Rules of Thumb, 30x30, and the Laws of Nature

Spring Landscape (Rain), A. Krehbiel My mother had a commonplace book in which she recorded, by hand, in beautiful cursive, proverbs, sayings, and quotes that struck her as interesting, thought provoking, or wise. I also love sayings, and quotes, and mantras, but mostly I’ve collected rules of thumb, those short pithy statements that condense ways of dealing with life on earth in the same way that proverbs give advice on how to behave in prudent, trouble-avoiding ways.  Rules of thumb exist for every field of human endeavor. There are the general ones, such as the 80% rule, or Pareto Principle, that gets applied in sometimes surprising ways—"eighty percent of every thing is trash,” someone will say, or another will say that “80% of your output comes from 20% of your efforts,” for example. The 80/20 ratio is useful in all sorts of contexts. For example, in a perennial garden, the general rule (backed up by scientific evidence) is that about 75-80% of the plants should be native (lo

The Last Tomatoes

Though we've had a slow, warm, La Nina fall, this weekend I finally pulled up the tomato vines. After a couple of nights of below freezing temperatures one must accept there really will be be no more tomatoes this year. Everything went into the compost heap: withered stalks, green tomatoes and all. Green tomatoes that have frozen develop an odd translucency and squishy texture when they thaw.

Meanwhile, the kitchen table was covered with a pile of tomatoes, from dark green and full of tomatine to the almost chartreuse they become just before morphing into pale yellow and then red. A row of tomatoes sat ripening on the windowsill. I'd already made and put up various kinds of salsa and sauce, some canned, some (without the vinegar or lemon juice) frozen. But there were all those green tomatoes.

My friend the British historian had recently given me a book of preserves from the British Women's Institute and in it was a recipe for green tomato and apple chutney, one of those recipes that must be simmered for three hours, a perfect project for a chilly, gray Sunday afternoon. So I converted the measurements and set out to can. I used the chartreuse and yellowish tomatoes for the job, and culled the really dark green ones for the compost heap. The rest, as they ripen, will go into salads or soups--and that, alas, will be the end of fresh tomatoes for the year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Note: I had always thought green tomatoes were full of solanine, since they are in the nightshade family, and had been told that tomato foliage and green tomatoes are poisonous--eat too many and nausea will ensue. But it turns out that they are not so dangerous after all, according to NY Times food writer Harold McGee. You can read his most interesting article here, "Accused, Yes, but Probably Not a Killer."

Related Posts:
All Kinds of Nightshade
Walking through a Cornfield in Norfolk

Comments

Don Plummer said…
Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

I hope you enjoy all those processed tomatoes. I didn't get to mine in time, unfortunately.
Anonymous said…
Glad you rescued so many tomatoes!

Even though I have not had a hard frost in my Chicago garden, the few remaining fruits of my peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and zukes are apparently frost-bit, and look pretty bad. I guess I am sending them to the compost heap, too.

My brussel sprouts, however, are looking great!
Hi Don,

More for the compost heap to nourish next year's garden!

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. Aren't Brussels sprouts more of a cool-weather crop anyway?

My chard is still going strong.
margaretart said…
Those last tomatoes were delicious in the Thanksgiving salad, by the way. My one tomato plant performed nobly in its pot, now awaiting next year's tiny beginning plant. Thanks for the related post--most interesting.
Hi Margaretart,

Glad you liked them. I"ll start you some new plants next year.