heirloom tomatoes

Straw Bale Gardening, Part 2: The Plot Thickens

Starting a new project begins with great, lofty imaginings…in this case, the vision is of a perfect garden. Then the unanticipated variables creep in. The straw bale garden has triggered a few surprises, some serendipitous, some not. As a follow up to Part 1 of this series, I’ll share in this report on this planting, watering and watching a straw bale garden grow.


The bale set-up was actually a thrill. Maybe it’s an unfulfilled interest in engineering, but I really enjoyed the challenge of locating and grouping the bales in full sun, amongst a system of north-south lines between posts that I drove into the ground myself with a post pounder. I enjoyed stringing an espalier wire system (trellis) between the posts, as I imagined great climbing cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. 

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A No-Hype Guide to What's Ripe

Can you pick up a tomato and sniff it to know that it’s ripe? What about a sweet pepper? Or a cucumber? In reality, there is no such thing as a “ripe” scent. Truth be told, you need more of a knack than your nose to know what’s ripe and when to buy it, so you won’t be throwing it away tomorrow.

As I’ve written before, I used to work as a farm hand for an organic vegetable farm. So I have a pretty good idea when a vegetable is ripe and ready to bring home to your kitchen.

Summer Squash

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Beat the Heat with a Spicy Moroccan Tomato Soup

Before I begin, I ask a moment of your indulgence. Picture me, if you will, walking around my office, proud puff pigeon-chested, handing out cigars to my colleagues, grinning from ear to ear and flashing the picture you see above to anyone who will stand still long enough to look.

Okay, I didn't really do that, but only because I don't have an office to go to. So you'll have to stand in for my hapless co-workers. Ain’t she a beauty? That pretty girl is my first tomato of the season and not only is she gorgeous to look at (do you see those striations of yellow? that smooth orange skin? that shape, my goodness, that shape?), she was gorgeous to eat. Cut cross-wise to reveal flower shaped rounds, I ate her all by myself with nothing but a dusting of sea salt. Divine.

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Top 10 Things to Eat and Do Before Summer Ends

Back-to-school ads are blitzing televisions and newspapers, the Minnesota State Fair is a few weeks away and Vikings football is once again the talk of the town. It can only mean one thing: summer is almost over.

But don’t put away the sunscreen and picnic baskets yet; the best of the season has only just begun and there’s still plenty of time to enjoy them. To help you do just that, here is our list of the most delicious seasonal foods to eat and fun activities to do before our magnificent Minnesota summer comes to a close.

Top 10 Things to Eat and Do Before Summer Ends 

1. Sun-ripened tomatoes

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How Growing a Few Backyard Tomato Plants Led to My Life as a Farmer

As I’m planting my crop of tomatoes this year, I couldn’t help but ponder about how much I’ve benefited from this one item of produce. In her recent Simple Good & Tasty post, Rhena Tantisunthorn described the history of tomatoes, so I reflected on my own history and realized how my love for tomatoes has been a catalyst of growth for me in so many ways. Here are just a few of them:

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Tunnel Farming Adds Weeks to a Short Growing Season

For everything there is a season, but for fresh produce grown in the Upper Midwest, it can be a frustratingly short period of time. It’s a hard truth that local food lovers in colder climes have accepted with resignation: enjoy the seasonal bounty of fruits and vegetables while you can, before the growing season quickly comes to an end. For many of us, the abbreviated availability of certain fresh foods make the concepts of eating locally and seasonally seem incompatible for a good portion of the year. But now, an emerging farm technique is stretching the traditional boundaries of the growing season and could help bring the local and the seasonal together under its roof. 

Early Surprises

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Backyard Beauties: Heirloom Vegetables and the Simple Art of Seed Saving

Whether as a byproduct of fiscal necessity or a desire to have a hand in what winds up on the family's dinner plate, the act of growing fruits and vegetables at home has recently returned to its rightful status as a revered American pastime. As the homegrown revolution continues to spread, many gardeners are branching out from mass-produced, highly disease-resistant hybrid plants to open-pollinated heirlooms.

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The Local Food Pig Roast and Potluck was Awesome

What more I say? Last night's pig roast and potluck at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis was awesome. As in, I'm still in awe of the event. The night was really perfect - fantastic weather, delicious sustainable and organic food,and truly amazing people - about 150 of us!

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Recap of the 7/29 Simple, Good, and Tasty Dinner at the Red Stag Supper Club

What a fun night we had at the Red Stag Supper Club in Minneapolis! The room was gorgeous, the food was superb, and the company was best of all. The photos, taken by my friend, fellow foodie, and excellent blogger Kate Sommers of Les Petites Images, tell the story way better than I can.

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