Waiting for Red Tomatoes

The “waiting” season of gardening has begun.  It seemed that back in May and June I spent every spare minute outside in the garden planting, mulching, weeding, and admiring my handiwork, but now that the heat and humidity of July have arrived I think its time for the garden to start supplying me with the fruits (and vegetables!) of my labor.  I am getting especially impatient for my dozens of green tomatoes to ripen so that I can harvest them.  Every day I check my tomato plants and although most of the tiny fruits are still a lovely two-tone green color, a few are actually starting to turn red!

I have four “planned” tomato plants in my garden (two hanging upside-down in buckets and two in containers) and, much to my surprise, I also have 5-6 unplanned “volunteer” tomato plants that magically sprouted around our back patio.  I guess that the mystery tomatoes must have sprouted from my partially cooked compost because they’re showing up between my basil and pepper plants as well as a new bed that Matt and I dug near our grill.

When I found the first plant (and second, and third… before the novelty wore off) I carefully transplanted them into containers filled with half compost and half soil-free mix.  They have been thriving and I think it will soon be time to move them to larger containers.

My hanging tomatoes have been growing rapidly and seem to be unfazed by their upside-down orientation.  They are potted in large 5 gallon buckets with soil-free mix and compost with thyme and parsley growing on top.  (You can read more about how we planted them here.)  The plant on the left is a cherry tomato plant and it is full of clusters of perfect little green tomatoes.  The plant on the right is a plum tomato plant and has a few larger green tomatoes growing on its vines.

My two cherry tomato plants in containers are not doing quite as well as the hanging plants.  This is probably because their containers are fairly small (3 gallons or so) and I left these plants out in direct afternoon sun during a heat wave while we were out of town last weekend.  When we got home the plants were shriveled and wilted but after a thorough watering they have perked up and are looking OK.  Both plants have dozens of green tomatoes and a few have started to turn red!

If even half of the green tomatoes on my plants turn red, it looks like we will be overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes in another few weeks, yum!  I frequently eat tomatoes with basil (caprese salad, TBM pizza, homemade spaghetti sauce, etc.) so it’s a good thing that we also have an overabundance of beautiful dark green basil plants in our garden.  I’ve already made several batches of pesto and I love being able to walk outside and pick fresh leaves whenever I want them.

The unplanned tomatoes aren’t the only surprise plants in our garden this year.  We also have a small pumpkin patch that sprouted from leftover Halloween pumpkins and, much to our surprise, we discovered several giant squash plants growing outside our front door!  Back in February we started cosmos, painted daisies, and zinnias from seed indoors and then we transplanted them (along with a generous helping of not-quite-ready compost that must have contained squash seeds) into two new beds by our front door.  The flowers grew vigorously in June and a few weeks ago we noticed that one of the “flowers” had enormous prickly leaves.  Well, last week we noticed beautiful yellow blossoms on the large-leaved plants and at that point realized that the “flower” plants were in fact squash plants.  How exciting!

I think we’re on track to have a great harvest this year.  So far we’ve picked at least forty green beans and have plenty of fresh basil, thyme, parsley, mint, and marjoram at our disposal.  Now we just have to wait for our tomatoes to turn red!

Veggie Wraps with Feta, Hummus and Basil

Matt and I live about five minutes from work which means that we are able to drive home in the middle of the day to visit Bailey and eat lunch together.  Usually we eat leftovers, lean cuisine pizzas, or lean pockets (my fav is the grilled chicken jalapeno cheddar!) but this week we decided to plan ahead and actually prep food on Monday that we could enjoy all week.  The minimal amount of prep work at the beginning of the week was well worth it and we happily assembled and ate our fresh veggie wraps with feta, hummus, and basil on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

These wraps were inspired by Cosi‘s Hummus and Veggie Sandwich and Panera‘s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich.  We made a few changes including using soft, pliable flatbread from The Fresh Market and adding our favorite types of hummus.  (I prefer Trader Joe’s Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus and Matt likes TJ’s Mediterranean Hummus.)  The resulting sandwiches are flavorful, colorful, and just messy enough to give you an excuse to lick the excess hummus and melted feta off of your fingers when you’re done eating.  🙂

Veggie Wraps with Feta, Hummus and Basil (makes 6 sandwiches)

You will need…
6 pieces Flatbread or flexible, fresh pita bread
Approx. 1 cup reduced fat Feta Cheese, crumbled
Approx. 1 cup of your favorite hummus
1 Red Onion, thinly sliced into rounds and cut in half
1 Cucumber, thinly sliced on a diagonal and then cut into strips
1 Red Pepper, thinly sliced into long pieces
Handful of Basil Leaves, thinly sliced

Directions:
Place one flatbread on a microwave-safe plate and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds to warm up the bread and slightly melt the cheese.  Top the cheese with 2-3 spoonfuls of hummus and gently spread the hummus over the cheese with the back of the spoon.  Top with sliced onion, cucumber, pepper, basil and a spoonful of feta.  To eat your veggie wrap, fold up the edges of the flatbread taco-style and enjoy!

What do you eat for lunch during the work week?  Please share!  🙂