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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Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

Hand, apron, flour - Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

A recipe that requires a crust, has an important function, as it is the foundation to countless culinary and pastry dishes. The crust is a crucial structural aspect of the particular recipe you may be preparing. Crusts impart texture, either crispy, crunchy, or flaky depending on how you prepare the crust.

chicken pot pieCan you imagine making a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, or pot pie devoid of a crust? And how would you eat a pizza without a crust? We can’t imagine. Maybe you would have a tomato-pepperoni soup?

Crusts are important to a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, pot pie, or pizza.

What are some alternative ingredients to making these crusts?

We know that using cold butter in a pie crust when done right, can make for a flaky crust.

Did you know that coconut oil be an alternative to butter, doing the same thing? It is still a saturated fat like butter, but a shorter chain amino fatty acid, and has some extra nutrients over butter, like minerals, and has antibacterial substances.

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

This crust using coconut oil makes a delicious, flaky pastry just as well as butter.

3/4 cup solid coconut oil

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 – 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Cut the coconut oil into the flour (the same you would do with cold cubed butter) and salt with pastry blender or two knives. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix well.

Roll out on floured board. Pastry is very tender and may be partially rolled around rolling pin for ease of picking up to place in pie pan (recipe from: Coconut Recipes).

How about this alternative for a quiche, rice crust.

Rice Crust
A rice crust is a great way to use up leftover rice, explains Erin McDowell at Food52. She says it’s an excellent option for savory pies, and this crust works especially well for quiches.

a woman making a rice crust in a pie dish

Image Credit: Food52

Erin explains to make a rice crust you simply mix cooled leftover steamed rice with egg whites and grated cheese, and press the mixture into a pie plate.

Par-bake the crust to help it set before filling and baking it. Watch your crust carefully to see how it browns, as you may need to lower the temperature from 425 degrees to 375 degrees if it browns too much in the early stages of baking.

How about this alternative for a pizza crust. It’s gluten-free and uses no yeast. The recipe idea is from – She Knows.

At She Knows, they say that in this recipe they used both almond and coconut flours, and the result was anything but boring. The pizza crust turned out soft, fluffy and delicious.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

pizza on a table with a pizza cutter

Image credit: She Knows

1/2 cup tapioca flour (plus more for rolling the dough)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup almond milk (warmed plain, or other nondairy milk)

2 whole large eggs (organic)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, coconut flour, tapicoca flour, garlic powder and salt.

To the flour mixture, add the olive oil, the warmed nondairy milk and the eggs. Mix very well until the dough is soft and fluffy.

Turn the dough out onto a large surface lightly dusted with extra tapioca flour.

Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and can be rolled out.

Roll the dough out into the desired thickness but being careful to not make it too thin (or it will break).

Bake the pizza dough for about 15 minutes, until it’s firm and slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and set aside until ready to prepare your pizza.

A pizza crust traditionally is dough, but since the food revaluation started, people like yourself are looking for healthy alternatives to pizza crust. The pizza crust replacement (made from flour) is vegetable crusts, which are becoming more popular, and eating a pizza like this is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet.

How about this wonderful and tasty alternative for a shortbread or tart crust.

Peach and Cardamom Bakwell Tart

For the almond shortcrust pastry

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Peach and Cardamom Tart - Food Network uk

                                           Image credit: Food Network U.K.

1/4 cup almond flour

1/3 salted butter, frozen and grated

1 tbsp sugar

2 drops almond essence

1/4 teapoon organic cornflour

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Extra flour to roll the pastry

For the peach jam filling

1 ripe peach

1/2 cup sugar

For the almond cake filling

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup almond flour

1/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup milk, full fat

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1-2 drops almond essence

1-2 ripe peaches, sliced to decorate

For the cardamom mascarpone cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

Tips For a Great Pie Crust

These are some reminders to making a great pie crust.

Chilling the dough after preparing it makes it easier to roll out and much less likely to stick. It also resolidifies the shortening, butter or coconut oil to ensure flakiness.

parchment and dried beans placed over crustWhen rolling out the chilled dough, roll from the center to the outside edge. Use just enough flour on the rolling surface and rolling pin to keep the dough form sticking.

To bake a “blind” a raw dough crust, first chill it for 20 minutes and then fit a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on the inside surface. Prick both the crust and the foil or paper, to allow steam to escape and keep the crust from developing a bubble.

Fill the foil with baker weights, or dried beans to help the crust keep its shape while it blind bakes (view our post here: Blind Baking).

To store up some labor in the freezer, Make several pie shells at a time and freeze them in airtight plastic bags. They’ll keep for 6 to 8 months.

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Spiralizing: Turn Vegetables into Healthy – Creative – Satisfying Meals

Spiralizing: Turn Vegetables Into Health - Creative - Satisfying Meals

A Cozy Kitchen - spiralizing Zucchini into noodles

Image Credit: A Cozy Kitchen – A Manual Spiralizer – Turning Zucchini Into Pasta Noodles

The spiralizer is a culinary gadget that has quickly become a must have in kitchens all around the world. Put simply, the spiralizer is a tool that allows a kitchen cook to turn vegetables into noodles. Lisa Richards author of The Candida Diet (www.thecandidadiet.com) says, “Quitting Refined Carbs? The Spiralizer Is Your New Best Friend.”

With the spiral slicer you can conjure up endless julienne strips of carrot, radish, cucumber, and all kinds of other firm vegetables. The unqiue spirals are perfect to create vegetable stir-fries or pasta.

julienne spiral peelerThe mechanism can be purchased as a manual counter top, hand held or even a julienne peeler.

The counter top spirlizer has sharp blades, that allows you to feed any kind of vegetable through the system, and the hand held has thin blades built into the plastic funnel like gadget, and the julienne peeler is much like a vegetable or fruit peeler.

How A Spirlizer Works

Vegetable SpiralizerThe mechanism is simple. The hand held is made in the shape much like a funnel. Place the vegetable at one end of the funnel, and firmly push the vegetable into the funnel while twisting the vegetable. The built-in blades will spiral the vegetable into noodles.

The counter top spiral is much the same. Using nothing more than gentle pressure, turn the handle and gently slide the vegetable through the spiralizing blades.

The julienne peeler is simple. Just hold the vegetable in one hand while placing the peeler at the top of the vegetable and slide it down over the surface of the produce.

What ever spiraler you chose, you will always be left with perfectly formed vegetable noodles ready for instant use. It really is that simple – there’s no chopping or preparation involved. Choose your vegetable and away you go!

Forking Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and SauceMexican Squash Pasta with Chorizo Meat SauceHere are two recipes that we used a julienne spiral peeler to turn squash into vegetable noodles.

Click here for the recipe to: Mexican Squash Pasta with Chorizo Meat Sauce

Click here for the recipe to: Yellow Summer Squash Pasta and Sauce

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Stocking the Kitchen with Useful Gadgets for Healthy Cooking

Stocking the Kitchen with Useful Gadgets for Healthy Cooking

Have you been through Williams-Sonoma, Target, Macy’s, or Sur La Table to see their featured kitchen gadgets? If you are a zealous cook, and have a love for being in the kitchen to cook for others or just to relieve stress, then you can’t help but search out and admire the latest tools of the trade, in this case the most necessary kitchen gadgets.

After you have eyed all of those gadgets, you ask which ones do I really need? Here is a look at four of the most useful kitchen aids that we think will help make your cooking and baking time in the kitchen more of a breeze.

Microplane Grater

The Right Kitchen Gadgets for Healthy Cooking -microplane and box grader

Click To Enlarge For Better Viewing

Microplane graters are very useful for grating a verity of foods , like nutmeg, cheese, and zest from citrus fruit. The microplane is etched instead of stamped, like the box grater is.

The microplanes etched edges are razor sharp, grating the food items even finer, then the the smaller stamped grater side of the box grater.

Orange Ginger and Rainbow Carrot's

 

Citrus zest is a healthy way to add seasoned flavor to your favorite recipes. The microplane can easily zest any citrus rind without piercing the pith.

Try a side of steamed or roasted rainbow carrots, sliced and mixed with ginger syrup and the zest of an orange.

A microplane will also grate the perfect chocolate shavings for a cake, or some hard Asiago cheese to grate over your favorite pasta or even a pizza.

 

Immersion Blender

Immersion Blender

Click To Enlarge For Better Viewing

The immersion blender allows you to puree nutritious soups and dips without straining your wrist.

Some of the hand held blenders have multi-speeds making it easier to work on thick or denser concoctions, taking only 90 seconds to puree thick soups like split pea and ham , or chunky spaghetti sauce into a pureed spaghetti  sauce.

A handheld immersion blender saves you time, as you don’t have to get your blender out to puree the soup or other food items, and less clean-up.

Angled Measuring Cup

angled measuring cup by OXO

Source: Chef’s Resource – chefsresource.com –

 

An angled measuring cup by OXO makes measuring foods that are easy to underestimate when cooking or baking, such as flour, cooking oils, pasta, cereal, and nuts.

The angled measuring cup has measurement markings visible from above, making it easier to add accurate amounts of ingredients to your cooking or baking and eliminating the need to examine amounts at eye level.

 

 

 

Colored Flexible Cutting Boards

Sanitation is important when using cutting boards. Bacteria can reside in grooves produced by cutting, or in liquids left on the board, either it be a wooden or plastic cutting board.

Colored Flexible Cutting Boards

Source: Chefs Catalog – chefscatalog.com –

Bacteria or allergens can easily be transmitted from one part of the kitchen to another or from one food to another by way of cutting knives, hands, or surfaces such as chopping boards.

To reduce the chance of cross contamination, why not use flexible cutting boards, which are of different colors for use with different types of food such as raw meat, cooked meat, dairy and vegetables.

Many professional kitchens follow this standard color-coding system.

Blue cutting boards: raw fish

Red cutting boards: raw meat

Green cutting boards: vegetable, salad and fruit

Yellow cutting boards: raw poultry

Brown cutting boards: cooked meat

White cutting boards: dairy (also for universal if no other board is available)

Remember that stocking your kitchen with the appropriate tools of the trade doesn’t have to be expensive. Shop around and investigate and read up on product reviews, such as those done by Good House Keeping , Eating Well, Consumer Search , with the reviews posted on their websites.

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Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie

Apple Cranberry Crumb PieThere are several different ways to make a pie crust. Everyone seems to have their favorite recipe. The most classic pie crust is made with butter. Making a pie crust with butter makes it more flaky.

Making a pie with butter takes some practice, because if you handle it too much it will end up being tough, the reason being your warm touch is melting the butter.

To get the perfect pie crust requires that all the ingredients are chilled, and doing so will give you a flaky, manageable dough. You can also make pie crust using a food processor. Let’s see how that works.

pie crust 1

Add your flour and butter and pulsate, but stop pulsing when you see the pieces of butter are pea size and still cold.

pie crust 2<—————

Now add some ice cold water slowly while pulsing, but just until you see clumps starting to form. When the clumps start to form this is a sign that the flour to water ratio is right. ———–>

pie crust 3After chilling your dough, lightly flour the surface you will be rolling your dough on. As the dough will absorb some of the flour, so putting to much can cause the dough to be tough.

pie crust 4<———–

To get that flaky crust, the butter has to be in solid form and not melted. This requires rolling out the dough promptly, getting it into the pie pan, and into the oven. Always remember, chunks of cold butter, renders flaky crust. ———>

Do you think you can do it? Sure you can. Here is the basic recipe we use here at Splendid Recipes:

Easy Pie Crust with Butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup cold Butter

5 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour and salt in processor. Next cut butter into chunks and add to processor. Pulsate until flour and butter are combined, and the chunks of butter are pea sized. Next while pulsating add a tablespoon at a time and stop adding water when you see clumps starting to form. Remove dough from processor, cut into two even parts, form into a ball and wrap each dough ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

After removing dough from refrigerator, follow illustrations 3 and 4 above. To blind bake your pie crust, link here: Blind Baking.

As we mentioned at the on set of the article, there are variations to making a pie crust. Here is another pie crust recipe:

Easy Pie Crust with Buttermilk

With this pie crust the oil replaces the butter, and the cold ice water is replaced by buttermilk ( 5 tablespoons equal 1/3 cup).

2 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil (we use avocado oil or lite olive oil)

Sift flour and salt. Add buttermilk, oil and stir only until dry ingredients are blended in. Divide dough in half, and form into a ball and wrap each dough ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

After removing dough from refrigerator, follow illustrations 3 and 4 above. To blind bake your pie crust, link here: Blind Baking.

After you have prepared your crust, blind baked it, here is an idea for some great pie ingredients to fill your crust with.

Apple Cranberry Crumb PieApple Cranberry Crumb Pie

1 prepared blind-baked pie crust

Filling

2 pounds of sweet-tart apples, peeled and cored – An excellent choice is Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady. They are all crisp and sturdy apples for baking

1 3/4 cups fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries, chopped

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Coarse salt

Topping

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar

preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a small mixing bowl make sugar mixture whisking together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Place apples in a large bowl and toss with the sugar mixture, coating apples thoroughly. Add cranberries, mixing in well. Spoon apple mixture in the pie crust, distributing evenly over the whole surface of the crust.

For the topping combine all ingredients, except butter, in a small bowl, and mix well. Next add butter, using two knives, cut in butter until mixture forms small pea sized pieces. Sprinkle over filling, covering completely.

Place prepared pie plate onto a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, and continue baking 40 minutes, or until apples are tender. Insert a knife into the pie to check the firmness of the apples. If the apples are still firm, continue baking until they soften just a little. If topping is getting too brown and apples are not done yet, cover pie with aluminum foil to allow apples to bake a bit longer.

Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool 1 hour before serving.

Apple pies are best served at room temperature or warmed in a  350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie will keep at room temperature overnight, and can be stored in the refrigerator up to four days.

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Deep Dish Pizza with Onion and BBQ Chicken

Deep Dish Pizza with Onions and BBQ Chicken

Want to enjoy a delicious deep-dish pizza with a crispy, golden crust without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Fortunately, you can make deep-dish pizza at home without needing to buy any special equipment. All you need is a well-seasoned 12” cast iron skillet, a good pizza dough recipe and your favorite toppings. If you would like to read our posted articles about how to season your pan, the benefits of cast iron, and other recipes made in a cast iron pan, link here.

The following instructions can be easily customized to create any kind of pie you desire.

This version combines onions and a sweet and spicy barbeque chicken to create a nice departure from the more traditional pepperoni and cheese.

A great sweet and spicy BBQ sauce I recommend is Annie’s Natural, all organic ingredients used, link here to find a retailer near you or shop for it on-line.

 

Toppings:

 
2 cups shredded rotisserie or cooked chicken breast

1 cup sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, plus ½ cup

1½ cups onions, diced (onion of your choice)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

 

Pizza Dough Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 teaspoons brown sugar

1½ cups very warm water (110˚F)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

 

Note: This recipe makes two large pizzas. If you don’t want to use all the dough right away, you can store the remaining portion in your refrigerator for several days or freeze for later use.

 

Directions:

Add warm water (note that it is very important that the water is 110 degrees), yeast and brown sugar to large bowl. Let sit for 10 – 12 minutes until the yeast is no longer active.

Add salt and oil. Next add 2½ cups of flour – ½ cup at a time – while stirring constantly with a fork.

Before dropping dough onto a well-floured surface coat hands with flour, kneading in more flour until dough is no longer sticky.

Shape dough into a ball and add to a clean bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover bowl with a towel and let sit for approximately one hour in a warm place.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400˚degrees.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down with your fist and reshape into a ball.

After a couple minutes, cut dough in half with large knife and roll out one half on a clean, well-floured surface.  When the dough is about 4 inches larger than the bottom of your skillet, gently lift and place into pan.

Fold top edge of dough back so it touches the crust at the bottom of the skillet. Use your fingers to make sure the dough is the same thickness around the entire perimeter of the pan.

Combine chicken and one cup barbeque sauce in glass bowl. Toss to combine.

Add remaining barbeque sauce to the crust and spread evenly. Add chicken and caramelized onions, next top with mozzarella cheese. With a pastry brush, coat remaining exposed portions of dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, if desired.

Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese and crust are golden brown.

 

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