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Magic Salad Ingredients

Palisade Peaches, garden tomatoes and basil

If you are lucky enough to live in Colorado, as I am, you may know that Palisade Peaches show up in the grocery store once a year around August or September.  The first Palisade Peach of the year is just about as delicious as the first tomato out of the garden.  (Well, almost.)

Every year at the hubby’s school they do a fund raiser, and he gets a case of these babies straight from the grower–the Cox family. 40 perfectly round, fuzzy, juicy, sweet orbs of love.  Yum.   The western slope of the Rocky Mountains apparently has the perfect conditions for growing peaches—hot and sunny during the day, but nice and cool at night.  BTW—this is also the perfect venue for growing certain types of grapes, and there are some fantastic vineyards out on the Western slope–go wine tasting.  Do it now.

At the exact moment the tomatoes in the garden began to ripen, Palisade peaches arrived, and thus the Magic Salad, as the hubby calls it, was born.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large peach, chopped into ½ inch pieces.  If you can get a Palisade peach for this, do it!  If you sadly live in a different part of the country, do your best to get a locally grown peach in season.
  • 1 – 1½ cups of tomatoes, chopped ½ inch pieces.  You can use any kind of salad tomatoes—I usually use a mix of different colors and sizes, just to add a bit of visual appeal.
  • Drizzle of good balsamic vinegarWe happened to have some excellent aged balsamic flavored with black cherry from Seasons Taproom in Bethlehem, PA. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
  • Arugula  – 1 to 2 ounces, or enough to make a bed for each salad.  From the garden, of course!
  • Good feta cheese, crumbled – about 4 ounces.  If you live in Denver, get the Greek feta at Pete’s Market on Holly & Cedar.  They have four varieties there—Greek, Domestic, Bulgarian, and French.  They are all good, but I prefer the Greek for a crumbly texture and Bulgarian for a more creamy texture.  Greek is good for this salad, because it crumbles nicely, and it’s a little sharper and saltier—counterbalances the sweetness of the peaches and tomatoes nicely.
  • Basil chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons.  Chiffonade is a really pretty French word that means “made of rags”. How does everything sound prettier in French?

Make it:

  • Put the peach and tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with just enough balsamic vinegar to coat.  Toss.
  • Season with salt and pepper.  Toss.
  • Drizzle with olive oil to coat.  Toss.  If you have other stuff to work on, this can sit, refrigerated, for about ½ hour.  Just stir it up every ten minutes or so.
  • Lay a bed of arugula in four wide bowls.
  • Spoon the peach/tomato mixture over arugula.
  • Top with feta, then basil.

Happy Hubby

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Aunt Ruby's German Green, Sundrop Cherry, Purple Russian, Green Zebra, & Speckled Roman Tomatoes: just part of last season's harvest.

My three favorite days of the year are:

  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Christmas
  3. The day we eat the first tomato straight off the vine in the garden

This weekend is when the journey to #3 begins!  #3 is the day when all of your hard work pays off, and you suddenly understand what all this gardening nonsense is all about.

Garden tomatoes are absolutely delicious–they will make you never want to eat store bought again. (For a great post about just this subject, check out: $25 a pound for tomatoes — bargain or foolishness? | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat (also some good tips there about critters in the garden)).

Keep in mind that each tomato plant will need about 4 square feet of space in your garden.  (Actually a tomato plant needs a circle 2 feet in diameter, the area of which is Pi square feet.  Coincidence that a pizza pie is covered with tomato sauce?)

While it’s tempting to plant 10 different varieties (which I do), first figure out how much space you actually have to plant your tomatoes when you move them into the garden, then decide what to plant.  I usually suggest getting a variety of types of tomatoes:

  • Globe tomatoes:  The all-purpose tomato.  These are usually 3-5 inches in diameter.  Can be diced or cut into wedges for salads, or sliced for sandwiches.
  • Beefsteak tomatoes:  Bigger varieties.  These are perfect if you want a big fat slice to top your burger.
  • Plum tomatoes: Great for everything from salads to salsas to sauces.
  • Cherry and grape tomatoes:  Perfect for salads.  They are also a fantastic snack when you are out there weeding.  Just pluck straight off the vine and pop them into your mouth.

If you haven’t read my post on planning your garden, start there, then go plant those tomato seeds!

Additional Resources:
Lesson #3: The Plan
Lesson #4: Planting the Seed
$25 a pound for tomatoes — bargain or foolishness? | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

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If you have never bought vegetable seeds before, it can be overwhelming.  You have decided what you want to plant, and you head to the nursery with list in hand, but when you get there, you are confronted by gigantic racks with hundreds of seed packets.  These are usually in alphabetical order, which makes it pretty easy to find the veggie you want, but when you get to the T’s, you discover they have 50 varieties of tomatoes, packaged by 8 different seed companies…  It’s a lot.

I have recommended Botanical Interests for new gardeners because the seed packages contain all of the information you need to get your seeds started.  However, if you are going to the nursery as a rookie gardener, these packages can seem like they are written in a foreign language (oh, wait, that actually is Latin on there!)

Here are some quick little diagrams to help you decipher the mystery…

Seed Packet Front

Front of the Seed Packet (Click for a larger image)

Seed Packet Back

Back of the Seed Packet (Click for a larger image)

I used a tomato seed packet for this particular example, since tomatoes are so popular for home gardening (not to mention delicious!)  Different vegetables will have different info, for example, “indeterminate” applies to tomatoes that produce fruit for a long period of time, but that doesn’t apply to all veggies.  The important things to note for planting all seeds, though, are on the bottom half of the back:

  • How deep to plant seeds.
  • How far apart to plant them.  This is actually under the “Thinning” section on these packets, NOT the “Seed Spacing” section.  I suggest planting your seeds at this distance from the get-go, then there is no thinning later!
  • When and where–how long before the average last frost, and do you start these seeds indoors or out?  (This section will also include any odd germination quirks–if a seed likes to be cold to germinate, or if you should soak it in water for a period before planting.)

Important Note!  When you get home, don’t just rip into these packages–make sure you open them carefully, because the inside is also filled with useful info, a drawing of the sprout (in case you forget to mark your seedlings), harvesting details, further cooking tips, and sometimes even some trivia about the veg.

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