Sunday, October 25, 2015

Principe Borghese Tomatoes: Hardy and Tasty

In Tuscany, Italy, the Principe Borghese tomato (genus/species Lycopersicon esculentum) can be found filling backyards. The small one to two inch tomato is most often used in sauces and pastes for cooking because of having less juice off the vine than other varieties. Its flavor intensifies after drying, making it perfect for sauces and pastes.

If you're growing your own principe borghese, you'll likely be very happy with how they produce. A prolific plant that yields clusters of tomatoes in abundance, it's a great choice whether you're growing for your own family and friends' use or for selling in the market.

The plants are very hardy, with gardeners raving about their ability to keep producing under conditions that ruin most other tomato varieties (intense heat, excess flooding, etc). The tomatoes should be planted in full sun and spaced at least two feet apart because they can grow quite large (up to six feet).

While very hardy, they need plenty of water, but fare better using a drip system rather than spraying or pouring water directly on their fruit or leaves. It's recommended that you use a daily timer to ensure proper watering.

Flea beetles can be very destructive to this variety of tomato, so use Pyrethrin or crop row covers early in the growing season to protect the plants. Hornworns are also a problem, and can be controlled by using Bacillus thuringienses (also known as B.T.).

For diseases like blight, crop rotation is the best defense. Be sure to rotate the plants no less than every three years. Also be sure to destroy all vines at the end of the year to prevent disease spread by the rotting of the plants.

To store these tomatoes, it's recommended that you freeze them whole or after having been dried. In Italy the plants are typically hung in a dry, cool place with the tomatoes attached to the vines. When winter comes the tomatoes are harvested from the vines, soaked in olive oil or water and then used to make tasty sauces.

Traditionally in Italy the tomatoes are left on the vine (with the water restricted as the fruit starts to ripen) and then harvested vine and all, after which they are hung up and dried.

Although they are mostly used for sauces and tomato paste, you can certainly eat them fresh in the uncooked pasta sauce loved by Italians in summertime. Just slice the tomatoes into quarters and mix with fresh minced garlic, fresh basil leaves and hot peppers if you like it spicy. Use plenty of salt on the tomatoes and add some extra-virgin olive oil. Allow the mixture to marinate at room temperature for a few hours before use, adding grated parmesan to taste when you add it to your favorite pasta.

The jury is split on whether or not eating the tomatoes fresh off the vine without drying is a good idea. Some people love them, others find them to have too little flavor without being dried. As drying tomatoes go, though, they are tough to beat for a flavor-rich sauce or paste.

If you're looking for a hardy tomato for drying and creating traditional Tuscan recipe sauces with, the Principe Borghese tomato is the way to go.

About the Author: Jonathan Leger is a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site dedicated to the education, history and caring of a variety of roses at

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Partial Pear Harvest from Dwarf Bartlett Pear Tree

This summer we were rewarded with over 100 pears from 1 dwarf Bartlett Pear Tree. We purchased this little pear tree in 2006 for around $30. 

The leaves are a bright shiny green and turn a beautiful orange after the harvest which lasts from September to October. The soil is a well drained hummus rich mix of top soil and mulch. It seems to be a very happy tree!

This is an incredibly hardy Fruit Tree, as long as it gets water and sunlight the Pears are wonderful. 

This is the small Bartlett Pear Tree that we planted about 6 years ago. It produces about 50-100 pears every fall and does not require any pesticides or a second tree to pollinate. 

The original seedling was about 6' tall and we had to move the tree a few times as we reworked the design of the garden. The tree is covered in beautiful delicate white flowers through April-May, depending on the wind and rain. It is fairly maintenance free except for the occassional pruning of horizontal branches. The pears become quite large as we head into September / October so the branches need to be at a 45 degree angles (min) to support the weight of the fruit. There are many good videos on Youtube that show you how to prune a young pear tree.  

With the abundance of fruit each autumn you will be happy to share with family and friends, as well as, preserving some for the winter. Our good friend and neighbour made us some ginger pear spread which we used on toast and to add to muffin recipes and smoothies.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Restoration of the Borghese Gardens

The restoration of the Villa Borghese to its seventeenth-century appearance was begun in 1997 and has been based on extensive historical research of numerous documents preserved in the Borghese family archives at the Vatican. Among the most important recent projects has been the refurbishment of the secret gardens known as the Flower Garden, the Garden of Blooms and Views, and the Garden of the Bitter Oranges. (including citron/ etrog

Using this historical information the designs of the gardens were reconstructed with flowers used for the original plantings. Within the three gardens, more than 250 varieties of plants permit three rounds of seasonal flowering that include rare and precious flowers and fruit of the beautiful tree (peri eitz hadar, literally "a fruit of the beautiful tree." - Leviticus 23:40.) that have disappeared from Roman gardens and have been reintroduced for the first time. These include such flowers as fritillaries, numerous varieties of antique tulips, old roses, many aromatic plants, and flowers such as the sunflower, marigolds, and four o'clocks that were rarities in the seventeenth century because of their recent importation from the Americas. The gardens thus have returned to their original state as true living museums. 

The entire Borghese Gardens park was organized on a formal, symmetrical plan with lanes and small squares lined with statues and fountains. The giardini segreti (secret gardens) located on either side of casino were the most important and well-tended of the gardens. Since the Renaissance, secret gardens, whose roots lie in the kitchen gardens of Medieval convents, have been a common garden type. Their name is an allusion to the fact that they are enclosed by walls that form outdoor rooms, thereby creating a private passage from the closed, interior spaces to the open air of the surrounding park. [1] Alberta Campitelli

The Borghese Gardens in Rome were built in 1605, when Cardinal Scipione Borghese converted the existing vineyards into one of the largest landscape gardens in all of Rome. Scipione Borghese was nephew to Camillo Borghese - Pope Paul V - who oversaw the completion of St Peter's Basillica at the Vatican. When you visit Rome be sure to look for the name inscribed at the main entrance portico. It reads BVRGHESIVS - Latin for Borghese. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Heirloom Seeds : Lettuce, Lolla Rossa 1 Pkt. (900 Seeds)

Click on image or order: "Lettuce, Lolla Rossa 1 Pkt.(900 Seeds)" (2128) "The tightly crinkled leaves of this, one of the most fetching Italian heirloom lettuces, appear to have been dipped in red, red wine. The open heads, growing slowly and remaining compact, make an ornamental edible edging for flower beds or a container plant. Harvest your first basket of the mild-tasting, scrumptious leaves at about 55 days."

Borghese Gardens and the Pines of Rome

Stone Pine Trees in the Villa Borghese Gardens: "A species of pine native to Southern Europe in the Mediterranean region, the Italian Stone Pine, commonly called the Umbrella Pine, has been cultivated for its edible pine nuts since prehistoric times. It has a widespread use as a horticultural tree, too. The Umbrella Pine can grow to heights exceeding 82 feet; but the average is height is 35 to 65 feet.

The reason for its more popular name is clear; the characteristic smooth, round, umbrella-like crown is made up of flexible, needle-like leaves that have a mid-green color. Its edible seeds have been the chief reason for its cultivation for at least 6,000 years, even being used for trade since early-recorded history.

This tree has been celebrated in music. Pini di Roma, the Pines of Rome, is a 1924 symphonic tone poem by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. It is one work in Respighi’s Roman Trilogy, which includes Feste Romane and Fontane di Roma. Each movement portrays the location of pine trees in the city during different parts of the day. First performed under the baton of Bernardino Molinari in the Augusteo, Rome, on 14.December.1924."

Via:Virtual Tourist : Villa Borgheae

Scientific classification—Kingdom: Plantae; Division: Pinophyta; Class: Pinopsida; Order: Pinales; Family: Pinaceae; Genus: Pinus; Subgenus: Pinus; Species: P. pinea

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Sukkot ! Chag Sameach, the Borghese Gardens Etrog from Calabria, Italy

Caravaggio: Still Life with Flowers, Fruits, and Vegetables in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, contains a large citron (Citron medica / etrog). 
The citron is considered a sacred tree to Jews who know the fruit as the etrog, still used for the celebration of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles.
The Borghese Gardens Etrog: A few interesting things about Etrogs. The word Etrog is Aramaic, which means "delightful." 

The English equivalent word, Citron, is derived from the Greek word "Kedros" -- the same as "Hadar" in Hebrew -- which also means Citrus. Kedros was Latinized as Cedrus, which evolved into Citrus, and then Citron. 

In Second Temple times, the Etrog was the only known Citrus fruit, according to Eliezer Goldschmidt, a horticulture professor at Hebrew University. As such, it was the only choice for the Sukkot ritual, as the Talmud states that every Jew should take the fruit of the Hadar tree. 
Most Citrus species arrived in the Middle East from China and India, with the Citron first, followed by the Lemon and other Citrus species. The Etrog is still grown in Morocco and Italy. The Italian varieties are mostly Yanaverim types, and there are those who prefer the Italian Yanaver species of Etrog to the typical Israeli Etrog. "Some people believe that the Italian Etrog is the ultimate Etrog," Israeli grower Yaakov Charlap says.

The citron in Calabria was celebrated by poets like Byron and D'Annunzio, but is only saved from extinction, thanks to the Jewish tradition of Sukkot. 

A Jewish delegation comes from Israel to Santa Maria del Cedro every year between July and August to choose the best fruit to be used in the holiday for the Jewish community. The selection of the best fruit is a virtual ritual. 

The mashgichim, each followed by a peasant carrying a box and a pair of scissors, go to the citron farms at five in the morning. The mashgiach proceeds slowly looking left and right. Then he stops and looks at the base of the tree, right where the trunk comes up from the ground. A smooth trunk means the tree has not been grafted and the fruit can be picked. The mashgiach lies down on the ground to examine better the lower branches between the leaves. 

Once the good fruit is found, the mashgiach shows it to the peasant who cuts it off leaving a piece of the stalk. Then the mashgiach analyses the picked citron one more time and if he decides it is worthy he wraps it in oakum and puts it in the box. 

The farmer receives the agreed sum for each picked fruit. Then the boxes are sealed and sent to the Lamezia Terme airport with a final destination Tel Aviv 

Most adherent to the Diamante variety of Calabria are still the Chabad's who's late Rabbi's were always in support for this traditional variety. Among the other Hasidic sects it is most used by the Satmars. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Citrus, Lime Dwarf

Citrus, Lime Dwarf
Dwarf Lime trees grow to about two feet in height and produce full-size, bright green juicy limes. They have a delicious, tangy taste. Use in key-lime pies and in cold drinks. Miniature trees add color and fragrance to your home. These Dwarf Lime trees are fun, and the requirements for growing them are few: they need a humid environment and may require misting several times a week. They need direct sunlight and frequent watering. The growing instructions that we send you tell you how to pollinate the trees to help the blossoms turn into fruit. We ship only well-established plants which will set fruit within 12 months. This tree is also available in the Citrus Tree Collection.