Monday, August 20, 2012

preserving cherry tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

i have been fortunate to find myself overrun with cherry tomatoes this year. i planted three varieties: sungold, matt's wild, and yellow pear. i also received one peacevine plant from our csa farm. between multiple plants of each of those varieties, we've had quite the bounty this year and no matter how delicious these babies are to just pop in our mouths each trip through the kitchen, we couldn't keep up.

not wanting to let them go the way of the composter, i decided to slow roast and freeze them last week. you can also freeze cherry (or full-sized) tomatoes whole and raw, but i decided to go the slow roasting route. i just halved them and spread them on a baking sheet. i drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, thyme, and oregano (you can use any seasonings you like). i cooked them at 300 degrees for 2 hours. once cooked, they cooled pretty quickly and i packed them into jars. i didn't measure how many i had to begin with, but i ended up with 3 half-pint jars for the freezer. i know these will come in handy to throw in soups, stews, lasagnas, sauces, or more over the winter. keep in mind, you can do the same with full sized tomatoes.

i got this idea from this post from food in jars. marisa has some other great ideas there for preserving small tomatoes.

how have you been preserving your harvest these days?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August Happenings

August is usually the time when I begin to peter out.
It's been a hot summer!
I have used the sprinkler more days than not and I closed my eyes as I opened last month's water bill.
This past week there were a few days where the humidity dropped and I jumped at the chance to regain my stamina and catch up on what I have let go in the garden.
Some weeding, pruning, edging and pulling out to make room for new plants soon gave my garden a new cleaned up look.
Let's go on a little tour shall we?
We only have 3 Bartlet pears this year but they are large and beautiful. They look so pretty there hanging on the tree. Every day I keep my fingers crossed as I walk out into the garden that they will still be there. It's a dual between me and the squirrels.
If Black Eyed Susans were edible we would have enough food for the winter. They seem to take over in my garden and I find myself digging up large clumps of them at this time of year to give away. We do enjoy the gold finches and chickadees that feast on them and I would love to experiment with using them to make dye.
After digging up the Susans as well as a few other plants I made a list of new plants to fill in the gaps. This is the time of year that local nurseries are trying to clear out.  Over the next few weeks I plan to try to find some good deals.
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The front garden is taking off. The full sun has given us huge stems of swiss chard and baskets of tomatoes. I still need to fill in with perennial herbs. I will be keeping my eye out for them at the nursery as well.
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The mint totally took over on top of the rabbit hutch. I pulled it out and dried a bunch to make tea. There is still plenty growing in other areas of my garden to use fresh.
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We canned San Marzano tomatoes this week (some from the farm and some from our front garden).
It was just the beginning of our preserving. I am looking for a chest freezer. We can't keep up with all of the kale and swiss chard we have growing and I would love to chop it up and freeze for the winter months.

What's happening in your garden this August?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

guest post: rain collection

while i am moving from one home to another, i asked amber of oakmoss to share some happenings in her garden. she's a wonderful friend & incredibly talented. enjoy!

With the abundance of rain we receive here in the Pacific Northwest throughout the year, I always feel a bit silly turning on the faucet to water the garden on days it hasn't rained.  My husband and I recently installed a rain collection system.  It's not a new concept, collecting rain water, but it is the biggest new addition to our garden this year.  Once we considered doing it , things just sort of fell into place; a neighbor who's in the wine business had extra barrels, the cast iron rain chain was a lucky discount find at a favorite garden shop, my dad had the proper equipment to prepare the barrel, and there was a perfect little corner right outside our bedroom window to tucked the barrel into.  There are countless tutorials online, I won't bore you with the installation details.  It's still fairly new, but we've already collected a small amount of water in our barrel.  I'm excited to let it fill up all winter long and have a nice supply for next summer.  Do you have experience with collecting and using rain water?  Do share.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

summer update

It's been a busy summer, but all of our hard work is paying off. We've been getting summer squash and Costata Romanesca zukes in spades. We've frozen several packets for mid-winter zucchini bread and we've made two ratatouilles and one batch of zucchini pancakes. I think I'm making batch no. 2 tonight. 

As for tomatoes, the ones pictured are the Indian tomato, a new variety we tried this year. We learned just yesterday that the tomato leaves we sent to the Ag Extension were infected with Septoria leaf spot and Early Blight so we've been managing with vigilance and a pair of scissors. Heirloom varieties seem much more susceptible to disease, but they are the varieties that we love the best. 

How are your tomatoes fairing this year? I think we'll have enough to make our favorite canned tomato sauce again this year.

Pictured above are our cannellini beans. We're hoping to have a nice crop of dried beans for the winter. We're also growing black turtle beans. No green beans this year though our neighbors have been dropping them off at our house in bags.

Every day we venture down to the field garden in search of tomato hornworms. Can you see the little rascal in this photo? They are masters of disguise but can really take a toll on the plants.

My calendula flowers did very well. I'm drying the flowers for teas and hope to make an infused oil as soon as the blossoms are completely dry. Calendula blossoms hold so much moisture so it's important to allow them to dry completely or you will have problems with mold. 

We've been enjoying blueberries, too, in the hand or baked into a blueberry nutmeg breakfast cake. The fields are teeming with wild blackberries and several pounds are already tucked away in our freezer. My future plans for blackberries include a blackberry vinegar, a minted blackberry cheesecake, and blackberry freezer jam.

Now I see our pumpkins turning orange on the vine and fat apples dangling from the trees. Autumn approaches quietly but steadily.