Tomato Gratin, Pineapple Sage, Extrafloral Nectaries

I've got several little tidbits to share today. First off, a recipe for all of your late season heirloom tomatoes. My thanks to Jacques Pepin for this recipe, which I have tweaked just a touch (I love him, love him, love him). 

Thickly slice as many tomatoes as will fit in the roasting dish you want to use. I used a 9x9 glass casserole dish, and two large tomatoes fit perfectly inside.

Sprinkle on a generous amount of salt and pepper, and drizzle some olive oil on them too.

Tear up several slices of stale bread and put in your food processor. I used about half a loaf of leftover homemade sourdough, with most of the crust going to the chickens. Add a good amount of parmesan. I like the raw whole milk parm I can buy at Whole Foods, and I used a couple of ounces. Just cut it into chunks and throw it in with the bread. You could use gruyere too I suppose. Pulse this mixture in the processor until you have coarse bread crumbs.

Toss the crumbs with some olive oil. As Jacques charmingly says, the olive oil helps the crumbs to brown without burning. Spread this mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 15 minutes at 375. Delicious and really quite simple. 

Jacques did this with roasted eggplant as well as tomato, but I didn't have any of that so I didn't include it. I also don't particularly like eggplant. I don't like zucchini either but that would probably be a good addition if you have lots of zucchini to use up.

Now, on to the pineapple sage, or Salvia elegans. This is the first time I've grown this plant, and I am simply delighted with it. This is my view of the herb bed out my bedroom window.

You can see right off the bat one of the reasons I like it so much. We take pains to have as many flowers blooming as possible, right up until the first frost (mid-December-ish), and this plant is a definite plus for the fall garden. It's gorgeous! Spikes after spikes of red tubular flowers that the hummingbirds LOVE.

The leaves have a delicious pineapple scent, hence the common name. The leaves and flowers are both edible and make an interesting tea. There are some apparent health benefits as a calming, anti-anxiety remedy (unproven, your mileage may vary, I'm not a doctor, blah blah blah). The plant is native to Mexico but does very well indeed in our zone 9b garden.

If you like herbs, or salvias, or flowers, or feeding the hummingbirds, or plants that bloom late season (and honestly, who doesn't like at least one of those things???), you simply must add one or twelve of these plants to your garden.

And finally, some information about a subject I didn't even know existed until today, and that is Extrafloral Nectaries. As far as I knew, nectar was a lure to get insects inside the flower in order to pollinate it. And yes, that's true. But some plants provide nectar in other areas of the plant that has NOTHING TO DO WITH POLLINATION. It's apparently only to provide food to beneficial insects!!!! My mind is fairly well blown. Check out this video (long on country-afternoon-ambience, short on facts) which shows a cover crop patch feeding all kinds of beneficial insects. 

For actual facts, I swear I read a bunch of academic papers which I barely understood, but the upshot is that this is a well-documented part of nature. Fascinating huh?