Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho… Celebrate the Queen of August Gardens: Glorious, Sweet, Juicy Tomatoes…

August 20th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho

Oh, sweet, sweet tomato. All winter long, how I long for you; how I pine for your sun-ripened sweetness and juicy flesh. Oh how I worship your delicious flavor. And now, in the mid-August heat, I kneel at your humble earthen alter. With toes stretched out in warm, golden straw and red stains streaming down my arms, I welcome you, Queen of the Vegetable Garden. Late summer afternoons—August and September— these are the halcyon days of the tomato; the cherry, the beefsteak, the roma and the heirloom. So now, at long last, let the feasting begin.

Can you imagine life without the tomato? It seems impossible that this spectacular fruit —now regarded as one of the healthiest, natural foods— was once thought to be poisonous. Rich in vitamins and minerals —as well as antioxidants, including of course, lycopene— tomatoes are one of the sweetest health foods around. This year has been a great growing year for tomatoes in the northeast. And although some areas have reported a repeat of last year’s late blight problems, most farms and home gardens in this area seem to have been spared.

Cherry Tomato ⓒ Tim Geiss @

Cherry Tomatoes ⓒ Tim Geiss @

Sliced Tomato ⓒ Tim Geiss at

There are many ways to enjoy fresh, juicy, ripe tomatoes. But when the heat is on and the sun is high, there’s no better way to cool off than with a bowl of chilled gazpacho. Variations on this summertime classic abound, and everyone seems to have a favorite twist to the basic tomato-onion-vinegar base.

My version? Well, I happen to be in love with yellow and orange tomatoes right now. And, I like a sweet, pureed base of sungold cherry tomatoes for my gazpacho. Of course, you can use any tomatoes you like, and tweak the ingredients as you see fit – it’s part of the fun, really. And when you’ve had your fill of this zesty summer-soup, be sure to freeze some for later. You’ll be glad you did…

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho

Ingredients: Serves Six

2          Cups very ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes (this recipe works with red tomatoes too – use what you have)

3          Large tomatoes (I used orange and golden-yellow, heirloom type)

1          Bell pepper (red, green or somewhere between) minced

1          Average cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine

1          Spanish onion, peeled and very finely minced

2          Cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (but not too fine or it will overpower the other flavors)

2          Tbs. fresh, finely chopped Italian parsley

2          Tbs. fresh, finely chopped cilantro

2          Tbs. excellent-quality, artisan, white wine vinegar

1          Lemon, juiced

1          Lime, juiced

1/4      Cup extra virgin olive oil

1          Tsp. honey (or more, to taste)

Dash   Sriracha or Tobasco sauce

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sungold and Sweet Cherry 100 Tomatoes, Cucumber and Bell Pepper


Combine 2 large tomatoes and 2 cups of cherry tomatoes in a blender and blend. Remove and strain the tomato juice through a chinois or fine mesh sieve. Set aside. Seed and coarsely chop the remaining tomato,; peel, seed and chop the cucumber and pepper. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and chop the garlic, taking care not to chop too fine (or it will overpower the flavor of the gazpacho). Chop the parsley and the cilantro. Toss all of the vegetables into the tomato puree. At this point, if you prefer a smooth gazpacho, you may puree all the ingredients in a blender. Everyone has their own texture preferences. I like to see and taste whole bits of cucumber and tomato in my gazpacho.

Squeeze one lemon and one lime and strain the juice through a sieve into the vegetable mixture. Stir and slowly add  2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Add a dash of Sriracha chili sauce or Tobasco, and sprinkle in Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Taste as you go, adding more seasonings to balance flavors. Tomato acidity and sweetness varies tremendously. If the soup seems a bit sharp, try adding another tsp of honey to sweeten the flavor. If too sweet, skip the honey and add a bit more vinegar.

Chill, covered, for 2 hours. Taste again and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve well chilled with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, a garnish of fresh cilantro leaves and a piece of crusty bread.

Straining the fresh tomato puree through a sieve…

Add vegetables: chop and mince to the texture you prefer – or puree the entire soup, if you like. I prefer some texture…

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho… Ready for Chillin’

The summer meadow border, en route to the vegetable garden, bathed in morning light…

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes – The Sweetest Jewels of Summer…

Savoring the Halcyon Days with Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho…


Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful tomato photos – See more of Tim’s work at

Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Art Inspired by Nature – Tim Geiss “Looking at You, Looking at Me”

September 16th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

BWfrog Geiss 2009.

Frog, 2009, Tim Geiss

Welcome to the first installation of what I hope will become a weekly series, “Art Inspired by Nature”, on The Gardener’s Eden. As a gardener and nature-lover, I constantly find myself face to face with the beautiful, strange, and awe inspiring world around me. Sometimes I am moved by the beating wings of a butterfly, other times I am drawn in to the color of stone and then stunned to find a perfectly preserved, paper-white snake skin. I never know what I will find in the garden, and this unpredictable aspect of my work thrills me. I am also a visual artist, and recently I visited The Clark museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts to see ‘Through the Seasons, Japanese Art in Nature‘ and ‘Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence‘, (more on this show later). What I saw at the museum that day inspired me to connect with other artists, (photographers, sculptors, painters, potters, and more), in an effort to share their amazing work with you here on The Gardener’s Eden.

Looking. Looking very closely at the world around me has taught me a great deal. What better way to begin this series than with a collection of photographs focused on eyes? I present to you, “Looking at You, Looking at Me”. Meet photographer Tim Geiss. Tim is a natural observer. What I love most about his work is the instinctive way he approaches photography. There is a spontaneous, child-like quality to Tim’s images. To me, this is art in its purest form. Curiosity. Observation. Appreciation. Repulsion. Fascination. Expression.

Enjoy Tim’s work. May it inspire you and move you, as nature has inspired and moved human beings for all of time…


Eye, 2009, Tim Geiss

dragon fly eyes

Dragon Fly, 2009, Tim Geiss


Cicada, 2008, Tim Geiss


All photographs copyright 2008-2009, Tim Geiss. These photos are the property of Tim Geiss and may not be used under any circumstances without the artist’s consent. To contact Tim Geiss, please visit……

Like this series? Please leave your comments here on the forum by clicking on the title bar and then scrolling down to the bottom of the page. I am sure Tim would love to hear from you!

Stay tuned. Every Wednesday, The Gardener’s Eden will feature the work of a talented artist inspired by nature !

Are you an artist inspired by nature, or do you know one? Would you like to be featured here? Send your information/links to The Gardener’s Eden – See “Contact” at left…

*All content on this site, (exclusive of guest photography), is the property of  The Gardener’s Eden*

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved


Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Flowers Just for Cutting…

August 11th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

a bouquet of annual dahlias and calendula Walker Farm

~ A bouquet of dahlia and calendula brightens my windowsill ~

One of the great pleasures of successful flower gardening is, of course, the access to seasonal, fresh cut flowers for the dinner table, desk and elsewhere in the home. I also really enjoy bringing an exotic bouquet to my host or hostess when I am invited to a dinner party, or to a friend as a surprise. Earlier this summer, in my posts about designing a potager and companion planting in the vegetable garden, I mentioned the horticultural benefits of growing flowers in a kitchen garden. But as an artist, I have many reasons, way beyond the practical, for a cutting garden. Flowers are a great inspiration; the extraordinary colors and amazing geometric forms can shift a mood, spark a creative impulse, or simply add a touch of beauty to the day. Know someone with a bland office cubicle, or sterile waiting room? Imagine what a few colorful zinnias would do to change the atmosphere. It’s amazing really. That old 1960’s slogan “Flower Power” couldn’t be more accurate.

zinnia and dahlia, c. Tim Geiss 2009

Zinnia and Dahlia ~ copyright 2009 ~ Tim Geiss

Growing annuals for cutting can be as simple as sowing seed or planting six packs in the vegetable garden in spring. I grow my cutting garden in well drained soil enriched with compost, and I fertilize with Neptune’s Harvest or whatever fish emulsion I have on hand. My own cutting garden varies in size each year depending upon my available time, space and budget. This year, I purchased common annuals in six packs from Walker Farm and a few of the specialty annuals they are known for. I chose dahlia, zinnia, cleome, cosmos, verbena bonariensis, specialty calendula, (French marigold), and moluccella laevis, (Bells of Ireland), among others. I also grow some perennials in and around my vegetable garden, including early bloomers like bulbs and peonies and late-season favorites such as coreopsis tripteris, physostegia virginiana, liatris ‘Kobold’, veronica ‘Goodness grows’, rudbeckia, echinacea and solidago, (golden rod), to name but a few. Native goldenrod is a great addition to flower arrangements. Sadly, although solidago is a prized perennial in much of Europe, this native flower is shunned by many North American gardeners who mistakenly believe it to be a cause of hay fever, (ambrosia artmisiifolia, or common ragweed, is usually the culprit). I always buy my annuals locally in spring. But you can also find bulbs and plants through online retailers, including my two of my favorite sources for summer bulbs, Swan Island Dahlias and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Combining perennials and annuals in casual arrangements is one of my favorite ways to bring the garden indoors, (see photo below). I like to play with contrasting colors like orangey-yellow and purple, or bright blue and reddish-orange to enliven my kitchen table. When creating bouquets for the bedroom or bath, I often soften the mood a bit, and combine flowers in more complimentary hues; using tones of blue and green, or shades of lavender and rose. Whatever I create with flowers from my garden, the arrangements have a way of making the whole house look brighter.

In order to get the most life from cut flower arrangements, I try to harvest the blooms in early morning, before the heat of the day, or in the cool of the evening after the sun has set. I choose flowers with swollen buds or petals just opening. With sharp scissors, I cut the stems long and at a slight angle. Immediately, I place them in a bucket of lukewarm water kept in the shade while I make my other selections. Certain flowers, such as poppies, will need to have their stalks seared with a match in order to seal the stem. And most early bulbs, such as daffodils, prefer cool vase water. Cut flowers will stay fresh longer when you add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to each quart of vase-water. Changing the vase-water every couple of days will extend the life of your bouquet and keep the flowers looking fresh longer. Bacteria is responsible for that nasty flower-water slime and smell when you forget to change the water for a week. I try to avoid that olfactory experience at all costs!

Bouquet of cosmos candy stripe, calendula pacific beauty mix, echinacea purpurea, physostegia, goldenrod, liatris and veronica goodness grows

Annual Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty Mix’, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ here with perennial Veronica ‘Goodness Grows, Liatris ‘Kobold’, Echinacea purpurea and Solidago Canadensis Gunmetal Glazed Pitcher by artist Aletha Soule

double rudbeckia "Goldilocks" (small), cutting garden

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Goldilocks’ produces 18″-24″ stems with 4″ double orange blossoms… perfect for late summer bouquets

To add a little something extra to my bouquets, I often add ornamental grasses, (such as miscanthus), foliage plants, (including ferns and perennial plant leaves), vines, (such as bittersweet), and branches from trees and shrubs. Shrubs with darker foliage, including physocarpus ‘Diablo’ or ‘Summer Wine’, and weigela ‘Java Red’, among the many choices, add a nice contrast to floral arrangements in complimentary hues. When adding woody plants like these, as well as flowering hydrangea and lilac to an arrangement, it ‘s important to “smash” the woody stems with a mallet in order for the cut branch to absorb water, (see center photo below).  In addition to beautiful color and texture, woody plants add structure to a vase, and can help support both delicate flowers and heavy blooms, especially those with a tendency to flop.

cleome, zebra grass and weigela java red foliage

White cleome, zebra grass and weigela florida ‘Java Red’ foliage in a vase by  Aletha Soule

pounding woody stems

Flowers harvested from shrubs with woody stems must be ‘smashed’ as shown, to help them absorb water

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

~ A beautiful raku vase by Vermont artist Richard Foye ~

And from the garden: Ninebark, (Physocarpus), ‘Diablo’, False indigo foliage, (Baptisia), Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana), Queen Anne’s Lace, (Anthriscus sylvestris), and Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Hydrangea paniculata 'limelight'

~ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in a small vase by artist Aletha Soule ~

When it comes to choosing vases, I am a big believer in experimentation. Although I have a nice collection of vases from Vermont artisan Richard Foye and California’s Aletha Soule, I do not limit myself to traditional vessels for holding fresh flowers. I am just as likely to stick a bouquet into a rusty tin can when the orange-brown contrast strikes my fancy. Old mason jars, drinking glasses, perfume and liquor bottles, beach buckets, cookie tins, soda bottles and milk cartons have all served as vases in my household. In fact, pretty much anything that holds water is fair game. Floating flowers in a shallow bowl with candles makes for a memorable center piece at a dinner party, and the low display draws attention to the structure of larger flowers such as dahlia and sunflower. I also like the look of one spectacular blossom filling the top of a thick glass, as photographed by artist Tim Geiss below.

floating dahlia copyright 2009 tim geiss

As the seasons change, I like to bring autumn leaves and bare branches into the house for my larger urns. And early autumn vegetables, such as kale and cabbage, make dramatic additions to flower arrangements as well. When November and December come ’round, I will bring in winterberry, (Ilex verticillata), and dried grasses from the garden by the armful. Do you have any favorite additions to your floral arrangements? I will be featuring more articles like this one in the future, but for now, please feel free to share your ideas and add comments for others here on the forum. In a world filled with chaos, stress, uncertainty and pressure, we could all use a little beauty to brighten our day. Sometimes, even a milk carton of roadside daisies will do!

zinnia on a table copyright 2009 Tim Geiss

~ Freshly cut Zinnia, copyright 2009, Tim Geiss ~


~ Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful flower photographs as noted ~

~ Article and other photos copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~


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