so much that he sent them to his granddaughter Anne. Anne happily wrote to him, reporting that the two varieties of marigold seeds he had given them were still flourishing. It is thought that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties he had sent her.
Marigolds were long thought to be poisonous due to their pungent aroma. Gardeners believed that any flower with a strong, unpleasant scent was sure to be poisonous. Centuries later, we can still use their scent and pest deterring qualities to our advantage in the tomato patch.
Marigolds make excellent companions for tomato plants. Their pungent aroma is thought to help deter harmful nematodes who love to decimate the tomato patch. They also bring beauty to the tomato garden by filling the space beneath the towering vines.
Their beneficial properties can be taken advantage of long after the growing season has ended. Allow spent marigold plants to dry in the garden at the end of your growing season. Before the first frost, break the dried marigold plant into small pieces and turn them under the top layer of the soil. Doing so will discourage nematodes from overwintering in your garden’s soil, giving next year’s plants a head start on overcoming these garden pests.
We have been growing heirlooms here at 1840 Farm since 2006. Every summer, we embark on a challenge that lasts through the entire growing season: we try to grow heirloom tomatoes from seed. For added fun, we add in a geography component to the challenge.
Here in New England, we have a painfully short 90 day growing season. In the case of tomatoes, peppers, and other warm weather loving crops, that short 90 day window can be a race against time. Once we have finally arrived at the last frost date and can introduce those plants into the garden, the race is on.
Maybe that never-ending battle with the calendar is why I love the heirloom varieties that are so much easier to grow. They are more tolerant of our cool evenings and short growing season. These varieties don’t need to be started weeks earlier inside the farmhouse. Instead, they can be directly sown into the garden soil while temperatures are still much cooler thank our beloved tomatoes will tolerate.
The 1840 Farm Heirloom Easy Keepers Collection includes heirloom varieties that are perfectly suited for the beginning or casual gardener. Each of the varieties can be directly sown into a small garden plot or in containers. They are also among our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four historic heirloom varieties:
This year, 1840 Farm offers five heirloom seed collections for purchase. The 1840 Farm Favorites Garden includes six of our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens here at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four varieties that are perfect for the beginning gardener and can be sown directly into a small garden plot or containers. The Pollinators Garden features six flowering plants that will help to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden. Our Three Sisters Garden includes four packets of seed that allow you to enjoy delicious produce and an American history lesson as you put into practice one of the oldest forms of companion planting. The Tomato Lover’s Garden features six of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties.
Tennis Ball Lettuce was found in the United States as early as the eighteenth century. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. He grew it in the famed garden at Monticello beginning in 1809. When describing Tennis Ball, he wrote, “it does not require so much care and attention” as other varieties of lettuce.
Tennis Ball Lettuce is a Butterhead variety of lettuce. It is considered to be the origin of today’s Boston lettuces. Heads of Tennis Ball Lettuce grow in tightly formed rosettes. The leaves are light green in color and have a soft, smooth texture.
Lettuces can be succession planted to be enjoyed throughout the growing season. They prefer the cooler conditions of spring and fall to summer’s heat. When sowing in the summer, consider planting lettuce in the shade of larger, established plants. They can be grown as companions with dill, mint, chives, beets, cucumber, and beans. Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that can be grown successfully with dill.
In Thomas Jefferson’s day, the leaves of Tennis Ball Lettuce were preserved by pickling them in a salt brine solution. Doing so allowed the leaves to be stored and enjoyed during the long winter when fresh greens were unavailable. The leaves were then served as an accompaniment to the main course during a meal.
Here at 1840 Farm, we don’t feel the need to pickle these tender greens. Instead, we enjoy them dressed lightly and served as a main course or side dish. They pair wonderfully with roasted potatoes.
Here at 1840 Farm, we eagerly await radish season each spring. Radishes are the first vegetable crop harvested from our garden and announce the happy arrival of the growing season. They also enable us to enjoy eating a spring menu favorite: sliced radish tartine.
The French Breakfast appeared in French markets in the late 1870s. This variety is more cylindrical in shape than others. It exhibits its trademark coloring, with rosy pinkish red shoulders that fade to almost pure white at its tip.
Radish greens can be used as spicy salad greens or added to the compost heap. If you are lucky enough to keep chickens or ducks, serve the greens as a fresh treat. Our hens come running when they see us in the radish beds, knowing that a delicious treat will be soon to follow.
Long before our beloved tomatoes are ripe or the raspberries are ready for picking, we can count on our heirloom radishes to be at their best. In a matter of minutes, we can select a few radishes and make delicious tartines. Taking that first bite seems like a delicious way to celebrate the arrival of another growing season.
To make sure that you don’t miss any of our original content or favorite recipes, DIY projects, and homesteading advice from around the web, subscribe to The 1840 Farm Community Newsletter. Visit our subscription form to become the newest member of The 1840 Farm Community.