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Tomato and Crusty Bread Salad

tomato salad

Summer and tomatoes, what could be better!  Give this salad a try, I love making it with some multigrain bread from the day old bread rack.  The fresh sweet tomatoes and hearty crunch will make your mouth sing!

Tomato and Crusty Bread Salad                 (Serves 6)

1-1/2 cups diced ripe tomatoes 1 cup diced green sweet bell peppers                                                                                                                                                                            1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 2 ounces Spanish or black olives, rinsed and drained 7 large fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil 1-1/2 tablespoons vinegar 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 2-1/2 cups (3 ounces) cubed day-old bread (sourdough, French, or multigrain)

1.  Wash your hands and work area.

2.  In a large serving bowl, combine tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion, cheese and      olives.

3.  Wash, dry, and cut basil leaves into strips.  Add to mixture.

4.  Sprinkle vinegar and black pepper over salad.  Mix well.

5.  Cover and refrigerate.

6.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300˚F.

7.  Place cubed bread on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until slightly      crisp, stirring occasionally.  Shut off oven.

8.  Just before serving, toss bread cubes      with salad mixture.

9.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers within      2 hours.

Nutrition Facts: Serving size—1 cup Calories—100, Total fat—4g Cholesterol—5mg, Sodium—220mg Carbohydrates—13g, Fiber—2g Protein—5g Diabetic exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat

Harvesting Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables that I’m much less familiar with, and it also fits my category of “if you have to bread it and fry it to make it edible, it either isn’t edible or isn’t a vegetable.” That said, one of the biggest mistakes that people make with okra is harvesting it. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen grossly over-sized okra entered in a county fair.

Okra goes from budded to over-mature in seemingly the blink of an eye. Here you can see the cluster of buds at the top and a couple flowers that are opening.

Here’s the okra a couple days after flowering. Actually, I would consider the okra on the right to be just about the right size. If you gently squeeze it, it is still tender and not too woody. Woody okra – yuck!

If you don’t harvest your okra regularly (every day or every other day), this is what you are going to end up with – huge okra that is extremely woody and not very tasty. The more medium sized pods on the left are probably still good for things like gumbo, although they are best slightly smaller.

Another thing to be wary of when harvesting okra is that a lot of people are very sensitive to the hairs on the leaves and stems of okra plants. If you don’t want to get VERY itchy when you harvest, you may want to wear some combination of long sleeves, gloves, and use a pair of pruners or scissors!

Does anyone have a good okra recipe they’d like to share? (Other than breading and frying.)

Friday PhotoEssay

Now that we’re a week after all the Tomato Day hoopla, our tomatoes have quit being shy and are really starting to ripen! I was out in the garden yesterday and noticed that a marauding squirrel (I assume) had munched on a couple of ripening tomatoes and knocked a couple more off the plants. I also picked  couple other tomatoes I thought might be targets over the weekend.

On the left we have one of the Brandymaster Red tomatoes, which we’ve had several of already this year. On the right is our very first Rose tomato. You can see how it got its name! I was actually kind of surprised, because I hadn’t seen any sign of them turning on Tuesday, then all of  sudden yesterday afternoon, there they were! I guess I didn’t stop to look at them closely on Wednesday.

These 3 tomatoes are some of our “heat set” types. The top one is Sunmaster and the bottom two are Solar Fire. All three are really nice looking tomatoes, although still pretty hard and green, especially on the stem side. The Sunmaster is obviously larger, and I would say that the green tomatoes set on that plant are generally larger than the Solar Fire. The point of a “heat set” tomato variety is that it is supposed to continue setting tomatoes while it’s  burning hot…like the last 3 weeks. We’ll see how that turns out for us as this month progresses.

Oops! One of our ‘Kermit’ eggplant got away from us! These eggplant tend to turn yellow when they are past the edible stage and into the mature stage. It’s weird…with tomatoes we want our fruit to be completely mature and ripe, but with eggplant, we eat them before they are fully mature, even though we consider them “ripe” at the stage we want to eat them. Or in this case, I would just avoid eating them. Yuck!

This is a type of basil called Red & Green Holy Basil. It is a basil that is common on Thai cooking, and it just has a different smell and taste than regular basil. It is spicy, but not as sweet as regular basil.

This heirloom flower, ‘WATCH’ Celosia has really been enjoying the heat, unlike most of the other plants in the garden. WATCH apparently stands for Wichita Area Technical College Horticulture, since this flower was selected by the folks at WATC a long time ago. The only way to get some is to save seeds every year, so if you want some seeds you’ll have to come get some later this summer.

Have a great weekend! Stay cool!

Harvest Report

Now that Tomato Day is over, the tomatoes are starting to ripen! We had plenty of cucumbers, tomatoes, Asian peppers, and a few other things to harvest this morning.

The pale tomato in the corner is one of the Orange Blossom tomatoes, and the green ones in the center are the first of the tomatillos. You can also see that there is a gigantic gold zucchini that somehow was allowed to grow!

Family of 4 Garden Harvest:

3 oz. chili peppers @ $2.50/lb = $0.47

2 bell peppers @ $1.25/each = $2.50

9 oz. cherry tomatoes @ $0.25/oz = $2.25

2.75 lbs tomatoes @ $2.00/lb = $5.50

2 cucumbers @ $0.75/each = $1.50

Weekly Total = $12.22

Yearly Total = $176.08

Weekly Harvest Report

We harvested some new things in the garden today, most notably some Chinese Long Beans (including some that were already too big) and some Thai Eggplant, ‘Kermit’, that is round with green and white stripes.

In the Family of 4 Garden, we harvested our first bell pepper, a couple chile peppers, a couple more jalapenos, and our first ‘Yummy’ snack peppers. We also had a few more of the ‘4th of July’ tomatoes to harvest and another bunch of Swiss Chard.

I also harvested 3 bunches of Swiss Chard for the Friday Lunch in the Garden  late last week. Last, but not least, I picked a bunch of squash blossoms last Thursday. About 10 of them came from the Family of 4 Garden. (I’ll post more about the squash blossoms later!)

Family of 4 Garden Harvest

10 oz. tomatoes @ $2.00/lb = $1.00

4 bunches Swiss Chard @ $2.99/bunch = $11.96

1 bell pepper @ $1.25/each = $1.25

6 oz. misc. hot peppers @ $2.50/lb = $0.94

8 oz. misc. sweet peppers @ $2.50/lb = $1.25

10 squash blossoms @ $0.50/each = $5.00

Weekly Total = $21.65

Yearly Total = $130.98

In reality, I should put the price of squash blossoms at “priceless” since I haven’t seen anywhere to buy them around Wichita, not even at the Farmers’ Markets. I think 50 cents might be a little bit undervalued, but I don’t want to skew the numbers too much. Of course, eating things that you can’t get from the grocery store is one of the intangibles of having your own garden!