Category Archives: tomatoes

Now we’re cooking

I can stop complaining about the lack of vegetables now:

Harvest on 8-14
Harvest on 8-14
Harvest on 8-17
Harvest on 8-17

This was a lot of stuff to come in all at once.  It looks very impressive, posted on Facebook.  I had several offers to, “….take some of that off your hands.”  So kind of those folks!  Where were they when I was on my hands & knees for four hours, weeding?

In the end, we put up 5 jars of pepperoncini peppers:

PepperoncinisI found a great recipe for pickling them on Food.com. Our first batch tasted a little mushy, probably from the length of time they sat in the canner until I was able to finish stuffing all the jars and bring it to a boil.  This time we stuffed the jars, filled the brine, removed the air and then put them all into the canner at once.  We’re hoping this makes them crisper.  The ones available commercially taste too bitter to me, so if they are just a little crunchier, they will be perfect.

We’ve got some beans coming, too:

Anellino di Trento and Royalty Purple bush beans
Anellino di Trento and Royalty Purple bush beans

We grilled these with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice and dill and they were fantastic.  We’re enjoying the beans more than normal, given that just three weeks ago we thought they were a total loss.  Something was getting over our fence and eating the bushes.  We suspect a woodchuck, and so we set up the electric fence around the wire one.  Problem solved.

After picking all those tomatoes, we parboiled, peeled, seeded and diced them into 2-cup quantities and froze them.  We ended up with 2 bags of Krim, 3 bags of Kellogg, and a bag each of Brandywine and Roma.  But we didn’t freeze all of them:

2014-08-17 19.22.33That is a Tomato Stack Salad with Corn & Avocado.  It is delicious.  We used Krim, Kellogg and Brandywine, plus corn, fresh chive and basil from the garden in the dressing.  We have been waiting all season to make that stack of deliciousness.  It was worth the wait.

In a fit of optimism, I planted 191 Knight peas in the back 40 yesterday.  Average time to harvest?  56 days.  That puts us somewhere around October 12, give or take depending on how warm fall is.  I may have wasted $1.50 in seeds if we have an early frost.  This is my idea of living dangerously.

The end…..for now

Today I ate the last dozen or so Sungold tomatoes.  I would like to note that it is November, and this is amazing.  I would have documented the occasion, but I was at work and forgot my camera.  The garden kept going all the way through the second-to-last week of October, finally succumbing to a hard frost somewhere over the nights of October 23rd and 24th.  It was a fantastic run.  I can only tally what we canned or froze, but here’s where we stand in our first large-scale effort to preserve our harvest for later use:

  • 22 jars dill pickles
  • 5 jars bread and butter pickles
  • 12 jars sweet banana peppers
  • 4 jars green tomato chutney (hurrah!  A use for unripe green tomatoes at the end of the season!)
  • 56 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 8 bags of beans
  • 1 bag of peas
  • 3 bags of corn
  • 3 bags of peppers (jalapeno & Fooled You)

It was not a stellar year for either the peas or the corn – although we did eat some fresh – but it was an amazing year for tomatoes.  We boiled, peeled, seeded & diced those suckers in 2-cup increments and froze them for use in cooking.  We’ve already used about 9 bags so far, and the taste is so much better than even the canned organic tomatoes I normally buy.  However, all these frozen vegetables take up a bit of room, as you can see:

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There’s no way to really calculate what we harvested and ate fresh – over the long weekend of Columbus Day, J harvested about 15 of our Bride eggplants, fire roasted them, and turned them into eggplant dip.  We ate one container, and froze the other two for future consumption as the recipe calls exclusively for Asian eggplants and we can’t get them around here unless we grow them.  So we’ll defrost that container, maybe for New Year’s, and think longingly of fresh summer vegetables. It’s just about enough time to have forgotten how hot and backbreaking it is to weed in the middle of summer.

Until next year……

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You say tomato, I say enough already

The tomatoes keep coming – every week we are filling a large bowl full of Roma, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine & Kellogg tomatoes:

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This particular bowl full is just Roma, Brandywine & Mortgage Lifter.  I have done some extensive reading on the internet about canning tomatoes, but I have a high degree of fear about botulism (who wouldn’t?) for anything that does not involve vinegar, so I have been opting to freeze the tomatoes.  But first I have to prepare them.  Step one, plunge into boiling water for about a minute to loosen the skins:

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Step two, drop into ice water:

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Step three, drain and place into a separate bowl:

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Steps four, five & six – peel, seed and dice the tomatoes.  (Infinitely too messy to do and use my camera, so no photos.)

Step seven – measure out into two cup increments, put in Ziplock bags, and prepare for freezer:

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Step eight – repeat weekly, sometimes twice in a single week.

I know this winter when I am pulling them out for soups or chili or some other recipe that calls for diced tomatoes I am going to be so happy I put all this effort in, week after week, preparing and freezing these tomatoes.  But right now I’m on step nine – pray for an early killing frost.

The bounty continues

Today’s haul:

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This is on top of an additional 25 Roma tomatoes, 2 Kellogg, 2 Brandywine & half pint of Sungolds that are up on the counter.  And I’m not seeing Stella Caroline this week.  I wonder how much it would cost me to FedEx….?

The green beans in the photo are Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  I have been calling them Kentucky runner beans, which is only half true (they are running away from us, so that part is true.)  Kentucky Wonder is a very old heirloom that has been known by many other names over the years, including  American Sickle Pole, Eastern Wonder, Egg Harbor, Georgia Monstrous Pole, Improved Southern Prolific, Missouri Prolific, Old Homestead Pole and Texas Pole.  An online catalog describes them as, “…..very reliable, early maturing, and productive.”  They should really use the word “prolific” in the bean name, because that might give me pause when calculating how many to plant.  I would also rewrite the description to say, “Very reliable, early maturing, and will bury you and everyone you know in beans.”  But this is mostly my fault – I put in 6 hills of the beans, with 8 bean plants per hill.  And I’m pretty sure every one of those suckers came up.  So, 48 plants.  Next year, for the love of Pete, someone please remind me that this is too many when I’m all excited in the middle of May to plant the beans.  I need someone to come stand in the field and shout at me when I start trying to rationalize and say things like, “But they might not all come up!” or “What if some of the plants don’t produce?”  They will all produce, apparently.

Underneath our Kentucky beans are our usual purple bush beans, and to the right are Roma tomatoes (totally out of control this year, the plants are tipping over from the weight of the tomatoes) and the left is a bowl of Sungolds with a Brandywine for a little change of color.  There are too many Sungolds to fit in the ceramic pint container I usually keep them in.

So this batch of beans will be the first batch that I freeze.  The best way to preserve beans through freezing is to blanch them first, to kill off any bacteria or enzymes that might cause them to become discolored during the freezing process.  I usually submerge them for 3 – 4 minutes, then plunge them into ice water and dump them into a strainer before laying them out on towels to fully dry before freezing them in freezer bags.  My online research tells me that they are best used within a 10-month period, but I have found that they are fine up to and past a year later.  Why yes, we do have beans frozen from last year in our freezer, however did you guess?

A banner year

So while we’ve had a few problems this year (see also: rabbit in fenced garden, bugs) it’s turning out to be an amazing year:

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We’ve lost a couple of squash plants – due to powdery mold, bugs or both, it’s not clear, but we’ve successfully harvested zucchini pretty consistently since the middle of July.  Of our 6 plants, 3 are producing – all zucchini – and we’re keeping up with consuming what we’re picking.  We’ll stick with the 6 plant plan for next year, because if everything does well we’ll have to give stuff away even at that low number.  We’ve come quite a way from the days of 6 of both types of plants.  Those were some dark times – for us, and the neighbors.

The tomatoes this year are amazing.  Our sungold plants are over 6 feet tall, and so heavy we’ve taken to leaning the cages against the fence and lashing them in place:

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Our peas this year have been somewhat anemic – Mr. Big Pea produced enough peas for a sandwich bag, and the sugar snap lagged further behind that.  Which is interesting, given that we rotated them to a different part of the garden and we used a soil inoculant to help the plants live longer.  Currently they start to die off just as the pods begin to form, so instead of being indeterminant, we get one harvest.  J yanked out all the Mr. Big Pea plants earlier this week and planted a second crop, something we’ve never done before.  We estimate about 7 to 8 weeks before we’re at a huge risk for frost, although the last 2 years we’ve had snow near Halloween, which is about twelve weeks away.  We had the seeds for planting, so we figured we’d give it a shot.  Also planted this weekend – the third crop of lettuce, and more parsley, cilantro and basil. I’ve picked pretty much what we have, so if I want stuff for the fall, I had to replant.  I’m also hoping for enough basil to do a little pesto this year, and freeze it.

We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, punctuated but spells of hot, sunny weather, which has been enormously helpful to the garden, and to our non-farmed yard.  It has never looked this nice this late in the summer since we moved in.  And as I write this, it’s raining again, after a week of sunny 80-something days:

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I’m sure in years to come we will look back on this season fondly.  Except for the peas.  And that rabbit.

Mid-July report

I am pleased to report we might actually be winning the war with bugs and weeds.  I know this was a pressing concern for all of you.

Turnips and radishes
Turnips and radishes

 

Beets and carrots
Beets and carrots

 

Onions
Onions

 

Potatoes
Potatoes
Strawberries & herbs
Strawberries & herbs
Brandywine tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes
Cucumbers
Cucumbers

 

The back-40
The back-40

 

Beans & peas
Beans & peas

 

This past weekend I harvested an entire mixing bowl of banana peppers and cucumbers.  And promptly canned all of it, with the help of Old McDonald.  We have three jars of sweet banana peppers and three jars of bread & butter pickles.  There will be plenty more coming, as we are about to be buried in tomatoes. Our Roma plants are producing like nothing I’ve ever seen.  I see a lot of sauce in our future.  And everyone else’s.

Hello? Anyone?

Yikes, a whole month has gone by and narry an upate about our garden.  Remember that whole post I wrote about wanting to be accountable?  Still do.  Finding time to upload the photos and write the posts has been a bit of a problem with my work schedule.

The garden is mostly dead at this point.  Over Labor Day weekend I harvested the potatoes and was delighted that six plants produced a generous mixing bowl’s worth. 

I was so gleeful digging those up – I did almost nothing while they were growing, and they produced beautifully.  We gave some away and ate the rest.  They were delicious.  We will be planting many, many more potatoes next year, likely in a much bigger space than the raised beds allow.

Our experiment in attempting to ripen the tomatoes in a cardboard box with a banana?  Totally worked.  Which is excellent, because we had a lot of underripe tomatoes at the time of the hurricane. 

My attempt at sauce, before cooking

We’ve had the most amazing crops of tomatoes this year.  In previous years, we did well with the cherry tomatoes, but full-sized tomatoes were always a problem.  This year, bunches of Early Girls and Brandywines.  In fact, we ate what might be the best specimen just the other week for dinner:

Ironically, we picked this one before our late-September trip to the Finger Lakes when it wasn’t quite ripe.  Figuring it might ripen while we were away, we brought it with us.  In it’s own special storage bowl, packed carefully with other groceries that we were transporting to our cabin in New York.  And then we brought it home.  Aparently, Brandywines enjoy travel and respond accordingly:

Next year, more Brandywines.  Especially since they are not readily available at the local grocery store, which is one of the major reasons we grow vegetables – finding heirloom varieties of anything at grocery stores is next to impossible.  The guy who wrote “The $64 Tomato” was right about how good Brandywines taste.