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The Garden Fanatic -- Steve Kawaratani

“Who knows if a well-prepared soup was not responsible for the

pneumatic pump or a poor one for a war?”

-- G. C. Lichtenberg

“I’ve never met a tomato I didn’t like.”


-- Pete “Will Rogers” Kawaratani

“Can you pick up some tomatoes today, honey?” my wife Catharine asked.

“I think I would like to make my tomato-basil soup.”

She looked at my surprised expression a moment, and then added:


“You’re right. We’ll wait until our own tomatoes are ready.”

One of life’s great pleasures is biting into a ripe tomato . . . and

only home-grown tomatoes can be enjoyed within minutes of harvest. I

dream about Catharine’s vine-ripened tomatoes during the winter, their

perfect acid and bright red color. You can’t find tomatoes like hers at

either the finest restaurants or produce stands. I would rather go

without than eat an inferior tomato.

Don’t believe the false notions that tomatoes are difficult to grow or


that home-grown are more expensive than the so-called “just picked” from

the market. It’s not true. Remember, tomatoes will never be fresher than

being picked from your own garden.

What tomatoes should you grow? Before you ready your plot, review the

Plant Man’s tomato selections. He prefers “starters” over seeds because

he’s impatient and hates to thin seedlings.

Call your favorite nursery for availability. And try my wife’s recipe.

It’s really good.


Plant Man Tomato Selections Summer 2002

Selected Variety Days to first harvest Growth habit Fruit

sizes Comments

Beefmaster 80 Vine Quite Large VFNA Vigorous, Meaty


Beefsteak 96 Vine Large The original steak tomato

Better Boy 75 Vine Large VFNA Dependable, uniform fruit

Champion 62 Vine Large VFNT Early, big producer

Cherry 75 Vine Quite Small High yield

Early Girl 52 Vine Small VFF Early, top choice for


Jubilee 80 Vine Large A Golden-orange, low acid

Momotaro 70 Bush Medium VFN Good producer

Patio 70 Bush Sm-Med FA Best tomato for containers

Roma 76 Bush Small VFA Pear shape, Paste tomato

San Marzano 80 Vine Small A Large Plant, Paste tomato

Catharine’s Tomato-Basil Soup

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 can (28 oz.) Roma tomatoes, undrained and cut up

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup snipped fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped (2 cups), divided

1 cup skim milk, divided

Combine shallots, garlic and oil in two-quart saucepan. Cook over

medium heat for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, or until tender, stirring frequently.

Add canned tomatoes, water, basil, bouillon, sugar and pepper. Cook

for 5 1/2 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is hot and flavors are blended,

stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine half of tomato mixture, two Roma tomatoes and 1/2 cup milk in

food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Set puree aside. Repeat

with remaining ingredients.

Return puree to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes,

or until soup is hot, stirring occasionally.

Spoon into soup bowls. Serves six and tastes great. See you next time.

* Steve Kawaratani is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery. He is

married to local artist Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949)

497-2438 or by e-mail at