Picked my first tomato today

tomatoesIt’s been a long time coming, but my tomatoes are ripening. Two more will be ready this weekend.

I sliced that first tomato, sprinkled some kosher salt on it, and ate it standing at the kitchen counter – didn’t even bother with a fork.

My mother often had a garden when I was growing up, but I’ve never had a green thumb – I’ve managed to kill a cactus in under a week – so it was very satisfying eating food I produced myself. This could easily become a habit. I’m already making plans for next year – bigger, better, and earlier. I have a pretty big balcony to fill up with edibles and ornamentals alike.

And my bell peppers are barely an inch long, but they’re already looking like bell peppers. They’re so cute. They’re running late, too, but it’s been a gray summer in downtown Chicago, so I’m just going to have to be patient.


My wildflowers have started blooming

wildflowersI tossed a bunch of wildflower seeds onto the soil in the same planters as the morning glories and four o’clocks. A friend who lives out in the suburbs calls them weeds, but in a concrete jungle, I’ll take all the green I can get.

My first tomato!

FirstTomatoOne of the flowers on my tomato plant has turned into a tomato. It’s tiny and hard to see, but it’s there. And it looks like the other flowers are getting ready to follow suit. I should have some juicy, red tomatoes in a few weeks.

Coming soon: Tomatoes!

tomato-flowersI’m pleasantly surprised that my tomato plant is now in bloom. I grew it from seed, and I’ve been pampering it for almost three months now. Growth has been slow because of the cold, gray spring we’ve had, and it’s running behind – there were already tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday. This variety is Early Girl, and it should have been ready to harvest by now. But at least it’s blooming. It has about a dozen flowers in full bloom and at least a dozen more buds getting ready to open. I should have my own vine-ripened tomatoes in a few weeks.

Considering it’s my first attempt at growing my own food, that makes me happy – especially since I managed to kill the strawberries, squash, and eggplants I attempted to grow. Who knew over-watering was so easy?

The color of summer

strawberriesFarmers market season opened in Chicago four weeks ago, and I almost skipped the two-mile hike this morning. The only plants ready to harvest during the first month of the Midwest’s abbreviated growing season are typically leafy greens and asparagus – good for you, certainly, but I was starting to yearn for some color.

I forced myself out into the 77-degree (in the shade) heat, knowing strawberries would be up next, though I wasn’t expecting them until next week at the earliest. I figured I could at least ask one of the vendors and get a time frame.

I was pleasantly surprised to find strawberries everywhere – the small sweet ones from the first harvest. I made a comment about them to one of the vendors, the one I bought a quart from. She said they just started to ripen this week, and she “was happy to be able to pick them yesterday,” in time for today’s market. Her table is always one of the most diverse during the height of summer, but the past few weeks she’s only had asparagus and rhubarb (which I have no clue what to do with).

I’m now looking forward to the rest of the season, no more temptation to be lazy and stay home on Saturday mornings, no matter how hot and humid. Once the colors start to appear, there’s no stopping it. In a few weeks, my backpack will be crammed full of just about every color imaginable. And I’ll be just as happy to eat those plants as I was the strawberries this morning – “was” because they didn’t last beyond breakfast. Actually, they were breakfast.

For dinner, I think I’ll pull out the wok and stir fry, highlighting the asparagus and garlic onions I bought this morning. Greens may be still be commonplace right now, but they’re certainly not boring.