Had I known we would have one of the hottest, driest Julys in decades I would have thought twice about planting tomatoes in containers; keeping them evenly watered has taken some effort, but it appears to have been successful. The fruit is finally free of the blossom end rot damage found in the first tomatoes, and I am picking anywhere from six to ten good tomatoes most days. Yesterday I supplemented those with several pounds from the Market and was able to can six pints of my pepper tomato mixture.  Although the fruit is good, I do think planting them in the ground with a good layer of mulch is the preferred way to grow them.  Six to ten tomatoes a day is not that much from the eight plants that I have going.  Although container growing is still a good alternative for those who have no choice but to use a patio, for those who like to can and want a lot of tomatoes, the garden plot appears to be the better option.  

Now that the plants are at their mature height, I must say that supporting them in pots has also been a minor challenge.  I’ve had to tie the cages to my chain link fence to prevent them from toppling over, and I have one large pepper plant that tips over in the wind, although most of the potted peppers are fine, and none of them have required supports.  The peppers did not suffer like the tomatoes did from the early uneven water situation, and so are less problematic for containers.  I am actually getting tons of peppers right now and growing them in pots is a good way to save room in the garden area.

Early morning today almost had the feel of autumn, and I do hope we don’t plunge from the heat of summer right into a frost.  With the temperate break we’re enjoying right now one feels an urgency to get out and catch up those tasks that most of us put aside in the heat.  We had just enough rain to soften the soil so that pulling weeds is actually fun. 

Not much going on other than catching up and maintaining the garden and to begin pulling out those vegetables that have slowed.  My own patch of green and yellow wax beans is slated to give way to what I hope will be an autumn crop of beets, both yellow and reds, kale and spinach I hope!  I may even plant a second season row of beans, just to see if it works. 

Here area a few recipes to use the current glut of peppers.  One is my own, the other is one based on a sample I tried at Hy-Vee on Marion road on Friday and re-created at home.

Stuffed Peppers-serves 4+ adults

4 large green, red or yellow bell peppers, cored and cut in half

1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 medium sweet onion, Vidalia or Spanish yellow, chopped

1-2 cans cream of mushroom soup

Small amount of milk or broth (chicken or vegetable) to thin the soup a little

Salt and pepper to taste

1 TBS Worcestershire

1 beaten egg

1 cup of shredded Parmesan or other cheese

Combine the beef or turkey with the onion and add the cooked brown rice, egg and the Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Spoon this into each pepper half in an oblong baking pan.  Thin the condensed soup with either milk or broth to a fairly thick gravy-like consistency and pour over all.  Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes until the peppers are tender and meat is cooked through, then uncover and sprinkle a little of the Parmesan on top of each pepper.  Set under a low broiler for a minute or two just to brown and set the tops.  Great with homemade applesauce!

*Minute Rice can also be used, if preferred, and this can be added uncooked with the raw meat.  I just like the firmer texture of the brown rice. 

Pepper and Portobello Mushroom Scramble-serves 2-3 adults

1 each, sliced red and yellow bell peppers

1 or 2 (depending on the size) portabella mushrooms caps, sliced with gills removed

Small amount of oil for sautéing

Half a small sweet onion, sliced

Salt and Pepper to taste

4 to 6 fresh beaten eggs or two or three containers of Hy-Vee cholesterol-free brand 99% egg product

This is so easy!  Just sauté the veggies until crisp tender, then add the egg and cook, stirring until the eggs are set. 

Served with a green salad, it’s a quick and low-fat/calorie dinner.  To make it more substantial, one can also add cooked, diced potato to the veggie mix (or sauté diced potato until tender then add the veggies) and a bit of mild cheese at the end.

Finally, see you at the Farm to Feast this Tuesday!

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