Sunday, September 25, 2016

Savory Sunday: Homemade Ketchup from Leftover Tomatoes

Guest post by Shelby Smith 

Do you have leftover tomatoes from your summer garden or have a few that have just begun to ripen? Those cracked, bruised, and small tomatoes can still be used as the main ingredient in these three popular sauces: Homemade ketchup, BBQ sauce and red sauce. These three recipes are easy, stress-free, and can save you money. 
Because ketchup is the base of the other recipes and I will describe how to make it and then note the changes in order to make the BBQ and red sauce. For this recipe I used ¾ cup of 'Red Currant' and 'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes mixed together. Any large tomatoes should be cut in smaller pieces in order to cook evenly. Different types of tomatoes will have different flavored sauces. For example, 'Sun Gold' tomatoes are sweet so you won’t have to add or as much sugar to make your BBQ sauce.

·       ¾ cup of tomatoes cubed*
·       ¼ tsp of vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
·       Salt and pepper to taste
·       Sugar, if needed
*A ¾ cup of tomatoes makes enough Ketchup for one serving.
1.      In a pot, simmer the tomatoes on low and crush them with a whisk or fork to help release the juices. Do not boil.
2.      Gently simmer for 10 minutes and stir occasionally.
3.      When the tomatoes are soft and all the juice has been released, puree your sauce with a hand mixer or food processor. Add your salt, pepper, and sugar to your liking.
4.      When it’s pureed, strain out the skin and seeds through a piece of cheese cloth or a fine strainer.
5.      Bottle and store in the refrigerator or serve immediately.
Your ketchup will be thinner if you have more juice or add water to it. It will be thicker with less liquid. These sauces can be made on the stove or in bigger batches in a crock pot.
For the BBQ sauce, you will need your finished Ketchup as your base and then add whatever flavors you want, like mustard, powder, paprika, or chilies. I made my BBQ sauce by adding garlic, onion, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and some brown sugar to simmer with the ketchup and then pureed it again. I used the sauce to flavor some baked chicken thighs. Check out the Food Network for several types of BBQ sauces to try out.
A basic red sauce starts the same way as ketchup, but then you can garlic and herbs, like thyme, and oregano to add more flavor. Simmering the sauce for several hours gives the herb more time to add more flavor and give it a bolder taste. 
All of these sauces can be made to your own specification and stay fresh while refrigerated. Also, you could store them in labeled mason jars and give them away for unique gifts for the holidays. I would recommend making big batches with your friend and kids to show them how you can use leftovers in multiple ways and to get people involved in cooking with fresh ingredients.

"Savory Sunday" is a new weekly blog series with seasonal recipes from the garden.
About the Author:
Shelby Smith is a senior double major in multi-platform journalism and film studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She was a sports copy-editor for a campus publication called Unwind Magazine and a writer at The Campus Current newspaper at Anne Arundel Community College. 


Friday, September 23, 2016

Fenton Friday: Nicotiana Bait and Switch

Nicotiana tabacum
At a plant swap in May, I was given a few "Flowering Tobacco" seedlings (Nicotiana sylvestris). They took forever to settle in and start growing. When they finally did, they became monsters towering over even the neighboring corn. I waited weeks and weeks for any sign of a flower and finally this week they sent out a bloom. The flowers are a sad comparison the sprays of the ornamental tobacco variety and I cannot detect any of that signature perfume. This is clearly field tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). I am more than slightly annoyed that I was given mislabeled seeds and grew this monster plant.

BTW If you click on the tobacco picture itself, you can view it at the original size and be able to see that it is covered in what I am guessing are spider mites. I will be yanking it out soon.

Gold Rush Currant Tomato
Elsewhere in my plot, the 'Gold Rush Currant' Tomato is ripening up. They are cute, but I have to say, "don't bother." They are far slower and far less prolific than the red currant varieties and also don't have half the flavor. I'd recommend only growing them as a colorful and cute salad addition or garnish.

Right before I left for the Garden Communicators Conference, I soaked and planted 'Carouby de Maussane' a variety of heirloom Snow Pea at the base of the green beans. No sign of them emerging yet. I will give them another week before panicking. 

How is your edible garden growing?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 5th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Win Espoma Organic Start!, Bloom!, and Grow! Liquid Fertilizers in September 2016 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest

For our September 2016 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a set of Espoma Organic Start!, Bloom!, and Grow! liquid fertilizer. (The prize pack is valued at $30.)
   Start!, Bloom!, and Grow! from Espoma ( are low in salts and made with all-natural ingredients. They are safer and healthier for plants and don’t leave a fishy smell behind. And because they are liquid, they work immediately to give plants what they need most.
   Providing the right balance of natural proteins, kelp extracts, humic acids and a proprietary blend of beneficial microbes, Start!, Bloom!, and Grow! each help plants grow bigger, better, and more beautiful.
   The new, innovative Easy Dose cap makes fertilizing less of a guessing game. Each dose gives a precise feeding of specially formulated nutrients. Simply open the flip-top lid, invert the bottle, and release a pre-measured dose of product directly into the watering can.
   Espoma’s organic liquid plant foods are safe to handle. Apply directly to the roots for fast-acting results. The products are also safe for use around children and pets.
   To enter to win the set of three fertilizers, send an email to by 5pm on Friday, September 30, with “Espoma Liquid Fertilizer” in the subject line and in the body of the email tell us which was your favorite article in the September 2016 issue and why. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The winner will be announced and notified on October 1.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We are away at the Garden Writers Conference

The Washington Gardener Magazine blog, garden tip of the day, and most all our social media is on break as we attend the 2016 GWA Annual Conference & Expo. We aim to return inspired, refreshed, and renewed. You can follow along and virtually experience the conference using #GWA2016 on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Meanwhile, while we are gone, enjoy some of our most popular past blog posts:
 PS If you are attend GWA2016 too, please say, 'Hi' and do come to my panel discussion "Eavesdrop of the Editors" and roundtable "Social Media: Beyond the Basics."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How to Grow Healthy Peaches and Nectarines in the September 2016 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine


The September 2016 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out.

 Inside this issue:
~ How to Grow Healthy Peaches and Nectarines
~ This Fall, Plant Bad-Tasting Bulbs to Deter Deer and Rodents
~ Your Monthly Garden Tasks To-do List
~ Testing the Japanese Rice Sickle
~ DIY: Yard Flamingo Facelift
~ Local Gardening Events Calendar
~ A Visit to Virginia’s Simpson Park Gardens
~ Win a Trio of Espoma Organic Liquid Fertilizers
~ Improve Indoor Air with House Plants
~ Fall for the Blues with Caryopteris
And much more….

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the October 2016 issue are due by October 10.

Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly publication sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Savory Sunday: Butternut Squash

Guest post by Shelby Smith
    Want a recipe that’s flavorful, can be paired with anything, and gets you in the mood for the fall season? Anything with Butternut Squash is the way to go. Butternut Squash is one of the most versatile foods to prepare. Squash can be made into both savory meals and used in desserts. It can be used in stews, soups, baked, sautéed, or steamed. It is great as a main course, side dish or an addition to another recipe.
    I used a small butternut squash from the Fenton Community Garden in Silver Spring, MD,  to make Parmesan and Rosemary-Butternut Squash Gratin. This recipe is crunchy, buttery, and can stand on its own. This recipe is inspired by Betty Crocker.

Cooking prep: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
1 Butternut squash (2 lbs)
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
¼ cup Progresso™ panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Peel, halve lengthwise and deseed squash. Cut into ½-inch-thick slices and arrange with slices overlapping slightly in a greased/oiled 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Season the slices with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter/margarine over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic and rosemary; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and butter is infused with garlic and rosemary flavor. Do not let the butter brown.
  3. In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, cheese and 1 tablespoon of the garlic rosemary butter mixture.
  4. Brush squash slices with remaining butter mixture. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the squash slices.
  5. Bake uncovered 30 to 40 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with fork. Increase oven temperature to 425 F; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until lightly browned. Sprinkle parsley and more cheese, if needed, over top before serving.

The end product should come out crunchy and golden brown. The squash gets infused with the garlic and rosemary making the taste rich and flavorful. This meal is also versatile because you could pair it with any meat or mix it with pasta.
Also you could add some sliced zucchini and mushrooms to make it a hardier dish. You can substitute the dairy with olive oil to make this a vegetarian option. If you cut the squash into slices you could eat these like fries.
This is just one of the many dishes made with butternut squash. Squash is a good source of vitamins, has little to no fat when raw, and can stay fresh for a couple of weeks before using. This recipe can be your next side dish at Thanksgiving or just a quick meal on a Sunday evening.

"Savory Sunday" is a new weekly blog series with seasonal recipes from the garden.
About the Author:
Shelby Smith is a senior double major in multi-platform journalism and film studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She was a sports copy-editor for a campus publication called Unwind Magazine and a writer at The Campus Current newspaper at Anne Arundel Community College.