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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

A Garden of Inspiration

Happy Hump Day! And thanks for joining me again. By now you should have a warm neck and have your senses stimulated. I hope it’s all good in your house today!

If you liked my recipe yesterday, maybe you want to grow some vegetables of your own to cook, but maybe you don’t have a lot of room in your garden. Why not grow them in your house? Really! My office is at the front of the house and has a big window that gets a decent amount of sun. I say ‘decent’ because it rains a lot here! But it still gets a lot of light which is what vegetables need.

We’ve been in our current house two years now. Last year I thought it would be fun to try tomatoes again. I’d tried them years ago, but they never did well. Not enough light. Water wasn’t the problem, as the pot was on my kitchen sill just behind the sink. But my office gets a lot of sun, which tomatoes love. A friend grows them in her enclosed front porch in grow bags so I thought why not in a proper pot of dirt?

So I got a pot, filled it with dirt and put in a couple seedlings. They went all kinds of crazy, but I didn’t get a lot of tomatoes out of them. Head in hand, I talked to my friend, Chris, who’s a gardener extraordinaire, and learned a few things for next time.

Next time was this year. I grabbed the same pot filled it with fresh dirt and put in a couple seedlings. This year for fun, I thought I’d try yellow tomatoes—Golden Sunrises. How’s that for inspiring? Just the name reminds me of the old bodice ripper romances with the hero holding onto the heroine with the heaving bosom against a . . . well . . . golden sunrise. I also planted a Roma tomato because they’re one of the most flavorful tomatoes to cook with.

As it turns out, the lessons I learned from last year, and the great and friendly advice, came in handy. My vines this year have been wildly producing loads of little yellow fruits. {yes, tomatoes are fruits, folks!}

And here it is, the end of November, and the plant is still a triffid.

What lessons did I learn? Pretty simple, actually. Pinch the suckers—they grow between the leaf and stem. Water—a lot. Fertilize—regularly.

I also learned that tomatoes require fertilization, which is where bees come in. But being indoors, how was I going to make this happen? Easy! I got a little {and clean} paint brush and went around dabbing all the flowers. Kinda tedious, but necessary. And with all the fruit that came on in subsequent weeks, the fruits of my labor resulted in . . . well . . . fruit. The odd part is the Golden Sunrise pretty much took over. I only got two . . . count ‘em . . . two Romas. But how cool was it to see them growing in an irregular red shape against the round yellow ones?! And they were tasty. I used them and a bunch of the yellow ones in the recipe from yesterday.

So what do I do with all my homegrown tomatoes? Loads of things—Frittata, Quiche, Salsa, my aforementioned simmered veg, and my husband likes them in his sandwiches and salad. Hmm . . . maybe I should be thinking Fried Green Tomatoes some day.

How about a recipe for homemade salsa?

2 medium ripe tomatoes, deseeded, skinned and rough chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 medium garlic clove, finely diced
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced {can use Ortega roasted chilies, about 1 tbsp or to taste}
cilantro, a small bunch, finely chop the leafy parts, discard the stems
splash lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Add all of your ingredients to a bowl as you cut them. Mix well with a spoon, adding a small splash of lime juice. Grab your favorite tortilla chip to taste for flavor, adding salt and pepper to taste, or more lime, cilantro or chilies. Salsa is subjective, so just add whatever extra flavors you want until it's perfect for you.

This recipe is very easy to double or even quadruple if you’re feeling hungry or having friends around. It goes great as an accompaniment to a frittata or quiche, on pretty much anything Mexican, and if you have any ripe avocados, add the salsa to the mashed avocado for a FABulous guacamole.

Good lord! I’m craving Mexican food now. LOL

So you may be asking, how does gardening inspire my work? Gardening, like any hobby, is relaxing and therapeutic. Maybe it’s the communing with nature thing—I enjoy getting my hands in the soil and imagining how a medieval healer would have grown her herbs and kept her garden. Maybe it’s sometimes I grow the food I eat and I wonder how the taste of foods have changed over the centuries. And maybe it’s that all my plants fill the office with fresh oxygen—really, there are a lot of plants in my office!

Whatever it is, I find having plants around me makes me happy. And a happy writer is a prolific writer.

Thanks for hanging out with me again today. We’re getting to be great pals, aren’t we?

Drop me a note in comments and let me know if you grow produce in your house, and if so, what is it and how did you cook with it? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?

I’m sure I don’t have to mention there are prizes this week! So come back again tomorrow. I’ll be talking about yet another of my passions—Castle hunting!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series


Maureen said...

We have a garden outside but have never grown any fruits or vegetables inside. We have grown herbs inside and I do like having them handy to use and having the greenery in the winter.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen,

I love growing things. Our house is inundated with plants on a regular basis. The tomatoes are a new thing though in the last couple years. My office stays warm to it's a natural place to keep plants. And the bay window really lets in the light.

What amazes me is that my tomatoes are still growing and fruiting, and it'll be December tomorrow! It was 5C outside yesterday and everything is slumbering for the season, but those tomatoes have no clue. They keep fruiting as long as I 'dust' the flowers from time to time to pollinate them. Just picked off a handful day before yesterday for dinner.

Oddly, I've never had much luck with indoor herbs. I think I go through them too fast (see Monday's post) and they don't have a chance to grow back before I need them again.

Anonymous said...

Hello Scarlett,
I live in Pa & we usually have pretty good weather for gardening which I enjoy doing, it is relaxing. My only problem is my 3 little Miniature Pinschers like my gardening as much as I do, they like to eat the vegetables & the flower buds. LOL After about 2 years of practice, I have finally had success with growing plum/grape tomatoes inside as well as herbs.
Take Care & Happy Growing,
Renee' S.

Anonymous said...

Hi Renee,

We have to retired Border Collies. They're really active so I have to be careful where I put my plants. One of them has a big, bushy tail and has no care about what it gets into ;-) Fortunately, we haven't had many tail accidents. And my tomatoes are also on protective steel rings that help support the vines. The rings are also supported by several bamboo stakes. As long as the bottom of the vines are protected, the fruit at the top seem to do okay.

Congratulations on getting your vines to grow indoors.

Give those doggies a scratch from me!