Will those tomatoes EVER turn red?
By Rebecca Jepsen
A common question lately is "Should I give up on my tomatoes?" Many novice as well as veteran tomato growers are seeing less-than-stellar performance with their crops this year.
A typical complaint is that plants haven't grown as large this year as they usually do. Others are noticing much less fruit than normal.
Some gardeners are seeing lots of green fruit on the vine that just isn't turning red. Is it time to throw in the proverbial towel?
The answer would be -- not just yet.
Tomatoes grow best when there's plenty of heat, and this summer the weather just hasn't cooperated. Last month was one of the coolest Augusts on record, and those cool summer nights have caused lots of blossom drop.
However, if we end up getting some late heat, you might be surprised how quickly those fruits can turn from green to red.
Also, several varieties of tomatoes can keep producing for a few more months; many of us were still picking tomatoes off the vine in November last year.
If the heat doesn't get turned on, don't despair: Veteran tomato and pepper growers Dot and Jim Maley have some great suggestions. Use those green tomatoes (or red ones if you have them) to create a fresh salsa.
Next year (in case we have similar weather), you might want to plant a few Eastern European varieties of tomatoes, which tend to produce consistent results even with the cooler weather.
Master Gardeners Dot and Jim Maley contributed to this article.
Have a question for Rebecca Jepsen or the other Master Gardeners? Call the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener hotline in San Jose, 408-282-3105 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Visit the Master Gardeners Web site at www.mastergardeners.org.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
4-6 cups of tomatoes cut in quarters (if using cherries, cut in half)
6-12 cloves of garlic (depending on taste)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large (or 2 medium) onion, diced
Mix ingredients together, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in oven at 250 degrees for 2-4 hours. Pulse in food processor to desired consistency for salsa. Add cumin and cilantro for added flavor. (For Jim's special chipotle-style salsa, he adds Wright's Mesquite Seasoning Liquid Smoke to taste.
You can also puree the above ingredients and then freeze serving sizes in plastic bags to use later in pizza sauce, pasta sauce or stir-frys.