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Dancing with Potted Plants

The hibiscus will stay inside until spring.

It’s the time of year here in Greenville SC when the temperature fluctuates wildly between a high that can reach the eighties to a low in the thirties at night. Yesterday for Halloween we had a deluge of rain that brought with it a warm tropical wind, and we had a high of seventy nine degrees. But I have been anxiously looking at multiple sources for weather reports. I knew that the temperature was going to plummet last night, but of course not to the exact degree. So yesterday I brought my hibiscus and gardenia pots inside, where they will stay until the freeze has passed in spring. Since the temperature dipped to thirty nine degrees last night, I did the right thing. The hibiscus plants are not hardy below forty degrees.

I’m keeping this pot with tomato and celery in my kitchen window.

The annual ritual of moving my potted plants has gotten to be a bigger chore than it used to be. I also brought in one of my avocado trees, and a potted amaryllis that I couldn’t find a spot for in my house last fall. At this point I have used up about all the space that I have in the sunny portion of our living room. I also brought in one of my pots that has both a tomato starter and a celery starter, both only a few weeks old. I put that one in the kitchen window, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do when that tomato vine starts spreading out a bit. I might experiment with keeping it clipped, (sort of like a tomato bonsai?) and see if I can coax a tomato or two from it that way. I squeezed the amaryllis into the guest room window, which already has an avocado tree, a large gardenia, and a bamboo plant that is almost ten years old now.

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Acquiring Winter Wisdom

Recycled celery from the kitchen and tomato starters from the compost will be my first winter crop…

I have tomato starters growing on the deck in little pots right now, very late October. I rescued the sprouts from the compost heap a few weeks ago, because I have a hard time letting go of living things. At the time I had a vague idea about actually starting a greenhouse this winter and miraculously having some of these ripe beauties for a salad in the middle of winter. I’ve heard that it’s possible, but I haven’t done it yet myself.

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Farewell Fresh Tomatoes

Washed tomatoes drying on racks.
The first thing I do with most produce is wash it and leave it to dry thoroughly. The tomatoes in front are Early Girls. Those I throw straight into the crockpot, after the Cherokee Purples start coming in. You haven’t tasted a tomato until you’ve tasted one of these heirlooms straight off the vine.

I do have one tomato vine in my garden right now. I always try to have fresh tomatoes for as long as possible. Once I still had a fresh tomato to slice for Thanksgiving, but I don’t think that will happen this year. I have a couple weeks left, maybe, of fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes off the vine.

A tomato vine growing in a garden box.
This Cherokee Purple tomato vine has taken over my kitchen garden box in late September.

Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s still tomato season around here, and I’ve done many things with the baskets of tomatoes yielded by about two dozen tomato vines. There are a variety of them, grown from starters that were purchased in our area. I’ve canned tomato sauce, paste, salsa, and BBQ sauce. But there’s also some heirloom varieties available around here, and a few years ago we started growing some Cherokee Purple that I discovered at the Farmer’s Market.

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According to a story from NPR, the original seeds did indeed come from the Cherokees. Mostly they don’t grow picture perfect. They have a purple tinge to them and are really meaty and delicious.  I don’t throw them into the crockpot to stew down. Instead I reserve them to eat fresh in sandwiches and salads. Continue reading