How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato Garden

How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato GardenBlossom rot, or blossom end rot, is a common problem encountered by professional and back yard tomato gardeners. You may be asking what is blossom rot? It is a disease that that can be identified by a dark, rotten spot at the blossom end of developing tomatoes.

But no need to despair, as there are techniques you can use to counter act blossom rot before it even starts. It is pertinent that you follow through with the methods, because once the end rot appears on an individual fruit, there is no way to cure the affected tomato.

You can cut away the rotted portion of the tomato after you harvest it and safely eat the portion that was not affected, but it is best to eliminate the problem before it reaches that point.

How To Prevent Tomato Blossom Rot

Let’s examine these questions:

  1. How does blossom rot start?
  2. How can I prevent it from showing up in the first place?

Blossom end rot is a physiological affliction of the tomato plant. Initial symptoms can  and consist of small, light brown flecks and lesions occur initially on green fruit that are clustered on the blossom end of the developing fruit.

As the disorder worsens, a circular to oblong, dark brown, firm lesion develops on the blossom end.

If blossom rot is left unchecked, you can lose a large portion of your entire tomato crop to this condition.

What causes blossom end rot is the plants deficiency in calcium. Adequate amounts of calcium are needed in order for tomato plants to produce their fruit properly. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your soil, your plants may not be able to effectively absorb it for a number of reasons. When this occurs, your plants are at risk of contracting blossom rot.

Prevention

Now to answer the question of how to prevent blossom rot in the first place? To prevent blossom end rot is making sure your plants have getting enough calcium and are able to absorb enough of the mineral.

soil test kitBefore planting your tomatoes, be sure to have your soil tested or do it yourself with an inexpensive soil testing kit.

Ideally, your soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH somewhere running between 6.2 to 6.8. The plants also need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients as well (Bonnie Plants).

To start, if your soil is too acidic, add some limestone to increase the pH. Use caution when adding this soil amendment, because adding too much will cause the soil too be, to alkaline.

If this occurs, or if your soil is naturally alkaline, you can amend it with rich organic matter, elemental sulfur or an acidifying fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate. It can be very challenging to lower soil pH, however, because limestone in the ground is continually dissolving.

If you live in an area where alkaline soil is a fact of life, you may want to build raised beds to create a more favorable environment that tomato plants will thrive and produce tasty fruits.

water base of tomato plant

Image Credit: HGTV – Garden

Once your soil is at the optimum pH level, you’ll want to ensure your plants are receiving adequate moisture.

Optimal tomato growth requires regular and deep watering, so that water gets all the way down to the entire root system.

Make sure your plants are receiving 1 to 2 inches of water weekly, and more if a warm spell comes on.

To reduce the chance of foliar diseases, water the base of tomato plants and avoid getting water on the leaves, especially if you’re watering in the evening.

Blossom end rot will usually occur at the start of the season as the first fruits appear. If you notice your tomatoes are showing possible signs of blossom rot, make sure your plants are watered deeply every 4 to 5 days. If it is extremely hot in your area, water them even more frequently.

To determine when it is time to water your plants, dig down 3 or 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is moist, wait 24 hours and check again. When the soil at that level is dry, it is time to water again.

seaweed extractFinally, many tomato gardeners also swear by liquid kelp (seaweed) extract as a way to combat blossom rot. Sea Kelp contains a natural substance you can use to condition soil, and it can contain more than 70 vitamins, minerals and enzymes essential to the health your tomato plants.

The extract and fertilizer are readily available in local garden centers, large home improvement stores or via online retailers. You may want to test it out on part of your garden to see how it works for you.

Although blossom rot can be a garden dilemma, it is time will spent in preparation and planning your tomato garden, which will go a long ways towards eradicating blossom end rot from your garden.

Header Article Image Credit: Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program

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The Difference Between Stock and Broth

collage of broths and stocks - The Difference Between Stock and Broth What is the difference between broth and stock? It seems like they would virtually be the same thing as they both are a liquid, but there are slight differences. What is the difference? Basically, the difference is in how they are both made or prepared.

Stock is made from the bones and connective tissue of meat, and including vegetables. Though they are removed after the stock is cook, and use in another meal, and the stock is used as a base for soups among other things. Usally a chicken stock is administered when an individual has a cold or flu.

While broth is the cooked liquid with meat and vegetables left in and enjoyed together.

There is a  slight differences between the two, though they could be similar or the same.

What Is Needed to Make a Stock

The following is instructions to make a stock using vegetables along with either beef shanks, or chicken, including wings, back, neck, ribs, and giblets (except the liver). Most stocks are vegetable base only, and meat bones without the meat (in the case of chicken, it would be the leg bones without meat).

vegetable and - or meat stockIdeally for a stock using bones, you want to use bones that are cleaned of all of the meat. This can be hard to achieve in your own home kitchen.

However, you could buy some meat bones (usually beef bones only are found) at your local butcher who has cleaned the bones of all the meat.

To make a stock using beef, first arrange the beef shanks in a single layer in a non greased large shallow roasting pan.

Roast, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until nicely browned. Transfer the shanks and ribs to a stockpot.

Pour off all the fat from the roasting pan, then add 2 cups of  water to the pan and swirl it around, scraping any browned bits of meat or juices. Now add to the stockpot along with the remaining water.

Bring the water to a boil, uncovered, over high heat, skimming off any scum.

Next add the onions, carrots, tomato, garlic cloves, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and salt. Partially cover and simmer for 3 – 4 hours, occasionally skimming off the scum.

Remove meat and vegetables, set aside. Pour the pot of liquid through a large colander or sieve, setting over a very large heatproof bowl.

Let the stock cool, pour into jars and cover with lid. Put into refrigerate overnight. The next day, discard the fat that has solidified on top. Use your stock within 3 to 4 days.

You could also ladle the cooled stock into ice cube trays, then freeze. Once frozen, place stock cubes in freezer bags or containers for future use.

Do the same above if using chicken, though you do not roast the chicken in the oven. Instead, add the chicken parts to a large stockpot. Add the water and bring to a boil, uncovered over high heat, skimming off any scum.

Next add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 3 hours. Also at this point, you can add fresh herbs if you would like, but this is optional and not at all necessary for making a good stock, as you don’t want to dilute the flavors of the carcass.

Next, do the same with the cooked stock, chicken parts and vegetables, as the same with the beef stock, just before straining.

hearty brothWhat Is Needed to Make a Broth

Here’s how to make a broth using beef or chicken.

Heat some cooking oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add vegetables like garlic, onions, celery, and carrots. Cook the vegetables until softened.

Add 8 cups of water, with bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, or until meat is cook through.

When broth is cooked, you can go a step further for a more hearty broth by adding some cooked rice, noodles or legumes.

When to Use Your Stock Or Broth

The difference between stock and broth, is a stock is the liquid produced by simmering raw ingredients, with the removal of the solids (meat and vegetables), leaving a highly flavored liquid. You can also chose to make a broth without meat.

broth with vegetables and pasta The stock can be used as a base for many things like soup, gravies, and sauces among others.

Were as broth is a basic soup, where the solid pieces, the meat and vegetables, remain. A broth is often made more substantial by adding rice, barley, legumes, and even pasta. You can also make a broth without meat.

As you can see, there is a difference between stock and broth, though the way in how they are made are very slightly similar.

Here are some great soup recipes to try from the archives of Splendid Recipes and More

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup

Chicken Curry Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

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Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum Sauce

Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum Sauce

For the the greater part of human history, most cultures could not afford to waste food, so a number of uses for stale bread as an example were fashioned. Stale bread was used in many dishes, which were both savory and sweet. One of those sweet dishes became sweet bread pudding.

The basic recipe for such a dessert, was stale bread, eggs, milk and sugar. Over the years other things were added, like fresh or dried fruits, and nuts.

If two of your favorite desserts happen to be bread pudding and pumpkin pie, then why not enjoy the best of two worlds, that is pumpkin bread pudding?

Our featured recipe combines bread with pumpkin and pecans. But that is not all, this one is accompanied by a toffee sauce that has rum in it. Do we have your mouth watering? Then let’s get to baking. Here is what you will need for the featured recipe: Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum Sauce.

1 loaf or 16 oz. sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree, without spices

3 cup half & half or heavy cream

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 star spice

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup pecan pieces

Toffee Sauce:

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted

½ cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons rum

1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

pecans added to bread pudding mixIn a large bowl whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, half and half or cream, melted butter, sugar, vanilla, spice, and salt.bread added to wet ingredients for Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum SauceAdd the bread cubes and pecans and toss to coat, making sure all the bread cubes are coated with the egg mixture.

Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding in baking dish ready to bakeSpoon the bread pudding into to 13 X 9 inch glass baking dish and bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center just comes out clean.

Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum Sauce fresh out of the ovenSet aside on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Pumpkin and Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Rum SauceAs the pumpkin bread is cooling you can prepare the toffee sauce. In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, add and mix together the brown sugar, heavy cream, melted butter, and one teaspoon of your favorite rum. Stir toether just until a soft boil, and set aside.

For the whipped cream topping, we personally place a large bowl and the wire whisk attachment or attachments in the freezer for about 5 minutes. A cold bowl and attachments will whip the heavy cream much faster.

In a large cold bowl, pour in the heavy cream, sugar, and rum. Whip until peaks form.

Serve a slice of pumpkin and pecan bread pudding with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzled with some toffee rum sauce, and a sprinkle of pecan pieces.

Try some of our other great bread pudding recipes…

  1. Capirotada – Mexican Bread Pudding
  2. Blueberry Pear and White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  3. Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding

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Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine

Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine

There are many varieties of vinegar’s. Like red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and white vinegar.

Vinegar’s are used for pickling, de-glazing pans, marinating meats, making sauces and is found in some desserts. White or cider vinegar’s are even used for house cleaning and disinfecting as well.

Commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine is red wine vinegar, and is a common staple in most French homes. Most red wine vinegar’s can be matured up to two years. White wine vinegar is tangy in flavor and can be used in place of lemon juice in sauces like, Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces, can also be used in making vinaigrette’s, soups, and stews.

It’s also an excellent base for homemade fruit or herb vinegar’s. Wine or white distilled vinegar’s are flavored with herbs, spices or other seasonings, like garlic, basil and tarragon, making a tasty and aromatic addition to dressings.  As for fruit infused vinegar’s, they are that commonly done with balsamic vinegar’s, like raspberry, blueberry or pomegranate.

From the kitchen to cleaning house, doing the laundry, and even used for medicinal purposes, vinegar is the most versatile of products, and versatile is defined as “capable of turning with ease from one thing to another.”

Our featured recipe is – Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine -, and yes it uses red wine, and red wine vinegar. Here is what you will need.

herb - wine marinade for Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine2/3 cup red wine

6 tablespoons tomato paste

3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked from steams

3 sprigs marjoram, leaves picked, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

½ cup red wine vinegar

3 1/2 pounds of chicken parts, legs, thighs, or breast, with bone and skin

Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, optional

1 pound tri-color baby potatoes, do not peel

3 small red onions, quartered

6 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise

½ cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

chicken marinading in herbs and red wineMix together the wine, tomato paste, thyme, marjoram, and vinegar. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (optional), then place in a large bowl with the wine mixture. Coated the chicken pieces well, and set aside in the refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

vegetables arranged in a glass baking dishPlace the potatoes in a medium to large saucepan of cold water, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes, drain.

Arrange the onions, carrots, and cooked potatoes in a large glass baking dish and pour in the water. We were not able to purchase the tri-colored baby potatoes, so we used small red potatoes cut in half.

marinated chicken and vegetables in a glass baking dishArrange the chicken pieces skin-side up on top of the vegetables. Pour the marinade over the chicken-vegetable layer. Cover with tin foil and roast for 30 minutes.

Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine - fresh out of the ovenRemove the foil and baste the chicken with the cooking liquid. Roast another 15 minutes, uncovered, or until the skin is crisp.

Platted - Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine and VegetablesPlate and serve.

Here’s another recipe using white wine, that we are sure you will also enjoy. Link here to view: Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce. You will enjoy the aroma of the fresh tarragon, in this recipe!!

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Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans

Platted - Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans over Boston Lettuce

Candy-cane

Image Credit: Christmas Wow

When you hear the word candy cane, it is always associated with a candy that is in the shape of a small cane with white and red strips through it.

Or a small rounded candy you would receive at a restaurant after enjoying a meal.

Did you know though that there is a root vegetable that is also referred to as a candy cane? Yes, the beet root called “Chioggia,” and it has stripes of red and white on the inside its flesh.

shredded candy cane beetThe beet is nothing new to the vegetable market, as it is a Heirloom, meaning heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated cultivars, and have a reputation for being high quality and easy to grow (The Heirloom Vegetable Gardener’s Assistant).

Open-pollination is a particular cultivar that can be grown from seed and will come back “true to type.”

Our featured recipe contains these heirlooms, the candy striped Chioggia. Here is what you will need to make your “Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans.”

1 large chioggia beet, peeled and shredded

1 large Granny smith apple, shredded with skin on

1/4 cup pomegranate dressing (can be purchased at your local Whole foods Market)

1/3 cup pecan pieces

pomegranate dressingFirst add the dressing to a large mixing bowl. You can add more than 1/4 cup of the dressing if you wish.

shredded candy cane beets and green applePrepare the the produce, and add to the mixing bowl. After shredding the beet, and apple mix it right away with the dressing, as it contains vinegar, which will coat the produce and stop it from browning to fast. Isn’t that amazing how the chioggia beet looks so much like a candy cane?

adding pecansMix the shredded beet and apple together until it is well coated with the dressing. Next add the pecan pieces and mix in.

Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with PecansNext spoon the slaw into a salad serving bowl.

Platted - Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans over Boston Lettuce Plate and serve over a piece of Boston lettuce leaf, and your favorite meat dish.

This side salad can make a great addition to your “Turkey Dinner” this coming Thanksgiving (November 26th) or Christmas (December 25th).

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Tomato Basil Chicken

Tomato Basil ChickenYou have some chicken breasts and are looking for a new idea to prepare them? Well you have arrived to the right place for a quick and easy recipe. It’s our Tomato Basil Chicken entrée. Besides being healthy with all fresh ingredients that include tomato, basil, and garlic, this recipe is reminiscent of warm weather and luscious Mediterranean summers.

According to Spice Pages by Gernot Katzer, basil is native to India, though it is not used as a culinary herb, but rather is considered sacred and use in religious rites. Besides the most common Mediterranean type basil sold in the Western world, there is also varieties from the Asian world, such as Thailand‘s sweet basil with a licorice flavor, and a lemon basil which has a distinct balm-like flavor. Katzer states there are also verities introduced to European gardeners from Africa as well (Spice Pages: Basil).

Now for our featured recipe: Tomato Basil Chicken, and here is what you will need.

Tomato Basil Chicken - ingredients

1 lb boneless chicken breast (about 2-3 medium sized pieces) with the skin on

1 teaspoon of rock salt, Himalayan or Sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon if salt is ground

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 handfuls of fresh chopped basil, about 1 1/2 cups

1 ½ -2 cups fresh diced tomato

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves of garlic

Fresh chopped ingredients for Tomato Basil ChickenDice the tomatoes, and chop the garlic. Tear the basil apart by hand.

adding salt and pepper to chicken breastNext, season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. You may use the ground salt, but the rock salt lends a more rustic appeal to the dish.

adding chicken meat to a preheated pan with olive oilIn a preheated ceramic coated pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and place the chicken skin side down.

adding garlic and browning the meatNext add the garlic and allow the chicken to brown on both sides, turning once.

adding tomatoes and basilOnce both sides are adequately cooked, add the tomatoes. Sauté for about 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and some of it has formed a sauce with the olive oil and garlic. Next add the basil and cook for another minute.

adding cheeseNext add the grated Parmesan cheese and remove from the heat.

plated- Tomato Basil ChickenPlate and serve. Makes 2 to 3 servings. Add a side of cooked Mediterranean vegetables or a Greek salad.

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Buttermilk Pecan Pie for National Pie Day

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is an American dessert that is native to the southern states  (USA). The history of the pecan pie is not very clear, though pecan pie took off in popularity in the early 20th century. The pie has its place as a dessert at most American dinner tables.

Pecan pie has a sweet, nutty flavor and a custard texture that no other pie can claim. Pecan pie is one of the most frequently eaten pies in the country, next to Apple pie.

The pecan tree is indigenous to North America and grows throughout much of the southern United States. With such wide spread growth of the pecan trees , the early French settlers in the then known Louisiana territory had invented the pecan pie.

Today the southern states harvest over 250 million pounds of pecans each year, with Texas and Georgia pecan groves claiming the majority of that amount.

Pecan trees drop the nuts or shed the pecans from September to December, and ripen on the ground. The pecans are then harvested from the base of the trees, and are either shelled and sold as packaged nuts to make pecan pies or sold shelled for later use.

We bought some pecans, in the bulk section of the Whole Foods Market, to make our favorite Buttermilk Pecan Pie in honor of National Pie Day January. 23, 2015.

If you would like to prepare one, then here is what you will need:

Buttermilk Pecan Pie

½ cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

5 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 unbaked pastry shell (9 or 10 inches)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in flour, lemon juice and vanilla. Stir in buttermilk and pecans. Pour into the pie shell. Bake 55 minutes or until set.

Let cool. Plate and serve. Store leftovers in refrigerated.

_____________________________

If Buttermilk Pecan Pie is not a favorite of yours, then try these pies for National Pie Day: Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie or Berries and Vanilla Pudding Pie.

 

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