Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: How to prevent sunscald on tomatoes

Dear Helen: Why are the tops of my ripening tomatoes remaining yellow?


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The development of red pigmentation on the tops of ripening tomatoes is sometimes inhibited by exposure to hot sun. The discolouration is commonly at the top, stem end portion of a tomato -- the part that is usually the most exposed.

The problem is most common on varieties with sparse foliage and when the weather turns suddenly very hot and sunny following more moderate conditions. This has been an odd, changeable summer.

Tomatoes with sunscald are still edible. Just cut away affected parts.

Try experimenting with different varieties next year. Look for ones with plentiful leaf cover, and keep the soil the plants are growing in adequately and consistently moistened. I’ve never experienced sunscald on Big Beef plants.


Dear Helen: I’ve enjoyed your columns on tomatoes and the photos with the columns. What do you do with all the tomatoes? A friend and neighbour with a bumper crop is looking for ideas.


You might suggest inquiring at a local food bank that might welcome fresh, home-grown tomatoes to distribute.

Everyone has their own preferred ways of using and consuming tomatoes. When the tomatoes begin ripening in my garden my thoughts turn to the winter, when a special lunch treat is creamy tomato soup made from either canned tomatoes or a thawed container of stewed tomatoes. The soup is made almost instantly with milk or cream and an immersion blender.

When I don’t have time for canning, I simply wash and roughly chop tomatoes, cook them soft, and let them cool before freezing in containers. For optimum flavour I add 1 tsp each salt and sugar to each quart of tomatoes. I use the same additions when placing tomatoes in jars for canning.

For dealing with masses of tomatoes when you’re short of time or energy, the stewing and freezing method is quick and easy, and the end product is useful in several ways. Preserved, stewed tomatoes can become a base for a cooked spaghetti sauce or an ingredient in chili.

Another fast way to transform tomatoes into something delicious is to chop and roast them with minced onion, garlic, thyme, basil and salt. Roast slowly in a low oven until the blend satisfies your taste. Cool, package and freeze. I often bring out a small package of the roasted tomatoes to spoon onto crackers as an appetizer at pot luck gatherings.

During every fresh tomato season I try to indulge in a few special treats:

• Toasted bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwiches.

• Fresh (uncooked) tomato sauce over hot pasta. For the sauce I place minced, sweet white onion, minced or grated garlic, chopped parsley and basil in a bowl. At the last minute, when the pasta is almost ready, I pick sun-warmed tomatoes and chop them to add to the sauce along with salt and olive oil. I spoon the sauce over the hot pasta and sprinkle freshly grated parmesan on top.

• Salad plate made with alternating tomato and bocconcini cheese slices garnished with paper-thin sweet onion slices, minced basil and kalamata olives, all drizzled with olive oil.


Dear Helen: Last month I found lots of small beetles with green and orange backs in my James Bay garden. They are just slightly shorter than my thumbnail. From images that I found online, it appears they could be Japanese beetles. My garden produces food year round. I use only organic methods. Can you suggest how to address this issue?


A major pest in eastern areas of North America, the Japanese beetle was first discovered in British Columbia in 2017, in the False Creek area of Vancouver.

Intense efforts are underway to prevent the spread of this pest. Anyone who discovers an insect that looks like a Japanese beetle is asked to immediately contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, either at a local CFIA office or at inspection.gc.ca/plants-pests. On the site you’ll find a “Report a problem” button.



Floral arts. The Mid Island Floral Art Club meets Thursday, 2 p.m., in St. Stephen’s Hall, 150 Village Way in Qualicum Beach. The theme for the afternoon will be Have a go at Hand Tied Bouquets. Details at 250-752-1858.


Invitation to exhibit. The View Royal Garden Club invites non-members to exhibit at its Fall Garden Show on Saturday, Sept. 21. Details at viewroyalgardenclub.wordpress.com.

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