Monthly Archives: August 2018

‘Sun Gold’ Tomatoes Rise to Top at Tasting

Colorado Master Gardeners from Denver Extension enjoyed sampling and voting for their favorite home-grown tomatoes during the annual picnic. (Photo by Merrill Kingsbury)

Just like location, location, location is the slogan for real estate, ‘Sun Gold’, ‘Sun Gold’, ‘Sun Gold’ was the mantra at the annual Colorado Master Gardener summer picnic on August 25.

‘Sun Gold’ received the most votes and special recognition during the picnic’s tomato tasting.

Three CMGs from the Denver Extension brought their prized ‘Sun Golds’ to the tasting party: Linda McDonnell, John Ashworth and Barb Pinter.

‘Sun Golds’ are a perennial winner at tomato tasting contests because of their high sugar content and exceptional flavor. The bright orange fruits are also extremely prolific, growing bunches of sweet tomatoes on long vines throughout summer.

Other favorite tomatoes at the tasting included Dianne Rainville’s ‘Green Zebra’. One taster singled out this variety for its “nice acidity and beauty.”

Julie Householder and her husband David brought samples of their ‘Goliath’ tomatoes. These tomatoes were extra-special because the plant came from the Master Gardener Plant Sale in May. They also offered ‘Roma’ and ‘Red Siberian’ varieties for sampling.

CMGs John Ashworth and Renata Hahn each brought their favorite tomatoes to the tomato tasting. (Photo by Merrill Kingsbury)

Renata Hahn’s ‘Oh Happy Day’ tomatoes are a beefsteak type hybrid tomato that must get its name for the beautiful ruby-red tomatoes that are bred to be disease resistant.

Other tomatoes sliced and diced for the tasting included ‘Celebrity’, ‘Carbon Purple’, and two different ‘Tommy Toe’ heirloom cherry tomatoes.

The crowd of picnickers numbered 70 and included CMG volunteers and their families. Merrill Kingsbury, Master Gardener Program Assistant, and her husband hosted the annual social event to celebrate another successful gardening season.

The tomato tasting is a picnic bonus. It give gardeners an opportunity to compare different tomatoes for their future plantings. ‘Sun Gold’ could very well be at the top of many must-grow lists for next season.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

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Need Your Favorite Recipes, Please

Face made of vegetablesWhat’s your favorite way to use the bounty from your vegetable garden?

Whether you’re a gardener who likes to cook or a cook who likes to garden, now’s the thyme to get busy in the kitchen.

August is when the fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables we planted in late spring start to come on strong.

Tomatoes and peppers and zucchini – oh my!

A vegetable garden is a lot of work, and we should celebrate the harvest as long as it lasts. I treat every home-grown tomato like a precious gem. Every eggplant gets the star treatment. Perfect peppers are sliced, diced, fried or dried.

One of my favorite simple salads is to cut thick slices of tomato, sprinkle them with ribbons of fresh basil and then drizzle with olive oil. I could also eat tomato, cucumber and cheese sandwiches (almost) every day. Squash that’s stuffed and baked is also a keeper.

But, like other foodie gardeners, I’m always on the lookout for creative recipe ideas. I know I’m not the only who wants fresh recipes that are quick, tasty and help make sure no garden-grown goodies go to waste.

How do you put your garden-fresh produce to use? Please share your favorite ways to serve up your homegrown treasures for appetizers, snacks, soups, salads, pasta , pickles, and anything else you like to eat. Ways to preserve the harvest count, too.

Use the “comments” section to add your own recipes and ideas or add a link to recipes you’d recommend to other vegetable growers.

Thank you!

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

Hummingbirds in the Garden

Hummingbirds have been dancing around my yard this summer, lured by plants including Goldflame Honeysuckle, Penstemons (Red Rocks and Pike’s Peak), Coral Bells,  Butterfly Bush and brightly colored annuals such as Verbena, Salvia and Geranium. Red Birds in a Tree was irresistible to them last year, but sadly did not return this year (any suggestions for getting this perennial to reliably come back year after year?).  Agastache and Bee Balms are among other highly prized nectar sources. The Hummingbird Society offers this list of recommended plant families.

Hummers are guided to nectar sources by color – they have no sense of smell – they rely on their keen vision to spot plants or the common red bird feeder filled with sugar-water. Bright hues, especially red, orange and purple, which can be seen from distances of 30’ to 50’ in the air, signal that a good meal awaits. Tubular flowers allow hummers to hover near the bloom and lick nectar with their forked, fringed tongues. As with other pollinators, swaths of the same plant make for effective grazing and a succession of season long blooms encourages return visits. Avoidance of pesticides, a  good source of water and shrubs or trees for perching and nesting also make an inviting habitat.

According to the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine,  a hummingbird’s wing beat ranges from 720-5400 times per minute when hovering and they have been clocked in flight at 33+ miles per hour!  On average, a hummer weighs less than a nickel and consumes about twice its weight in nectar, spiders and insects  daily. Their metabolism is 100 times faster than an elephant’s, requiring them to busily visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers daily. They can fly in rain and are the only bird that fly backwards. The distinctive humming sound is made by the wings in flight and actually sounds more like a whistle to me.

Several varieties of hummingbirds have been identified in Colorado, with the most common being the broad-tail. The Audubon Society has established a citizen science program, Hummingbirds at Home, to  chronicle sightings and learn more about food sources.  If you’d like to contribute observations, it’s easy to get started here.

These aerial acrobats will be around till September when they start their journey back to Mexico, with the promise of return next spring. If you don’t already enjoy hummingbirds in your yard, consider adding some plants to lure them in – and encourage your neighbors to do the same to create a larger, more inviting haven for these birds. You won’t regret it.

 

Written and photographed by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener