Question: I’ve gotten lots of cherry tomatoes this year. What can they be used for besides salads? Can they be frozen?
Answer: Cherry tomatoes and other small tomatoes can be very productive, and fortunately they can be used in a variety of ways and can be frozen for later use.
Fresh cherry tomatoes can be halved or quartered and mixed with cubed avocados and peppers. Use them as a topping for guacamole or to make fresh salsa. Halve them or use them whole on saltines topped with pesto. Quarter them and mix them into a dish of pesto pasta. Cut and mix them into warm grits to add color and vegetable goodness to breakfast. Dice them into balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a homemade salad dressing. Use them to make a marinade for meats. Halve or quarter them to and make a tomato sandwich. We know it is not the same as having sliced slabs of tomato across the bread, but the flavor is still there.
Instead of using them only as an addition to a lettuce salad, make the tomatoes the star of the salad. Halve them and toss them with an oil and vinegar dressing with some salt and pepper. This is an especially attractive dish if you have different colors of tomatoes. Add some sliced cucumbers if you like.
They can also be roasted in the oven but that may not be something you want to do in the heat of summer. Cherry tomatoes may also be cooked and made into soups, juice, salsas and sauces. You may want to freeze them now and cook them in the winter. Dice them or freeze them whole. To maintain the individual integrity of the whole tomatoes so they can be added to a pot roast with carrots, onions and potatoes. Place them on a cookie sheet and then place the frozen tomatoes in a freezer bag.
And, of course, you can always share.
Q: Is cutleaf coneflower the same as green coneflower? Someone gave me one at a gardening talk, but I think it is something I already have.
A: They are both common names for the same flower (Rudbeckia laciniata). It is also called “tall coneflower.” It has been known to reach nine feet in the wild, but is usually three to 5 feet in cultivation.
The height can sometimes cause cutleaf coneflowers to flop over. Staking can prevent this. Cutting them back to half their height in April or May will help keep them shorter. There are shorter varieties available and some with larger flowers than the one found in the wild.
Cutleaf coneflower is easy to grow, and is valued for its late summer and fall flowers which are good for cutting. Cutleaf coneflower seeds itself readily where it is happy, so cutting off the seed heads before they mature will help with that.
Cutleaf coneflower is native from Canada to Florida to the Rockies. In Georgia you are apt to see it in moist soils at the edges of rich woodlands or in forest clearings. It will grow in full sun, but gets extra points from gardeners for being able to tolerate and thrive in shade. Many Georgia gardeners are looking for flowers to brighten dark areas, and cutleaf coneflower is a native perennial they should consider.
Q: Can yellow patty pan squash be used like crookneck squash?
A: Absolutely. Fry it, grill it, roast it, stew it, use it like any other summer squash. People often have their own favorite varieties of squash depending on what they use them for. Some prefer straightneck types and some prefer crookneck types. Patty pan squashes, also known as scallop squashes, are less common but have their proponents, too.
Some people may only think of the old, white patty pan varieties, but there are yellow and green varieties available.
If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (email@example.com) or visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture's website (www.agr.georgia.gov).