Summer Diva {the heirloom tomato

A world without tomatoes

is like a string quartet without violins.
                                                           ~Laurie Colwin

pretty as a picture

Late September. There aren’t any signs of a frost in our northern river valley even though October is lurking on the next calendar page, and pumpkins, gourds and squash are the adornment in markets, shops and houses. The mecury still dances at 80 degrees — what a spectacular first week of autumn! Can you hear a long sigh of gratitude on this warm, early autumn day?

The tomatoes are still producing beautifully at Rose Cottage. The late afternoon sun casts a golden glow on the kitchen garden’s sweet tomato offerings — just as if each were in the spotlight before taking a final bow for the closing night of the season’s production. I dream of this moment each January as I study dog-eared pages of seed catalogues stacked knee-high next to my comfy reading chair. What can be better than enjoying the garden offering of a just-picked-from-the-vine warm tomato?

Sugar Plum Cherry Tomatoes FAV

Grandmother’s vintage white enamel pan quickly fills with tomatoes of all shapes and colors. These are not the standard supermarket varieties–each is an abstract piece of art calling for my attention — they are divas, you know. I pause and consider the wide array of sunburst colors in the chippy, old dish pan. 

Some Tomatoes in a Pan FAV

Onward . . .  stay focused . . . the sun is behind the hill and it will be dark soon. The indeterminate tomato varities — those that keep growing and growing — are nearing eight to nine feet tall and are spilling out over their five-foot rusty concrete reinforcing wire cages my sweet one made several years ago.  The standard issuance available at most garden centers doesn’t support the likes of those grown at Rose Cottage.

sugar plum cherry Tomatoes FAV2

I pick a handful of yellow, orange and red cherry tomatoes. The simple goodness is so satisfying. (Wait! Do I hear violins?!) At the moment, I really don’t think about how these luscious jewels are filled with all sorts of good-for-me things. Nothing matches the taste or the varied loveliness of these fresh beauties! I have set aside a large basket for you. Shall I drop them by for you to savor, too? It is my gift to you.

tomato offerings FAV

 At Rose Cottage, we are ardent fanciers of these garden offerings — whether the heirloom dinner-sized plate version or dime-sized jewels . . . red, yellow, purple or orange . . .  lusciously sweet or acidic.

Just Picked Heirloom FAV

Although, heirlooms are the hands-down favorites in taste tests for family and friends.

Heirloom Tomatoes on wood tray FAV2

This year, over 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes found their home in the Rose Cottage kitchen garden. Some fared better than others in our little microclimate.

Yellow Heirloom FAV

While we are not tomato experts, we are surely tomato aficionados and have been growing them organically for over 30 years — usually 100 or more plants of numerous varieties each year. I just can’t get enough of those sweet offerings!

golden heirloom FAV

preserving the beauties

My fingers are tinged dark green from the tomato vines. The aromas of earth, tomato leaves and fall co-mingle as the night air cools. The tree toads and crickets gather for their soire and begin their evensong. The tomatoes are gathered.

bushel of tomatoes

We try to preserve all the goodness and full-flavor of the tomatoes as quickly as possible. The kitchen is briming with tomatoes every which way. Most of the tomatoes we simply “put up” into quart canning jars following the USDA Guidelines for home food preservation.


Later on, these canned tomatoes are perfect for making tomato soup or pasta sauce, or adding to chili, stews. and more. What is your family favorite for using tomatoes?

tomatoes and a torchon FAV 1

Some of the tomatoes are simmered on the back burner for hours with savory herbs and spices. The result — amazing ketchup — so delicious that it can almost be eaten with a spoon out of the jar. Now, this does not taste like the usual varieties . . .  nothing compares to these little half-pint pots of gold. How I would like for you to try some, too!



 The ‘Principe Borghese’ variety and some other heirloom Italian paste tomatoes are oven-dried with a drenching of Italian olive oil and sea salt. They turn into candied tomato nuggets — similar to sun-dried tomatoes —  and then stored in tomato herb-infused olive oil. Perfect for the antipasti tray, pizza or tossing into a salald or sauce!

Principe Borghese washed FAV

Tomato Halves in bowl FAV

Tomato Halves for drying FAV 1

Tomato Halves on Tray FAV2

Oven candied tomatoes in a jar FAV 3

 The evening has quickly cooled down to 50 degrees. The sudden mecury drop is a reminder that summer is lingering for only a moment or two longer. What else is in the kitchen garden that needs to be gathered soon? Wondering . . . how can some of this lovely day can be captured in a “jar?”

Maybe . . . just maybe . . . if I put a bit more of this gorgeous summer in jar, there will be sunshine and warm memories when the windchills are 40 below zero.


How do you capture a bit of summer’s memories?

You may also enjoy:

Exuberant Garden Offerings

Beautiful Berries and Brambles

Fall Nesting {summer in a jar

This post is linked on Hooked on Houses, The Inspired Room and Designs by Gollum.

Post Script:

There is nothing better than enjoying a late summer offering of the sun-kissed tomato. Since she was just a toddler, Rebekah grows weak in the knees when she sees a tomato . . . she never misses a sample or two or three or more! If I couldn’t find her, I need not look any further than the tomato beds. (Note: The images are early digital — they are a few years old. The toddler picture is vintage — was scanned from a 1981 photo when Rebekah just turned one-year!)



Summer_in_a_Jar_001_RJ_cherry tomato2

Happy, happy birthday, dear Sweet Cakes!

All the tomatoes you want are waiting for you at Rose Cottage!

We have put some summer in a jar for you, too.



Filed under Gardening

22 responses to “Summer Diva {the heirloom tomato

  1. Francesco


    What fabulous thoughts you form and express. I can smell the tomatos and almost taste the offerings from the garden. You are making me very hungry!

    Thank you for the beatiful photos and thoughts, you are ALWAYS and calm port after a stormy day.

    Best regards,

  2. Great shots of all these beauties… 🙂

    Especially the darling one with the smile!

    I am a lover of Tomatos… some of the best bounty looks like here.

    If you have a moment, stop by and say hi! I would love to have you.

    TTFN~~ Claudia ♥ ♥

  3. I think your lovely Rebekah and I have something in common… a child, and indeed even now, my favorite bite of summer sunshine…….. is a plump juicy tomato. I eat them right off the vine. Your crop looks sumptuous. I’m mourning the end of the season.

    Beautiful photos.
    Best Wishes, and Happy Birthday to Rebekah!


  4. Last year I had a blog entry about heirloom tomatoes to and this year too. I love these old fashioned tomatoes. They are often more tasty and sweet than the varieties we know have in the shop. You Rebeccah looks to be a lovely young lady and tomatoes are good for her and all of us. Better a tomatoe then a hamburger or some sweets I would say!

  5. Homemade Ketchup is one I have never ever tasted. I loved your post and photos and the little ones are darling. I took a cooking class this summer and heirlooms were featured. So colorful. I was in Whole Foods this week (some call it whole paycheck because of the prices) and they had heirlooms for $5.99 a pound. I picked them up and smelled them and touched them but sadly at that price I put them back into the display case. Off to dream about tomatoes for breakfast or lunch or dinner or especially hot off of the vine. Thanks for your enjoyable post today!

  6. ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

    We love the Heirlooms too. I had 9 different varieties this year but most were lost to too much rain and a tomato blight. Saddly ours are finished for the year. I am not familiar with the Principe Borghese variety but here we use Amish Paste. All of which were lost this year to the rains. Enjoy yours~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  7. How beautiful DebbyKay! What a bountiful harvest, so pretty. My tomato plants did well with the exception of ripening. Your tomatoes look wonderful, doesn’t it feel very satisfying ‘putting up” for the months to come? I can just imagine sitting by the woodstove while it’s snowing eating a fresh baked pizza with the oven-dried tomatoes on it or a big pot of chili while the winds howl. 🙂

    Happy Birthday to Rebekah!!! Have a blessed day 🙂


  8. What a delightful post! Your photos make me want to take a big bite ~ And I don’t really even like tomatoes! But I do love to grow them ~ certainly not as many as you grow! I love how they look; I love how they smell and I do love to “put them up” but I have never made ketchup ~ would you share your recipe? Or perhaps it is a family secret! ;~}
    The oven-dried tomatoes look amazing! What treasured gifts they would make!
    The pictures of your daughter are so precious.
    Happy Birthday, Rebekah!

  9. Oh debbykay, your tomatoes make me drool. I would never use a bottled sauce if I had such prolific homegrown beauties! I’m a hopeless non-gardener but an avid tomato lover forever!


  10. This is my idea of heaven on earth. What great beauty there is in the tomato! I am trying not to be envious of you…..but I am not sure I am succeeding.

  11. This was an outstanding post – your photos, thoughts and words were perfect. I hope your daughter has a wonderful birthday and that you have a great weekend.

  12. The photos are amazingly vivid! I love the colors and different shapes. Also, it was sweet to show the vintage photos of your daughter. I hope she has a wonderful birthday!

  13. That is A LOT of tomatoes… they are soooo pretty! LOVE the little one by the wheelbarrow… CUTE!!!

  14. I grew up canning tomatoes. We did not have a garden to produce like yours though. Those heirloom ones are the best! Straight out of the garden when they are room temperature are such a delicacy to me too. Lovely pics and tomatoes. You’ll be enjoying tomatoes all winter long. Lucky you!

  15. We love tomatoes as well — buying most of ours from the farmer’s market, however, does not allow me the option of putting some up.

    This winter, you will be glad for your summer in a jar!

    Lovely pictures!

  16. Dearest Debbykay,

    You are such a gifted writer dear friend! I always feel as if I am experiencing all you share right along with you. You are a gifted photographer, too! Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely the best, most flavorful and hardy tomatoes. I love their unusual look, vibrant colors and the taste is simply amazing! I am amazed at the amount of tomatoes you grow! How wonderful that you have been growing them organically for 30 years! We garden organically, too, and I hope one day we have a garden as productive and beautiful as yours. Our garden needs a great deal of work! How wonderful to be using your grandmothers enamel pan to collect your pretty summer treasures!

    I know you work so hard preserving all of your abundant harvest. What a blessing that is to your family and friends that partake of your delicious sauces, ketchup, and other dishes you will add your tomatoes to. As your temperatures are cooling your efforts will be rewarded with enjoying ‘summer in a jar’ in a nice hot bowl of homemade soup. You are such an inspiration sweet friend! Enjoy these last days of warmth. It is still quite hot and humid here, but I am hoping for cooler weather soon.

    Please wish Rebekah a very Happy Birthday! I love the beautiful photos you shared of her!

    Love your kindred heart in the south,

  17. Mom

    What a beautiful array of tomotoes — I love coming to Rose Cottage Gardens and picking a few to take home and enjoy with a splash of olive oil and fresh ground pepper!! And to see the sweet picture of baby Rebekah and as a young girl by tomoto plants much taller than she…. Amazing. Wonderful memories!

  18. rebekahp

    Beautiful, beautiful pictures and writing as always mom! You are amazing!

    Thanks also for the birthday wishes! I think I am going to go pick some tomatoes now…

  19. Pingback: Pizza Amore « rose cottage gardens and farm

  20. Debbykay, the tomatoes look scrumptious. And the pizza. Well it’s quite early here, but I could sit down and eat a slice or two of that delicious looking pizza….


  21. Madai

    Hi DebbiKay!
    What a yummy post, sorry 🙂 Your tomatoes look scrumptious! There is nothing like a homegrown tomato and yours look so beautiful to boot! Love all the colors and their different shapes… the photos are just lovely! And the picture of Rebekah {such a beautiful name} is so adorable by the cart filled with tomatoes, what a sweet memory. And look at her now, the tomatoes must have done the trick because she is BEAUTIFUL! So, a Happy Birthday to your sweetie!
    And thank you for sharing your bounty and your lovely style of writing and making us feel all a part of your world!
    Have a magical week!
    xox ~ Madai

  22. jennifer hue

    I found your website very helpful. I have s backyard garden in freeport long island. i have more tomatoes from the garden than i can eat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s