Bob Westerfield spends his days growing vegetables and watching for problems. As University of Georgia Extension’s consumer vegetable horticulturist, he answers questions from backyard gardeners and Extension agents across the state. In the summer months, most of the questions are about tomatoes.“I’d say 90 out of 100 vegetable calls I get in the summer are about tomatoes,” said Westerfield. “I’m not a huge fan of eating fresh tomatoes, but those who do say the fresh-grown taste is incredible. I want to love to eat them, but I just don’t like them. But I will eat them cooked, and I love ketchup.”Plant second crop, or first, nowWith Georgia’s long summer growing season, Westerfield says it’s not too late to “grab some transplants and put them in the ground” and enjoy your own homegrown tomato harvest. “Some folks planted tomatoes early and are pulling tomatoes now. On my farm, we stagger our plantings, so that we have some tomatoes that are almost red and some just in the blooming stage,” he said. When planting tomatoes, Westerfield says you have to keep your personal preference in mind when selecting a variety. What do you plan to do with the tomatoes? Do you want something easy tomatoes to eat fresh or ones to use for canning?Indeterminate tomatoes ripen over the whole season, which is a better option for eating them fresh. If you plan to can tomatoes, select a determinate variety because the bulk of the crop will ripen at the same time. If you want to plant tomatoes just for eating, Westerfield recommends one of the cherry types for salads and either Beefsteak or Beef Master for tomato sandwiches.“Last year we grew some chocolate Russian tomatoes, and my research assistant popped them in like gumballs. They did have a sweet taste,” he said.For canning, Westerfield recommends Rutgers or Celebrity. “Amelia, a newer variety, is also a good one,” he said.Plant deep and wideNo matter which variety you select, bury the plants deep. Tomatoes have advantageous roots, so burying a tomato plant deep will lead to a tremendous root system, he said. Don’t put the plants too close together. “You want a lot of air in between each plant for ventilation to prevent diseases,” he said.Westerfield enjoys growing tomatoes for homemade Italian sauce. His wife does the cooking and canning. “She uses a recipe from an Italian lady from up North and follows the guidelines in the ‘So Easy to Preserve’ cookbook from UGA Extension,” he said. “It has everything in the world you need to know about preserving food.” Using a 12-quart pot, she cooks the tomatoes in hot water, peels them, purees them, cooks them with olive oil and several other herbs, and then stores them in jars. “It’s an easy way to have your own sauce, and you know what’s in it because you put it there,” he said. “We usually put up enough tomato sauce to use in spaghetti, eggplant Parmesan and lasagna until the next growing season.”He and his family also store stewed tomatoes in the freezer. “They are really simple to make. You just cook them, add basil or oregano, pour them in quart size bags and use them in the winter to make soups,” Westerfield said.For more details on Georgia home grown tomatoes, see the UGA Extension publication written by Westerfield at http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=B1271. The sixth edition of “So Easy to Preserve” will be available the end of August and can be ordered at http://setp.uga.edu/.
Tuesday’s meeting concluded the Undergraduate Student Government’s semester of weekly meetings. The Senate will resume its meetings next fall. Establishing stipends for assistant directors resulted in salary reductions for members of the USG executive team. “I was an intern last year, so I knew I wanted to stay in USG and apply to be an [assistant director] because I’d get paid and I could still do work for USG,” said incoming creative services assistant director Gary Wu. “[Not getting a stipend] wasn’t known to a lot of us who were applying.” The Senate also approved the creation of an intersemester senatorial committee to address student concerns related to the coronavirus. In February, the former USG Executive Cabinet approved an amendment to USG’s bylaws that eliminated stipends for assistant directors of these branches and raised stipend amounts for students in higher-level positions, including the president and vice president. Assistant directors were not involved in the decision-making process for this change. “Doing four hours of work a week gets kind of tiring,” Wu said. “I’m super grateful that they kept it because we’re doing a lot of work for the student government, so we do deserve to get paid for our time.” “What we know is that this is a dynamic and evolving situation and that we don’t want our hands tied in how we can address any things that come up over the summer,” Savage said. “We don’t know exactly what challenges may present themselves moving forward, but we want to make sure that we have a task force ready to mobilize whenever that might happen.” Wu said the cuts to assistant director stipends and the pay raises for higher USG officials felt “like they took [the pay] away from us to give to the directors.” Savage worked with President Truman Fritz and Vice President Rose Ritch to create a means to continue advocating for students given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic throughout the summer. Issues under the committee’s jurisdiction include ensuring student housing refunds go through and responding to questions regarding the potential resumption of in-person classes this fall. “Everybody on the executive team took a pay cut — the president and vice president took the largest pay cut to make this happen,” said Speaker of the Senate Gabriel Savage. “It took a little bit of deliberation amongst everybody in the executive team … but I think it was the right move. I’m very pleased with how it went. I think that people made their voices heard.” The Undergraduate Student Government Senate approved an amendment to USG’s bylaws that reinstated annual stipends for assistant directors of departments within the funding, communications and programming branches.