How to grow and cook with specialty tomatoes this summer

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When an avid gardener thinks about summer, the precious tomato is usually one of the first things on their mind. Growing tomatoes is easy and very rewarding because a single plant can provide a tremendous amount of fruit.

To get your best looking tomatoes ever, pick a spot that gets at least 10 hours of sunlight and stake the plant up, giving it room to breathe. Place the stakes in carefully and at the same time as transplanting to avoid breaking the roots.

Planting your tomatoes in buckets or portable raised beds can be helpful as moving the tomato around will help it from developing soil borne diseases like black spot. Give your tomatoes a good mixture of soil that includes alfalfa and dolomite limestone as this will ward off rotten blossoms at the end of your fruit. Once your tomatoes start to appear, trim off any suckers that are not producing fruit and this will allow your tomatoes to get big and juicy. When watering, be sure to soak the soil at the base of the plant, keeping water off the leaves. Give it at least five days to dry out before watering again; Tomatoes are a great plant to grow during a drought.

Cherry Tomatoes

Arguably on of the most popular varieties of tomato at the farmers market, cherry tomatoes make a delicious, crispy and sweet snack all by themselves. Try slicing up a few different varieties like the Sun Gold, Sweet Million and Black Cherry and layering them on a bed of goat cheese. Mix in chopped onion, herbs like basil and parsley, garlic and lemon juice to create a dynamic flavor. Bake the mixture in a five inch baking dish over 350 degree heat and serve with freshly baked break or extra crispy crackers.

Heirloom Tomatoes

One of the best ways to use heirloom tomatoes is on pizzas. Heirloom tomatoes look gorgeous when sliced into big round circles, layered with herbs and cheese. Experiment with different flavor combinations like the Hawaiian Pineapple variety with Canadian bacon and pineapples. You can also try different styles of crust, as the heirloom tomato lends itself nicely to a galette.

Beef Steak Tomatoes

For the perfect summer picnic dish, try a tomato based pasta salad. Pasta salad is a good alternative to a green, leafy salad that can wilt quickly and spoil in the hot sun. The Beef Steak tomatoes are good for salads of all kinds because of their greater ratio of flesh to juice. Just roast about two pounds of tomatoes with olive oil for about 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Chop the tomatoes and mix with onion, garlic, parsley, feta cheese and freshly cooked pasta. You can even experiment by adding proteins like grilled chicken or canned tuna.

Roma Tomatoes

This versatile tomato is great for canning tomato sauces and spreads. Turn about 15 pounds of Roma tomatoes into six quarts of canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. To prepare, just mark the bottom of the tomato with a cross, boil for about a minute and then submerge them in cold water to remove the skin. You can preserve them just like that for use in soup and stews or cook them with Italian herbs and chopped onion to make a delicious home made tomato sauce.

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