Updated: Jan 7
A plethora of rainbow-color tomatoes has been ripening in my small courtyard garden shared with native purple coneflower and wild senna, which attracts so many bumblebees that some days it’s a constant buzzing hum. The bees have no interest in me when I squeeze through the wild tomato branches and prickly cucumbers vines, invigorated by the scent of the prolific fresh mint.
Every naturalist needs a potager’s garden for both physical and mental health. However small your space may be, if you have room in a courtyard or balcony for just a few five-gallon pots with sun, you can grow your own organic tomatoes. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E and are near the top of the list as a cancer-fighting food—they’re loaded with lycopene (no. 3 on the top-ten list for lycopene https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-lycopene-foods.php), an antioxidant phytochemical that fights free radicals associated with cancer risk.
I’m now aware of unnecessary plastic and realized I buy a lot of prepared salsa sold in plastic—just a bad habit based on perceived convenience. It’s so easy to make your own organic salsa—everything tastes better in glass—and it’s healthier with no plastic container to worry about leaching chemicals and now might not be recyclable since China changed its policy on accepting plastic. I’m experimenting with wide-mouth 16-ounce Mason Ball glass jars, recommended as freezer-safe as long as you only fill about two-thirds full to allow for expansion. These are easy to find online but check your local prices too—my local store beat the online price.
I planted six different heirloom varieties in mid-May from my local farmer’s market—three (black krim, Cherokee purple, and beefsteak heirloom) are planted in one double-stacked 2 ft x 6 ft cedar raised bed, and three smaller types (red currant, purple cherry, and yellow pear) are in five-gallon containers which I move around as needed to capitalize on sun. When Michigan hit the high 90s in July I actually needed to move the container tomatoes for more shade (a real benefit of containers is the mobility)—the relentless temperatures were reaching a threshold that could have killed them.
How much we’ve lost for so long to tasteless, mass-produced food! Nothing store-bought compares to homegrown organic heirloom tomatoes—the flavor and density is outstanding. It’s a better choice for the environment, for people, and wildlife. Growing and nurturing your own vegetables is both holistic and addictive. By late August, the ripe and meaty heirloom beefsteak’s from my potager’s garden were perfect for a large batch of homemade salsa. Here’s my favorite recipe, courtesy of Real Simple: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/easy-diy-salsa. Home-made organic salsa is absolutely deserving of being served in artistic hand-crafted fused glass bowls (https://www.sorgglassart.com).