Nous étions à Paris

Just spent almost a week in Paris, where the forsythia was already blooming and we saw carpets of daffodils in the Bagatelle (part of the Bois de Boulogne). And I discovered a new tomato: the deeply ridged Coeur de Boeuf, or oxheart tomato. This was incredibly expensive — almost 10 euros per kilo in the posh market in Neuilly (though I also saw it for under seven euros at the market near Place d’Italie). So my one tomato cost 1.70 euros, or more than $2.25! It was very meaty, few seeds or liquids, and probably mealier than if it was the peak of summer.

My tomato discovery
My tomato discovery

Of course I want to grow some (who could afford to buy many at that price?). When I googled it, I was surprised to find a reference in English. Turns out Mark Bittman, the New York Times’ ‘Minimalist’ food writer, has been in Europe last year and discovered them too. Now to figure out what will get bumped to make room for two Coeur de Boeufs in the raised beds. I really am trying hard to contain them in just two beds (and two containers, I’ve decided, for the silvery fir determinate variety — this way I can boost my total to 20. That’s not really cheating). One friend asks what I will do with all of these tomatoes. Eat them, of course! (And she hopefully will too when she visits in July.) Hopefully I’ll be eating lots of salad with tomatoes, pizza on the grill using garden tomatoes, rice-stuffed tomatoes … and some of course will end up in chutney. Send along your suggestions and favorite recipes! Last season, we left the last of the unripened tomatoes in a bowl in the kitchen and they slowly ripened (no newspapers, no nothing). We ate the last of our garden tomatoes in early January. (After Paris, I saw a cousin in London who told me about a tomato from Sardinia called a camone that is on my list to find for 2010!)

The Brit was happy in the garden stores along the Quai northwest of Notre Dame, where he discovered netting for peas and beans. One less thing he’ll have to make once the planting starts in earnest.

But those garden shops! One store had 10 types of potatoes to plant, and that was just one brand! And then 14 varieties of strawberries! I wondered where the French plant all these things. At their country homes? Then why not just sell the seedlings in the villages? Though had there been any sign that these were USDA-approved, they would have been hard to resist, even though I had said there is no room for potatoes this year.

Of course, the Parisians may be more creative about finding space than I could imagine. I overheard one child point out a fruit tree to his mother. Her response? It’s a big large for the balcony. How about this myrtille (blueberry) instead?


5 thoughts on “Nous étions à Paris

  1. oxheart tomato sounds like great discovery — i can’t believe your description of it has made me so hungry.

    1. Actually, I read a book in the past year about a gardener who would give houseplants 24 hours notice before dividing and repotting, and she claimed that the plants would then make it obvious where the cut should be. I wonder what kind of music the tomato plants would like 🙂

  2. here is more tomato fodder for you, from our alma mater …..

    Glass soil

    By Randy Mertens

    What do you do with tons of broken glass? Grow tomatoes.

    Mmmm. Nothing like biting into a fresh tomato. Be mindful of the broken glass, though.

    Samuel Garrett McKee, a senior in forestry at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is finishing an undergraduate research project that combines recycling with something good on a salad. When he heard how much waste glass the city of Columbia has to dispose of each year, he saw an opportunity to use the material, which ordinarily goes into a landfill, as a medium for growing hydroponic tomatoes. He harvested his first tomatoes using this process in December.

    “There hasn’t been a lot of research done on growing plants in crushed glass, at least I could not find any in the literature,” McKee said. “Crushed glass is normally used as an aggregate in asphalt, but that is about the extent of the current market for it. There are tons and tons of it available, it just needs a market.”

    Hydroponics, from the Greek words for water and labor, is a method of growing plants without soil. Hydroponically grown plants usually have their roots in a mineral nutrient solution, or in an inert medium such as perlite, gravel or mineral wool.

    “My research discovered that crushed glass will work as a base for growing vegetables hydroponically,” McKee said. “I have not analyzed all the data, but my test plots produced tomatoes at roughly the same rate as two other commercially available hydroponic growth mediums, perlite and hydroton.”

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