Eye On Life Magazine

Make every day a beautiful day.

Eye on Life Magazine is a Lifestyle and Literary Magazine.  Enjoy articles on gardening, kitchen cooking, poetry, vintage decor, and more.

Out In The Garden With Penny of Penny's Tomatoes

Penny and one of her tomato treesOne of the things that I simply love about being in this brave new world of interconnectedness on the Internet, is that you get to meet some of the most interesting and exciting business entrepreneurs.  Being online, allows both them and those searching for information and products, to connect in ways that simply wouldn’t happen in the dark ages before computers and technology. 

One of those people that I’ve found very helpful is Penny, of Penny’s Tomatoes.  She not only grows tomatoes, she’s also tomato expert, and tomatoes are her business.

Let’s check out Penny’s Tomato garden: 

 1.  While reading on your website, Penny’s Tomatoes, I noticed how you first developed an interest in gardening and growing tomatoes, Could you expand upon that for our readers, who are just now meeting you for the first time?

Hey Jerilee…I would be happy to!
I wouldn’t count my first encounter with gardening as an interest maybe more like a chore.  In the summer when school was out and kids were home (and parents at work), being the oldest and only girl of three making sure the chores were done fell on my shoulders.  I grew up on a small farm where we had a menagerie of animals and a lot of them I brought home so… of course I had to take care of them.  We had a little bit of everything, horses, cows, chickens, goats and everything in-between. 

We even had a huge tortoise and a very ornery monkey that use to pull my hair when I got to close to his cage.  All of these animals, including my family ate from our garden…sometimes they didn’t wait till it was picked they just charged through the fence and destroyed everything in their path…that was usually my crazy goats.

Learning what to plant and when to plant it so that everyone was happy soon became second nature to me…and I SLOWLY started  liking it (okay I can’t lie I hated pulling weeds and still do!!).

2.   When it comes to growing tomatoes, what would you say is your favorite variety and why?

Hands down, my favorite variety is the Cherokee Purple.  Ever try one?  It has such a great taste…very smooth and less acidic.  They look a bit odd with their brownish purple color but the flavor is Smokey and very unique.  I enjoy their flavor so much I don’t’ cook with them I just eat them right off the vine with a little salt.  What an awesome tomato!!

3.  What is your best tomato growing tip that you’d like to share with other gardeners?

The best tip is that you have to have a lot of patients.  There were many years that I didn’t get a single tomato off my plants because of one thing or another, but I never stopped trying.  I think now I pretty much have it down to a science or maybe just an educated guess.  I have written several articles to help the novice (and even the not so novice) tomato grower and you can find them on my website at www.PennysTomatoes.com .  I’m hoping that they will learn from the trials and tribulations that I went through and it will help them not to make the same mistakes I did.

 4.  What’s been your biggest tomato garden success story?

I get a lot of emails from people needing help with their tomato plants and I REALLY love it when (without actually being there), I guess what the problem is and help them to correct it.  I had a lady email me not to long ago to tell me that a deer must have gotten to her garden, because her tomato plants were all chewed down to nubs.  I told her that deer don’t usually eat tomato plants because the leaves have such a bitter taste, but I told her to check her plants for the tomato horn worm. These nasty worms are green and blend in with the color of the plant, and get as big around as your thumb.  They can eat a whole tomato plant in just one day.  Sure enough, I received another email telling me she found three of them.  I let her know that they make great fish food…I have the fattest Koi in town.

5. Describe your tomato garden challenges.

As seedlings, tomato plants are fairly fragile and it doesn’t take much to wipe out your whole crop.  Simple things like over watering, not enough water, too much sun, not enough sun, improperly hardening them off or even disturbing the roots while transplanting can kill them. 

I probably get more emails from people asking me what they did wrong with their seedlings than anything else.  Hey I even kill a few every spring…always learning

6.   We have a number of garden enthusiasts from Italy, who visit Eye On Life Magazine, as well as those of us who enjoy visiting Italy regularly — what did you learn about tomatoes while living there?

I loved living in Italy!!! They have a love for the tomato like no one else, and they know how to cook it like no one else.  The Italians taught me which tomatoes make the best and thickest sauces and which are better for slicing.  They have so many creative dishes (that’s why I gained 20 lbs. living there), but my all time favorite is the Caprese Salad. 

The Caprese Salad is not only tasty but sooo easy to make, you just slice up a big juicy tomato add a little olive oil, vinegar, fresh basil and top it off with mozzarella cheese. I eat them all summer long.  I have this and a lot more recipes on my website, so check them out there.

7.    Your website has an excellent recipes for stuffed tomatoes, which I tried, and my family really liked. Aside from a great recipes, what tips can you give Eye On Life Magazine readers in choosing the best tomato for their recipes?

As I learned from some of my Italian friends, the best tasting spaghetti sauces are made from the San Marzano or Roma type tomatoes.  They are a meatier, less seedy tomato and perfect for making those thick rich sauces or salsas. For those of you who like it a juicier salsa (like me), try the Burbank Slicking or Costoluto Genovese, as they add a sweet rich flavor.  Ever taste a Juane Flammee or an Orange Oxheart tomato? Not only are these tomatoes colorful, but their less acidic flavor makes them a tasty addition to any salad or salsa.

8.    Can you tell us more about what to do with their excess tomatoes at the end of their growing season?

With several hundred tomato plants, I have tomatoes coming out of my ears all summer long… more than I can possibly eat.  After I take the seeds I need for my business, I put them in baggies and freeze them, that way I can enjoy home grown tomatoes all winter long and it makes cooking quick, easy and cheap.  

9.    I know that you give away free tomato seeds, could you tell Eye On Life Magazine readers, a little more about that and your philosophy that differs you from your competition? 

Most of my competition are huge tomato companies that don’t really have time or the man power for the day to day questions that a lot of gardeners need especially the newer ones.  I think my customers like the fact that they can go to my websites FAQ page, email me directly or get on Facebook and find out usually the same day the answers they seek. 

I’m also really proud of the selection that I have … . Penny’s Tomatoes offers a unique variety of tomatoes that you just cant find at every store and we are launching new products all the time. 

Our newest product is the Salsa In A Box which contains everything you will need to grow and make your own salsa. 

The kit contains: Two tomato seed varieties, two pepper varieties (one medium and one hot), onion seeds and Cilantro seeds.  I also include 6 peat pots, a rich seed starting soil, seed starting instructions and recipes.  I put them all in a cute little box which makes a great gift for that hard-to-buy for friend or family member. 

10.  Aside from growing tomatoes, what are your other garden passions and future garden plans?

My whole goal is to make it easy … . but sometimes organic gardening can be challenging, so I’m always looking for better ways to keep my garden looking fresh and healthy. That’s where the interaction with my customers comes in.  We are always sharing better ways to garden … .  I get a lot of great ideas from them, as they do from me.  That’s why this is such a great business.  I’m always learning and I never get bored.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that I have fresh veggies to eat all summer long.

If You’d Like To Know More Be Sure To Check Out Penny’s Tomatoes And Read Up On These Tomato Varieties!

Cherokee Purple Tomato

 How To Grow San Marzano Tomatoes

 Backyard Gardener - Orange Oxheart Tomato