One of the most devastating garden pests is now making the rounds. If you haven’t had a visit from the Tomato HornWorn, consider yourself lucky.
Theses beasts can devour a complete tomato plant in a day or two.
About the diameter of an adult male’s thumb and up to 5 inches long, you can imagine the damage they can do.
But there is also help for us from the insect world. Parasitic wasps will lay eggs on these critters which then survive by living off the hornworm and eventually killing it. As you can see in the photo at right, the eggs appear as small kernels of rice. This is a GOOD sign and proof that we need to be careful about killing other insects around our garden.
One way you can observe them is to place all yopu find on a sacrificial tomato plant while they eat. If you just want to get rid of these beasts, just pluck them off and squish them or drop in a bucket of water.
They spread by the “Hawk Moth” or Manduca quinquemaculata laying eggs on the leaves of the plant. The eggs hatch and turn into the green monster as it’s larval stage where it does the most damage. It then cocoons up near the Fall and a new moth emerges in the Spring.
Some control can be had by some cultivation where your tomato plants were, and by rotating to another planter or field. Dill, nasturtiums, and some other plants interspersed between your plants will also sometimes help.
I just plucked mine off and dropped into some water. never had any more after that.
One of the best descriptions on these beasts complete with photos can be found at http://www.gardengrapevine.com/TomatoWorm.html.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
One of the best uses for tomatoes as far as I am concerned is good old homemade tomato sauce.
- Cut the core from the top of each tomato. Cut an ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, and when boiling drop in the tomatoes. After a minute or two, or when you see the skin peeling, pull them out. I use a Spider ( Chinese cooking tool) and drop into a container of ice water to shock them.
- Peel the skin off each tomato ( it will come off easily)
- Slice up the tomatoes, removing the tough parts and seeds.
- Heat up a dutch oven or stock pot and add about a tablespoon of Olive oil or so to the pan.
- After the oil warms up, add the mirepoix ( carrots, onions, and celery) and garlic, sauteing until they start to soften.
- Add in the tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, and a 1/2 cup or so of red wine ( optional)
- Add a bay leaf, some Basil, Oregano, parseley, salt and pepper
- bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 2 hours or more for better flavor.
- Taste the result, and add additional seasoning to taste.
I know there are not a lot of exact measurements in the recipe, but it really needs to be tasted and adjusted to how you like it. That’s what makes it soo much better than commercial sauce, and you know exactly what’s in it.
It freezes well, so the next time you are trying to figure out what to do with all the tomatoes you grew, try making some sauce.
You will love it the following winter!