Quick-fix Tomato Recipes- Tomato Gratin

Tomato SeedI’m not much of a cook, I’ll admit, and one of the big reasons I love Tomato gratin is that it’s so very easy to make. But I’m a foodie with a particularly refined taste… I love Twinkies, peanut butter sandwiches and cheeseburgers, so when I say Tomato gratin is delicious, it means you just have to give it a go! Here’s how you can make Tomato gratin for 6 in just 30 minutes…


  • 4 slices of whole grain bread
  • 4 medium size tomatoes (sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (finely shredded)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Take a shallow 2-quart baking dish and coat it with nonstick spray.
  • Tear each bread slice into 4 equal parts and place them in a food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. Now add cheese, garlic and olive oil and pulse to combine. Next, lay out the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.
  •  Layer the tomato slices in baking dish and sprinkle each layer with basil, salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs and bake for another 10 minutes. That’s it, serve and enjoy!

Paul’s Tips on Caring for Potted Tomatoes

Tomato PlantsBig juicy Tomatoes would be an object of pride to any gardener, and a big boost to the garden’s beauty! But the true worth of these wonderful plants isn’t lost to those with a limited growing space. I recently had a chance meeting with Paul Miller, once, my high school pal, now, a hefty security guard putting up in the confines of a small NYC apartment. I can’t exactly recall how it happened, but we soon found ourselves discussing gardening. Well, to be honest, Paul soon found me discussing gardening, speaking at lengths about the prized possessions of my kitchen garden. Much to my surprise, Paul had an equally, if not more, interesting and enviable list of fruits and vegetable plants he had growing in containers, in his NYC apartment! I initially felt he was lying, but any doubts I had about the ingenuity of his claims evaporated once I’d heard of the ingenious ways he’d turned the limited space at his disposal into a fruitful container garden. Sure, I felt a little glum, but I chose to take the opportunity to pick up a few tips on container gardening, especially on caring for potted tomatoes. I figured some of Paul’s wisdom is well worth sharing with you guys…

The basics. A spacious container (5-gallon would be perfect), a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and a flat tray beneath the pot to collect excess water… these are the basic requirements of growing great tomatoes. Allow at least 4-5 inches between tomato plants and incorporate a wire cage while they’re still young.

The Nourishment. While your tomato plants are still young, you should strive to make sure the soil stays moist all the time. During warm season, irrigate potted tomato plants on a daily bases. Paul suggests a weekly dose of high nitrogen, water soluble fertilizer for young plants. Once the plants establish, switch to a fertilizer with rich potassium and phosphorus content.

Pest Control. Mites, scales and a horde of other insects have a thing for tomatoes. Protect your tomato plants by spraying with a good quality insecticide every 7-10 days.

Pepper Diseases: Powdery Mildew

PeppersPowdery Mildew is one of the most notorious diseases in all of plant kingdom and our beloved Pepper one of its most common targets! So, for reasons quite obvious, this deteriorating condition remains a source of major worry to every one who loves growing pepper. Let’s take a quick look at the nature and symptoms of powdery mildew and the ways to tackle this problem.

The Disease

Powdery mildew of pepper plants is caused by the fungus Leveillula taurica. Powdery mildew fungi are all host specific which means that the fungus that causes the disease in peppers won’t affect any other plants. The mildews don’t attack the internal tissue but produce fungal threads on the surface of pepper plants. They usually overwinter in debris or soil around the plants and spread in spring via insects, wind or splashed water. Powdery mildew is most prevalent in regions that experience rapid humidity fluctuations and have a hot, dry climate. The spread of infection causes defoliation which can result in heavy losses.


The most obvious symptom of powdery mildew is the appearance of white, powdery growth under the leaves of pepper plants. Older, lower leaves are the first to be affected by the infection. As the disease spreads, yellow blotches appear on the upper surface of pepper leaves.


Early detection is your best bet for protecting your plants. Make sure you monitor the plants on a regularly. Simple measures like controlling weed growth and providing adequate spacing at the time of planting peppers go a long way in keeping the plants safe from infections. Powdery mildew is known to relish high levels of nitrogen. It’s therefore important to avoid using nitrogen rich fertilizers. Chemical fungicides are quite effective in tackling the infection and should be used without delay.

Pepper Diseases: Pepper Stem Rot

Pepper PlantsWilting of Pepper plants, appearance of white patches on the stems and yellowing of pepper leaves- these are telltale symptoms of Pepper Stem Rot. One of the most dangerous of all pepper plant diseases, stem rot is caused by the fungi Sclerotium rolfsii. The fungus thrives in hot, humid conditions and acidic soils, targeting the wounds caused by insects or nematodes.

The outbreak of pepper stem rot is marked by wilting of the plants, often followed by discoloration of leaves. Young plants can perish within a matter of days. Established peppers may develop brown lesions on the stems, close to the soil surface. The plants start to wilt, layering the stems and neighboring soil with patches of fungal growth. Within a few days, the fungal growth gives rise to sclerotia- brown lumps, about 0.5 mm in diameter. The fungal sclerotia closely resemble mustard seeds and germinate at the soil surface, infecting all fruit and foliage they come in contact with. Running water, infected tools and seeds can serve as carriers, thus, aiding the spread of infection.

A little care at the time of planting goes a long way in safeguarding your plants from infection. Make sure to cultivate only healthy, infection free seeds or transplants and provide ample spacing between pepper plants. When picking the planting site, look for an area with organically rich, well drained soil. Avoid planting peppers in soils that are too acidic.

Neglect is one malady no plant can overcome! Make it a habit to inspect your plants regularly. This will allow for timely detection of the signs of infection and give you a chance to act before the damage is done.

Application of ammonium nitrate to the soil at the time of planting is known to be effective in preventing fungal infections. Infected plants should be immediately treated with fungicides to prevent the spread of pepper stem rot.

Caring for Tomato Plants

Tomato PlantsThe gorgeous juicy veggie known to one and all as Tomato is the crown jewel of every home garden. In addition to being a regular in everyday meals, these attractive plants also contribute to the garden’s appeal. While growing tomatoes isn’t too difficult, these delicious veggies do require specific care for their success. Take a look at the key essentials of tomato care.

Regular irrigation is one of the most significant aspects of tomato plant care. The plants should be watered frequently enough so the soil remains moist right through the growing season. Make sure you irrigate tomatoes early in the day, giving the plants ample time to dry up before the night falls. Also, avoid wetting the foliage as the presence of moisture in the leaves is known to make the plants susceptible to fungal growth.

Mulching plays an important part in the success of tomato plants. A good 3-4 inch layer of organic mulch retains moisture in the soil and prevents undue competition by keeping the weeds in check. Wood chips, straw and dry grass all make for good mulching materials for tomato plants.

Tomatoes growing in organically rich soils can do well without fertilization. If soil quality is a concern, it’s best to fertilize the soil before planting tomatoes. Once the plants start to produce, fertilize them once every month.

Staking tomato plants isn’t a necessity. It does, however, help keep the fruit clean and safe from slugs. Using tomato cages or stakes also helps conserve space and is a great option for gardeners with a limited growing space.

Caring for tomato plants does take some time and effort but it ensures good yields of healthy tomatoes for you and your family. Not a hard bargain!