If the day is as cold and gray where you are as it is in Chicago, you will know why I want to talk about summer tomatoes.

We don’t have a lot of space in the garden that is sunny enough to plant vegetables. This makes me a bit sad (perhaps you have seen that I, Judy, am writing this post, my very first). I am a much bigger fan of growing vegetables than Jason is. He plants cherry tomatoes and a few herbs to humor me. They grow cheek-to-cheek with the flowers.

Tomato and clematis happily cohabiting in July.
By September, the wall of cherry tomatoes has grown over the Wall of Giant Purple Clematis.

Here the tomato vines are, heading for the roof. There is something about this particular small garden spot, right outside the front door, which plants love. Followers of the blog will perhaps recognize this as the space that is occupied by the Giant Purple Wall of Clematis earlier in the season.

The plants produced rather late this year — this is from September.

The vines produced plentifully, if a bit later than expected. There were two plants, Black Cherry and a red cherry whose name we have forgotten.

Of course, the very best way to appreciate summer tomatoes is plucked straight from the vine as you walk past. Most of the tomatoes were eaten outdoors, some were brought in for salad, and naturally, the squirrels got more than their share.

They even kept blooming into October, which can’t be normal for Chicago. This is October 30.

The vines kept producing into the fall, well past the point in the season that the sun could provide enough light and warmth to ripen them. I brought some into the house to ripen on the window sill. In late October, the vines were still heavy with tomatoes, mostly hard and green.

Eventually, the point came when we began worrying about frost. There were too many tomatoes to lose them all without making some effort to eat them.

The photo below is the vine after the first serious frost — but as you can see, there were still tomatoes to pick.

So one fine day, I picked them all. Many were hidden in the depths of the vines, and as you can see, many were also high enough that I had to bring out a ladder. It may be the first time I’ve needed a ladder to pick tomatoes. This bowlful represents only part of the harvest.

Now what to do? I cut them in half, dipped them in egg, then in flour and salt and pepper, and made fried green tomatoes.

We made many more than this, but they disappeared rapidly.

Just as good as full-sized fried tomatoes.

If I’ve made you long for summer tomatoes, in a couple of days I will post a recipe for an amazing roast tomato and bean spread made with winter tomatoes, the next best thing. (It was going to be in this post, but Jason is looking over my shoulder and told me the post was too long.) You can even use those sad cherry tomatoes that have been sitting on your counter waiting for you to eat them in a salad, but, admit it, they are past their prime, you bought too many, and one of these days you will need to throw them out — unless you make this roasted tomato and bean spread.

Meanwhile, an update on Jason. He’s had his ups and downs through eight rounds of chemo, but he’s hanging in there. Lately, for whatever reason, his appetite has returned somewhat, and with it, a bit more energy than he has had. He was able to eat a couple of Hanukkah latkes this past week, and with an extra week off before the next round of chemo, we’re looking forward to a good Christmas, with both boys and their partners with us (after testing and with all the precautions we can take).

And we both wish you a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and all the other holidays you may celebrate, and hope that you can have your families as close as possible in this crazy year.

45 Comments on “Let’s talk about summer tomatoes!”

  1. Well done on your first post Judy! It was fun to see the cherry tomatoes intertwined with the clematis. I never would have thought of doing fried green tomatoes with cherry tomatoes, aren’t you clever. Jason, I’m glad to hear you’re persevering! We’re all pulling for you. Wishing you all joy and quiet wonder this holiday season.

  2. Thank you so much for this post Judy. It is like an unexpected present. I love cherry tomatoes. These look like they are amazing producers. I will look forward to the recipe when Jason allows you to post it. 😉 So good to hear that Jason is getting a little break over the holidays. I know this is good for all of you. Happy Hanukkah and best of health to your whole family.

  3. Hi Judy, Hi Jason. So good to hear from you! 😃 Your tomato vine is amazing. I have never had one grow that tall, but then I suppose that is because I spend most of my time chopping off bits of mine to stop them falling over. Seems you have the perfect spot for them there. I had a few green ones left over this year but they just didn’t ripen. I shall look forward to that recipe Judy. Jason, I have been thinking of you and wish you and your family a wonderful holiday together. Good luck with the next lot of chemo and take care of yourself. Best wishes from cold and grey Bavaria!

      • Hi Judy. Well, we drive past Kochel am See if we go down to the mountains, so it is about 2 or 3 hours from here. I haven’t been that way for a couple of years now, but it is a beautiful part of Bavaria and I love it there. When my parents visited in the past we often went to Garmisch or Mittenwald which are a few miles further south on the Austrian border. So you speak some German then? Great!

      • Well, I used to speak some German! It’s been a long time! At one time, I could read novels and so on, write papers. My parents lived outside Geneva for five years after I graduated from college. I was equally incoherent in German and French, because my mind has only one category, apparently: foreign language. If I forgot a word in German, it would insert itself in French. In that area of Switzerland, people would then assume I spoke both — although I was utterly tongue-tied. Now I slip in Spanish, too. Kochel was impossibly beautiful – like a postcard. I had wonderful trips on weekends to Munich and Innsbruck. A very beautiful area.

  4. That is absolutely the biggest tomato plant I’ve seen and I’ve seen greenhouses full of them. Whatever it is about that spot, it’s magical.
    Thank you for the update on Jason. I’ve been wondering how he was doing and I’m glad to hear that he’s toughing it out. Tell him this post was not too long.
    I hope your family will all have a great holiday season!

  5. Hi Judy and Jason. Thank you for writing the post, Judy. We have all been wondering how Jason is faring and glad to hear there will be a reprieve from chemo to take comfort in family and traditions at this time of year.
    Those cherry tomato vines are spectacular! I just opened a can of tomatoes to add to a skillet supper dish. Am looking forward to your tomato and bean spread recipe.
    Take care, stay safe, be well, and happy holidays at the end of what has to have been one of the craziest years on record.

  6. Thank you for this! Yes, it’s dark and drab and cold here in Indiana, and photos of this garden harvest is a wonderful contrast to what I see out the window! I look forward to that recipe. Thank you also for the update on Jason; obviously there are many concerned for both of you. Congratulations on your first post — it’s a good one! May your family celebrations be happy and may Jason’s appetite hold up!

  7. Judy, it is good to hear from you, and I am glad to hear Jason is doing well. You are both in my thoughts and prayers.

    I can recommend a favorite all purpose tomato we grow here that is quite prolific and tastes wonderful. It is called Amy’s Sugar Gem, and we get the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. It is bigger than the usual cherry tomato, good firm flesh and is rich, sweet and flavorful. You might only need one or two plants. Rick is our Pickle King, and he pickles the green ones at the end of the season, right along with the cucumbers.

    Wishing you both a wonderful holiday season!

  8. Happy holidays! It’s good to hear from you all again. Your dark tomato looks very interesting. I look forward to seeing your tomato recipe. I made stewed tomatoes with my extra tomatoes this year. We had a good crop as well.

  9. Great post Judy. I had no idea you grew tomatoes over the clematis. I try 3 different kinds of cherry tomatoes each summer. As you said, they are great right off the vine.

    Glad to hear Jason’s appetite is returning and your family will get together for the holidays. I wish everyone the best.

  10. Yum! That was a great harvest, and the fried tomatoes look delicious! I remember that vining area near your house–it certainly is a fertile spot. Wonderful first post, Judy, and it’s good to hear that Jason is hanging in there. Sounds like your holidays have been/will be pleasant with the family together.

  11. Thanks for the post Judy, you are doing well…… writing blog posts and growing vegetables! I would be proud if my tomatoes were growing that high…that has to be a secret Chicagoan plant! Like many garden bloggers I have been wondering how Jason is doing, so I’m pleased to read that he is hanging in there. I hope your family have a lovely time together during this time, and that Jason has at least a bit of an appetite to enjoy this festive time. Best wishes for the holiday season and a for a healthy 2021.

  12. Great to think about summer for a while. I love cherry tomatoes too. My favourite is Sungold which is very sweet. I make chutney with my green tomatoes and I’ll be looking forward to your recipe. Thanks for the update on Jason and Happy Holidays to both of you. Amelia

  13. Hello Judy, thanks for this post and the news about Jason. Am glad you can have your family around during the festive season. Seeing your tomatoes, I thought of my sweetheart’s tomato plantation this summer, almost pushing out my rambling roses….He picked the rest of them off their stems late October. Most were still green, but he had them ripen in a box under a cover of newspaper. We just ate the last few ones a couple of days ago in a salad. Sending you all good wishes from Berlin 🙂 Lydia

  14. The tomatoes looked amazing on the vine, colourful in the bowl and delicious in the pan. Thanks for the reminder that summer came this year, and will come again in 2021. Best of all, though, thanks for the up-date on Jason. Happy Hanukkah to you and your family.

  15. Thank you for the update, Judy. I think of Jason and his ordeal whenever I think about the garden (which is very often!) and hope you are doing well, too. Today it felt almost springlike in the afternoon, when I was outside puttering around, so your post on tomatoes felt appropriate. I’ve also placed my first seed order of the season, mostly herbs which I will start as soon as they arrive, for fresh herbs. Wishing you and your family the best this holiday season!

  16. Happy for the good report on Jason. Thanks for filling in Judy with a blog post about your tomatoes. And yes I do have some of those cherry tomatoes on the counter that need to be eaten. Wishing you both happy holidays with family and each other.

  17. Your post is delightful, and the news about Jason very welcome, indeed. I’ve been thinking about you a lot, and hoping things were going well.

    They certainly went well for those tomatoes! I’ve learned to appreciate the varieties of cherry tomatoes, thanks to a picking farm I frequent. There are deep, black ones, and pretty orange ones, and pear-shaped yellow ones, all with their own flavor. Clearly, a tomato isn’t just a tomato! I’m looking forward to the recipe to come, since despite my best efforts, I always have some tomatoes staring back at me from the counter, saying, “Well, are you going to do something with us or not?”

  18. It’s good to read an update on Janson’s progress, thank you.
    I love tomatoes in any form! I’ve heard somewhere that hanging them upside down can help ripen green ones, but seeing your frying pan, I’d say why bother: it looks delicious.
    Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and best of health to you and your family.

  19. Humanity needs a Dr. Doolittle who can broker a deal between squirrels and people. Maybe people agree to stock feeders for squirrels and squirrels agree to stop eating items planted by humans or designed for birds.

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