Tomato Fail – Curly Top Virus!

The garden was hit hard this year by Curly Top Virus. This was my first experience with curly top virus so I did a fair amount of research on the virus.

The virus affects mainly tomatoes, peppers and sugar beets. I had extensive damage to my tomato crop. Minimal damage to pepper plants and I had no damage to sugar beets. I planted beets that were sweet but I am not sure they are technically “sugar beets”.

I had high hopes for my tomato crop this year. I planted 120 heirloom plants from seeds. I planted 12 different varieties with approximately 10 different plants each.

 I had big dreams of fresh tomatoes all summer and canning tons of stewed tomatoes that would last me all winter. Mother Nature had something else in mind. Instead of tomatoes all winter we will be having tons of pickles…… and spaghetti squash.

I guess I can’t complain too much. We won’t go hungry I guess! Anyway back to the problem at hand. I didn’t get the tomato crop I wanted either in the spring or the fall thanks to a little virus called Curly Top.

The virus is transmitted by the sugar beet leafhopper (Curculifer tennelus). It is a tiny little grasshopper that kind of resembles a fly. I have seen several in the garden. It is an invasive species in Texas.

http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/neoaliturus-tenellus

Unfortunately, insecticides are not effective. (I mean- not that I would use any insecticides! SQUIRREL! Let’s be realistic. We all try not to use insecticides! We start by using the least toxic method of killing insect like picking them off and killing them manually. Then, we move to organic insecticides like diatomaceous earth or any other commercially available organic insecticide, fungicide, any kind of -cide we can find.

Then as our plants keep dying we bring out the ……. ((whisper)) seven dust! Yup, you heard me! I’ll dust the shit out of those little insects if they push me too far! I HATE GRASSHOPPERS OF ALL KINDS BY THE WAY!~

Now, back to the problem. Since insecticides don’t work what are my other options?

https://plantdiseasehandbook.tamu.edu/problems-treatments/problems-affecting-multiple-crops/curly-top-virus/

Fine mesh….. NOPE ….. blew right off in this hurricane strength wind of Central Texas once all the cedar has been cleared off the land. See, I think that is the original problem. We have been clearing cedar to improve our grasslands which has left big open grassy / weed fields surrounding my garden which grasshoppers (leafhoppers too apparently) love!

There are resistant tomato varieties per TAMU which include: Roza, Rowpac, Columbia and Saladmaster. The problem they haven’t really been celebrated for the taste! But, I would definitely try them at least for making stew tomatoes at this point!

I reached out to Dr. Harold Kaufman listed in the article link above. He is now retired but did suggest the same varieties above but clarified the Saladmaster needed to be the cherry type. He didn’t think anyone was still doing research on curly top. He did say some people did suggests partial shade. See leafhoppers have to feed in full sun so partial shade might keep them from feeding on the plants in the shade. The problem is tomatoes need full sun. However, I don’t think people realize Central Texas has EXTRA FULL sun most of the summer. I might try a shade block of 50% this next year and see if that helps.

Insects are cyclic so I was hoping maybe the fall would be better for the tomatoes…. NOPE! They were still there…..

It starts with a slight curling of the leaves and small bumps on the main stem. The leaves become leathery and tough. There is also a gummy type feeling to the foliage. The fruit that is there will ripen but it is slow and when it does ripen the skin is tough.

Turns out the leafhopper has three morphs including: a summer morph (3-4 months), winter morph (overwintering females) and migratory morph (capable of flying hundreds of miles). So they were still lingering around in the fall.

I did get a few little measly tomatoes to put up this year despite my new arch nemesis!

I froze them initially, then we cooked them down and made some stew tomatoes. We only produced about 4 pint jars this year. I did also get this beautiful black beauty tomato. There was only one and it looked and tasted amazing!

I also got a few more tomatoes here and there but not nearly the crop I was hoping for.

Look at the leaves on the bottom left corner of the above picture. They are starting to curl. Grrr…. Nothing was more frustrating than seeing that this year! The tomato below is called a mushroom basket. I can’t tell if it was just a fused blossom or if it was infected with something? Either way, I had to pick it before the frost!

 I did get a fair amount of green tomatoes for pickling before our very early frost hit!

I still thought I had another couple of weeks! Again, Mother Nature had other plans! What she doesn’t know is this will go great with Texas BBQ!

The disappointment of a bad tomato crop is always filled with hopes for next year! Curly Top -1 / Chasity -0…….

I would love to hear your thoughts for combatting Curly Top for next year!

Don’t sweat the small stuff-ing, Get Half-Baked!

Preparing for the holiday season can get overwhelming! We have been preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to share a few preparations we have made to hopefully make the holidays a little less busy and less stressful!

I like to start by getting my kitchen organized!

I love the spice drawer because it helps me and my guests easily find whatever they need. I also use this time to take an inventory of what I have and what I need.

I also suggest recruiting some help to get everything cleaned and organized for your guests!

Not sure how much work I got out of her but she is fun to have at the ranch !

I try to buy everything I can that is not perishable well in advance because, #1 I don’t want to fight the crowds and #2 they run out of stuff so quickly! If you are early and prepared you can turn all this…

into these easy-to-make meals and partially prepared Thanksgiving dishes for your guests!!

Dressing (NOT STUFFING!) is my main dish and preparing ahead clears up a lot of room and time in the kitchen! Preparing ahead also enhances the flavor, to me!

Thanksgiving is only one day of the 4-6 days my family comes to visit for this holiday so I like to have other things prepared in advance for them! I have found making beef enchiladas ahead of time is perfect for family visits. I made several pans of enchiladas for my family. I also write the instructions for the dish on the top of the disposable pans or foil so everyone knows how to put it together just in case I get tied up with something else!

Planning ahead frees up my time to enjoy the company of my family and friends during the holidays, which is my favorite part! Here are a few suggestions for plan-ahead meals to freeze and also a “don’t make-ahead list!”

MAKE-AHEAD IDEAS to freeze:

1. Beef Enchiladas (recipe to follow)

2. Chicken Enchiladas

3. Lasagna

4. Dressing (NOT STUFFING)

5. Scalloped Potatoes

6. Breads: cornbread, biscuits, and rolls

7. Breakfast Casseroles

8. Breakfast Quesadillas (recipe to follow)

9. Soups and Stews (leave out rice or dumplings – those are best made fresh)

10. Fruit Pies

DON’T MAKE-AHEAD to freeze:

1. Custard or cream based pies

2. Chicken and Dumplings

3. Gravies of any kind

4. Salads of any kind (obviously)

RECIPES:

BEEF ENCHILADAS (Easy)

ENCHILADA PART

1.5 lbs ground beef

10 corn tortillas

1 medium onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

ENCHILADA SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons crisco

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 and 3/4 cup chicken broth

3/4 cup water

1 small jar diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease rectangular foil pan 13 x 9.

Brown ground beef with onion, chili powder, garlic, onion powder and salt and pepper. Add seasoning at the end of browning for best flavor retention.

While browning meat, heat tortillas in foil in the oven so the are easily usable and don’t break. Approx. 10 min.

Fill tortilla with meat mixture and cheese. Approx. one heaping tablespoon of meat and one heaping tablespoon of cheese. Roll and place in pan seam side down. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Place in freezer until ready to use.

FOR ENCHILADA SAUCE:

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until slightly brown. It will be consistency of a thin paste and bubbly. Then add chicken broth, water and chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 10 min. Allow to cool then place in freezer safe container.

When ready to use, set out enchilada sauce in fridge for 24 hours prior to meal (or make fresh the day of.) Remove frozen enchiladas from freezer remove foil and plastic wrap, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered; then uncover and bake 15 min.

Serve with corn or side salad.

BREAKFAST QUESADILLA

Flour tortillas

Eggs

Mix-ins

Butter

Breakfast meat

Cheese

These are super easy and very individualized. Scramble eggs. Shred cheese. Cook meat of choice.

Heat butter in skillet add flour tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, top with egg, choice of mix-in (mushrooms, pico, spinach, etc.), add meat, add cheese and then top with second tortilla. Flip until tortilla slightly browns and cheese melts. Allow to cool slightly. Then flash freeze (place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.) When frozen, add to zip lock bag for later use.

When ready to eat, heat in oven or toaster oven for best results! Or, simply place in microwave for 45-60 seconds.

 

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