Tag Archives: tomatoes

A Great Year for Tomatoes!

tomatoes and VespaThe tomatoes this year are phenomenal! The winner for most prolific is tied between my Sungold cherry tomato plant and the Ananas Noire plant which produces these small green tomatoes. They’re pretty good but not nearly as good as Aunt Ruby’s German Green which I couldn’t find in the nursery. I have a seed packet of them to start next year.

tomato soup and croutons 2This tomato soup with garlic croutons is the best tomato soup I’ve ever made – but I added too much salt so next batch I will be more cautious with the salt.  I made this just as the tomatoes were starting to ripen so it’s half homegrown tomatoes and half canned store bought tomato sauce. I will be making this again and probably actually put the recipe on the blog.

makings for ugly tomato sauceI took color theory at FIDM so I knew this sauce was going to be brownish but it is less pretty than I predicted. In future I will not combine my green tomatoes with my red ones for sauce. Also note how full the pot it. This batch of sauce cooked down to just 2 quarts of sauce.

ugly sauceOrangey brownish sauce.

fancyass chickenPhilip, Max, and Max’s friend Sam made chicken Kiev this past weekend though Sam had to leave before tasting it because it takes FOREVER to make this. Huge success with the kid. He liked the parsley garlic butter sauce. Even ate the big chunks of garlic though it was supposed to be smooth. The kid likes garlic! As it’s turning out, Max is a gourmand. He likes really fancy food. Only freshly made. He loves sushi but only from the restaurant they go to, not from the supermarket. He is still intensely picky about texture so if the salt roasted chicken he usually likes is a tiny bit rubbery or different – he won’t eat it. No leftovers.

I’m having a lot of trouble feeding him from day to day still. Back to Nature seems to have changed their cracker recipes and now they’re all sub-par and Max won’t eat them. So peanut butter and round crackers is suddenly not happening. It’s super frustrating. So everyday eating is still hugely frustrating but meanwhile he’s trying lots of things. Like, I say “hey, try this out, kid” and if what I hand him doesn’t offend him visually he’ll try it. This was not how things used to be. He used to be so suspicious of trying anything new that huge negotiations would have to be undertaken, probably with plenty of warning days in advance, in order to convince him to try things.

So for those people with extreme picky eaters like mine – even once they start trying things – this food thing can be a major uphill climb. Hang in there, (I tell you and remind myself), your kid might actually be a gourmand instead of just a problem eater but it will take a lot of patience and experimentation and time to uncover the food lover.

Today I’m going to make a big pot of experimental salsa to can. The one thing I have to figure out is how much acidity to add to it to make it safe for canning. I’m using a Ball recipe for guidance but changing some flavoring things. For one thing, I will be using my pickled jalapenos in it (which obviously means my salsa will already have higher acidity than if using fresh peppers). Also – way more cilantro. Their recipes always call for a couple of tablespoons but cilantro loses a lot of its flavor when cooked and that small amount adds almost nothing to salsa. I have found a couple of other recipes that use a lot more of it. Anyway, I’m using my green tomatoes for this and I’m pretty excited. I haven’t canned salsa for many years. It will be good to have some jars stashed away.

I spent a couple of hours looking through my extensive collection of preserving books and it got me so excited to do some new preserving projects. The one author I’m missing from my collection is Marisa McClellans two books. I can’t afford to buy them right now but I really want both of her titles: Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint and when I have money for a couple more books I’m getting them. But my collection is pretty fantastic and it’s just about time to rev up for the canning season.

Canning projects I want to try this year:

pickled red onions

pickled cocktail onions

develop new salsa recipe (today!)

bruschetta topping

pickled ripe cherry tomatoes

Old favorites I plan to make:

tomato sauce

dilly beans

marinated summer vegetables

garlic dill pickles

canned peaches

canned vanilla pears

and more pickled jalapenos*

*Those black little dots I’ve seen in the batches this year and last year are weird but apparently not dangerous (Philip and I have been eating the jalapenos anyway with no ill effects) . Needless to say, I can’t give them to friends just to be safe. I’m going to be using a bunch of last year’s in my salsa so they will be cooked again and 100% safe at that point. But I will hold back a jar and take it to the extension office for answers. I meant to do that last year but will do it this time. I need that mystery solved.

 

July Garden Update, 2014

hook and flower 2The garden this summer has, so far, been amazing. I have been harvesting calendula for over a month now. At first there was just a small amount each time, too little for the dehydrator, so I strung them up to dry. While pretty, they don’t dry as thoroughly this way. I ended up putting these in the dehydrator later for a few hours.

dehydrating calendulaThis is the medicinal kind Calendula officinalis and if you plan on using your calendula for salves, I suggest you plant this variety. It has the strongest medicinal qualities of all the calendula varieties. Picking them, smelling them (marigold), drying them, and plucking the petals off to store for use later make me happy. Maybe it’s the colors. Maybe it’s knowing they are so good for skin and so easy to grow. I love everything about calendula.

drying comfreyI’ve been harvesting my comfrey too. I have only one plant but it’s putting off tons of leaves and I keep cutting them and drying them. They are huge. Too huge for my dehydrator unless I cut them first. This one harvest was just too big so I hung it out in the back yard under the oak tree. I don’t like the quality of hung dry as much as the dehydrator. They turn pretty brown. Which is fine. But it’s just better in the dehydrator. I dislike the smell of comfrey. Cutting it, crumbling it, yuck. Not sure why. But it is one of the best medicinals in my opinion so well worth the unpleasant scent.

light through oilI finally FINALLY made salve with the oil I already infused months ago. This is a triple strength wound salve and it’s turned out really well and we’ve been using it and it’s GREAT STUFF.

kale harvestMom loves kale. I used to think kale was okay-ish but mostly only in soup with white beans and cooked so long it stops being tough or tasting like old man breath. Yeah, I really don’t like kale and never have. But it’s one of mom’s favorite greens so she grew a couple plants of it and I harvested it for her, cleaned it, steamed it, and then froze it. She is still having to be careful of her produce intake after surgery.

insect nurseryPrettiest little insect eggs ever. They look like beads and are hard like bead too. These clusters came off in one piece. I have to admit that kale leaves can be really beautiful.

withered blossomOur squash plants have been pretty productive. The most productive being the zucchini and the least productive being the yellow crookneck. All of them are so good fresh from the garden – I can’t get enough of them.

sage and squashStarted harvesting and drying my sage.

tomatoes and calendulaThe tomatoes I planted this year are: Ananas Noire (actually ripens green and yellow), Ethiopian Black (small black tomato), Cherokee Purple (huge and deep red), Japanese Trifele (small reddish pink), Sungolds (orange cherry tomatoes – the only cherry toms I ever grow), and Pinapple (orange with red streaking).

Purple CherokeeWe’re getting lots of tomatoes right now. And yet – we eat them almost as fast as we harvest them. I made a wonderful tomato soup the other night and I didn’t have enough of our own tomatoes that day so I had to add a can of tomato sauce to it. Even so – the fresh tomatoes made it especially good. I made garlic sourdough croutons to go with it. I did make it too salty though.

The neighbors all love our garden. They tell us all the time. Strangers walking by stop and enjoy and we’re outside they tell us how gorgeous it is. It’s gratifying. It’s so wonderful to have our front yard vegetable and flower garden giving so much joy not only to us but to a lot of other people too.

Notable failures: beans. I planted bush beans around the base of the peach tree and they started turning yellow and the beans are tiny. I think it’s the variety and I don’t like it because I can’t tell when they’re mature.  The carrots and beets have not thrived. My herbs keep flowering and not growing in size. My summer savory died. Screw summer savory!

It’s time to remove the chard which has become covered in powdery mildew. Time to cut down the spent snap dragons. Time to trim back the rudbeckias. I need to weed out all the spent sprawling allysum and take out the dying nasturtiums. I think we need some new flowers. We definitely need some penstemon and thunbergia. Maybe some lobelia and creeping verbena. Flowers to add some color once I cut down the spent ones.

Next herbal project is to develop a great lip balm. I have just ruined a big quantity of organic sunflower oil by trying to infuse it with fresh rosemary and dried peppermint. FAIL. Infusing oils with fresh herbs has failed twice for me now and I need to stop learning that lesson. I don’t like the resulting smell. It smells like bruised leaves. So this time I’m going to do a batch of sunflower oil with calendula and comfrey and then add essential oils to it. I’ll start that today.

Being out in the garden to pick vegetables and herbs this season has been amazing. Getting  back into gardening after such a long time away from it feels healing and good. So, more of that soon!

xoxo

a

Giant Rudbeckias and Plum Moonshine

loving my rudbeckiasI didn’t get much planted this year but I managed to establish three Rudbeckia plants and they just started blooming last week and now they’re busting out the biggest flowers I’ve ever seen a Rudbeckia produce.  Huge!  I can see them out my office window which is a real pleasure.  I’m looking at them right now while you look at the picture of them.

black krimThe tomatoes aren’t doing fantastic but they are finally fruiting and gaining size. They need to be staked better but this Black Krim is just starting to color up.  Black Krims are my favorite tomatoes.

box of good stuffMy friend Chelsea shared the bounty from her (ex)father in law’s garden with me.  I sauteed the yellow crookneck squash for dinner last night with some mushrooms, pureed garlic, salt, and pepper.  Simple – and so good!  The yellow plums weren’t super aromatic but they were sweet with a tart skin so I made plum dipping sauce out of them.  Or, that’s what I had planned.  Then I burnt them so bad I also destroyed the pot I cooked them in.  Luckily it was a pot that was already cracked at the top because it was a piece of crap to begin with.  So I’m mad I wasted all those free plums.

plum moonshineThe red plums are Elephant Heart plums – the best in the whole world in my opinion!  I was worried about not having time to make and can jam with them (they make exquisite jam) so I decided to make plum liqueur.  Then I had trouble finding affordable 100 proof vodka.  It is my opinion that 80 proof makes terrible liqueur unless you really lower the sugar in the recipes, but even then, the 100 proof has the balls to cut through everything and warm your throat and stomach without being the tiniest bit insipid.

I settled on getting everclear because it was cheaper than the 100 proof.  This stuff is 153 proof.  YOWZA!  So I may be needing to dilute it some down the road.  So instead of liqueur I am really making plum moonshine.

I need to find a new source for cheap 100 proof.  Let me know if you know of one.

Well, I’m off to run errands.  For any of you wondering – I will be resuming the pyjama pant project soon.  I know it’s been forever and I’m sure everyone has given up – but I will see it through.  I’m cleaning my office this week to get ready.

Hope you all have a great Friday.  And please tell me what preserving, garden, or craft projects you’re up to right now!

Tomato, Pesto, Ricotta Tart Recipe

Tomato season is over for us.  It’s been over for a couple of weeks.  I would be devastated but for the fact that I ate a couple hundred pounds of them while they were going strong and ended on a high note with my tomato tart experiments.  The last version, the one I’m going to share with you, I made for our friends who are moving out of state.  I needed to make something memorable enough that they’ll be inspired to come back and visit us.

It’s super easy unless you have to make your pesto from scratch, plus make your own ricotta (as I usually do), and then, of course, there’s the crust to make.  Wait!  Seriously, none of those things are difficult to make and if you’re not up to making them all yourself you can buy them pre-made.  If tomato season is already over for you too then you have two choices: bookmark this for next year or if you happen to have any sundried or oven roasted tomatoes in your freezer- you can top the tarts with those.  Whatever you do, don’t use hothouse tomatoes from the store.  Banish the thought!

Tomato, Pesto, Ricotta Tart Recipe

makes 6 individual tarts or one 9? tart

Tomato, Pesto, Ricotta Tart Recipe

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the pie dough into six equal sized pieces. Roll out and fit into the tart pans. Put all the filled tins into the freezer for 20 minutes.
  2. Blend the ricotta with the pesto until completely incorporated.
  3. Remove the tart tins from the freezer and fill each one with the ricotta, dividing it evenly between them all. Smooth the surface of the ricotta out in each tin. Arrange three slices of tomatoes on the top and brush with olive oil.
  4. Arrange on a baking sheet (to catch any spillage) and bake for one hour (or until the crust is golden).

Notes

If you’re using a 9? tart tin, arrange the tomatoes slightly overlapping each other starting with the outer edge and work your way to the center in a spiral. You may notice the lack of additional salt or pepper in this recipe- that’s because pesto is usually already salted and peppered and it is enough for the whole dish. I did salt and pepper the tomatoes in one version but I didn’t think it added anything to the tarts. I freeze the dough before baking because it keeps it from shrinking down in the oven while baking. If you never have this issue and prefer to refrigerate before filling, as most recipes suggest, go ahead and do that. Many ricotta recipes call for an egg to help set it up but I find this is usually unnecessary. Sometimes when I make my own ricotta I add a little bit of milk when stirring it up because it gets a bit dry after draining off the whey, so if your ricotta is homemade, make sure it’s not dry- it’s going to cook for an hour which will dry it out more.

http://stitchandboots.com/2011/11/02/tomato-pesto-ricotta-tart-recipe/

 

Here’s how I layered my tomatoes for a full sized tart.

If your tomatoes are huge you may only want to put one slice on top, as I’ve done here.

Summer Squash and Tomato Pasta Recipe

Every summer I see recipes crop up whose sole purpose is to perpetrate the old zucchini joke.  “Got more zucchini than you know what to do with?  Here’s one way to use it up!”  I hate that old gag.  If people felt burdened by having abundant zucchini every year they’d stop growing it.  I may hate that joke because for some reason my zucchini plants never do go rogue on me and I’d love it if they did.  I’d love to have “too much” summer squash.  If you have that much of it you can shred it and freeze it in two cup portions for making zucchini bread all winter.

So I’m not offering up this recipe as a way to “use up” your annoying abundance.  I’m offering this one up for sheer love of summer squash as a delicacy I only eat fresh for a few months of the year and look forward to more than Christmas.  If you love summer squash as much as I do then you need to make this dish, or make up your own variation of it.  It’s simple, it’s aromatic, and nothing in the dish hides behind anything else.

Summer Squash and Tomato Pasta Recipe

serves 4 to 6

Summer Squash and Tomato Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered and then sliced thinly
  • 2 zucchinis or 4 crooknecks or 6 patty pans, diced on the thin side
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 5 large tomatoes, cored and diced chunky
  • 1/2 bunch basil, julienned
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 lb angel hair pasta

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med/high heat and then add the onion. Stir the onions frequently to prevent burning. When they begin to brown a little add the squash. Saute until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
  2. Set a big pot of salted water on to boil.
  3. Add the garlic to the onions and squash and saute for about two minutes then add the tomatoes.
  4. Boil your pasta now and it should be ready just about the same time as your sauce.
  5. Stir the sauce frequently to keep the tomatoes from sticking. they should be breaking down nicely but you should still have some chunks left when you’re done (depending on the type of tomatoes used). Right before you’re ready to drain the pasta add the basil, salt, and pepper to the sauce and cook and stir for about two minutes and then turn the heat off. Add the pasta and toss it well.
  6. Eat. I added about a bucket of Parmesan to mine because I love Parmesan and I look for any excuse to eat it. It’s a hard habit to break but I did eat a couple of bites of this pasta without any and it was excellent. Next time I might just eat a bare bowlful.

Notes

If I’d had any Kalamata olives I would have added some. I have noted produce size because with homegrown especially there is such a wide range of sizes and that can affect the amount of sauce you have for the pasta. For this one I actually used 1/2 of an enormous yellow zucchini but I am very good at estimating equivalents and two medium sized ones would be the same. You can mess with recipes like this a lot and still make it fantastic. So don’t be afraid to play. You could use twice the onion and really caramelize them before adding anything else and that would have made a sweeter sauce.

http://stitchandboots.com/2011/08/20/summer-squash-and-tomato-pasta-recipe/

August 2011 Garden Update

 

Thanks to my mother our garden is doing great.  She’s the one who’s been watering every other day (manually) and mulching and planting.  While I’ve been working and writing and preparing for my trip she’s been out there working hard.  These are Romano beans (Helda) and they’ve become my favorite now.  They can get quite big and still not be tough or develop beans inside too fast and they taste wonderful.  I’m done growing Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder, both of which have performed poorly for me in the last few years.

I actually know a few people who don’t like tomatoes.  I’d be devastated if I became allergic to them.  I look forward to them every year with the same fervor some teens look forward to seeing Justin Bieber in concert.  (I know all about Justin Bieber because my ten year old son mocks him at every opportunity)  Everyone in my area keeps saying this summer is even colder than last summer but I don’t believe it.  I have lots of tomatoes and there’s plenty of time still for them to ripen.

Bee balm.  It’s such an outlandish flower.  We already had quite a lot of flowers to attract beneficial insects but my mom has added a lot more.

I don’t care what Oregon says*, Buddleia is gorgeous and definitely brings the butterflies and hummingbirds around.  I didn’t buy my  buddleia, I got it as a volunteer from the neighbors.  I will concede that it’s a bit pesty the way I keep finding more sprouts which get woody and dug in really fast if I don’t rip them up at first sight.

Squash!  Everyone jokes about it but for us it isn’t growing so valiantly that we must share it with anyone at this point.  The two crookneck squash plants died.  One of our zucchini plants is a little yellow and small and that leaves just one trooper that is giving us some promise but the delivery has been nothing to brag about yet.

Thank you mom!

*Buddleia is considered a noxious weed in Oregon and it is illegal to buy it.  One of those ridiculous laws that defy sense since nurseries are allowed to sell it.  Maybe the law is that you’re not allowed to grow it.  You can buy it but not grow it?  In the Master gardening program I asked some very keen questions about it but naturally the answers just went in circles.

Flowering and Fruiting in the May Garden

Lilacs are something I didn’t see that many of when I lived in California but here in Oregon the landscape is covered with them and May is when they flower.  I have several in my garden but since I didn’t plant them myself I don’t know what kinds they are.  I have two white ones and this is the first time this one has put off more than a couple of blossom clusters since I’ve lived here.  I love it.  Philip isn’t crazy for the scent of lilacs in the house, he thinks they’re overwhelmingly soapy.  I love it.  The scent on this one isn’t particularly strong, a disappointment to me, but at least it’s beautiful.

This is the first time my red currants have produced any berries.  The plants (I have two) spend an awful long time in their pots so it’s not surprising.  Now that they have a good deep spot of soil to reach into they are much happier and I’ve got several clusters of berries on them.  Not enough to do much with but it makes me happy anyway.

Borage is an amazing plant to have in the garden.  Bees love it so it helps the pollination of everything else to have it growing near all your fruiting plants.  This one’s very small but they do get enormous and they’ll seed freely.  Some people think this is a nuisance but I don’t.

This is my bed of tomatoes and calendula.  I’ve got: 3 Siletz, 2 Jaune Flamme, and a Sungold.  I need to have black tomato varieties too.  So I’d better get another bed cleared of quack grass.  Yeah, no problem.  I’ll get right on that.

I’ve never done square foot gardening but my mom is giving it a try in this bed.  She’s got it marked up and soon will plant it out with seeds.

It’s good to mulch your strawberry beds.  My mom covered ours with straw and with the sunshine we’ve been getting (not a lot, but enough) and the slightly warmer temperatures have given them an enormous boost of growth and though you can’t see it well in this picture, they are blossoming.  This is a bed of ever-bearing which means it doesn’t produce quite as large a berry or as large a June crop but will continue to produce for a few months.  Last year I was getting berries through October.  Just a few here and there.  If you want to make jam or pies with your strawberries you’re better off planting June-bearing varieties that tend to produce large amounts in a single crop and often the berries are of larger size.

Not pictured is my 8×4 bed of pole beans- the first few bean sprouts have emerged.  I love green beans and I don’t think you can have “too many” because if I can’t keep up with fresh eating I love to marinate and can them.

What’s going on in your own garden right now?