Friday's Weekend Column
Mother Nature, You are Such a Tease

by James Glaser
April 2, 2004

This is a hard time of the year. One day Mother Nature will give you a bright sunny day in the 50s and you can watch the snow disappear. You wake up the next morning and there is a new layer of snow on the deck and it takes the sun until almost noon just to get rid of the new stuff.

You know that as soon as the garden starts to appear from under the white blanket, those of us addicted to growing things want to get out there to do something. The first day out there all you can do is kick some clods of dirt because everything is frozen. The next time out the whole place is mud and so nothing can be accomplished. The third time out to your garden and what do you see, the first weeds.

My tomato plants under the lights in the basement are looking mighty good. They are in little peat plugs that look like a quarter until you get them wet. Then they expand to about two inches tall. In each of these I have three plants started and tomorrow I will cull two of them and start transplanting the strongest one into some peat pots.

The peat pots are about 3 inches tall and 3 wide. The roots can grow right through the side of these pots and that makes it easier when I replant them again into cut off plastic, 1 gallon milk bottles. From there they will go out to the greenhouse and be planted in my raised beds. It seems like a lot of work, but it really isn't.

This year I'm trying Radiator Charley's Mortgage Lifter Tomato. The story goes that back in the 1930s Charley had a radiator shop and a farm. He was losing both until his mother talked him into planting her tomatoes for a crop. He did so well with them, that he paid the mortgage off. The seeds I am planting are supposed to be the same ones.

I am also doing a 54 day, Early Girl, trying to get that first tomato before June 24th. That is the earliest I have had a vine ripe one. Also I am trying a 75 day Cabernet, which is said to be a great greenhouse variety. I'll have maybe thirty plants inside and twenty five or so outside. Yes, I am a tomato nut and end up freezing lots and giving away quite a few too. This week I started a big batch of spaghetti sauce. I used about 90 frozen tomatoes. Charmaine froze them without the skin, which makes them nice for cooking. I put in one hot pepper I grew and let me tell you, one is enough.

Most of the other stuff I grow is eaten before I get a chance to can or freeze it. Charmaine and I have done carrots, beans, corn, and green peppers before. We also freeze wild berries and make jelly, but all of that gets to be a lot of work. It all does taste better though.

Nothing in this world is better than a tomato taken off the vine with a little salt or maybe some olive oil on it except, sweet corn, just picked, shucked, and cooked in boiling water or over hot coals. You then smother it in butter with some salt. I must confess I have eaten fresh corn until my belly swelled.

Here I am thinking about all of this fresh produce and there are still piles of snow all over, but the garden is bare so there is hope.

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