Tomato-growing has become a way of life in Big Grove. I planted tomatoes at the rented duplex in which my spouse and I lived in 1983, the first year of our marriage. With one or two brief exceptions, some tomatoes found their way from garden to kitchen every year since.
The best part of the tomato harvest is using fresh in the kitchen. Cherries are a great snack, slices go well on so many things, and making sauce daily provides a type of freshness one can’t find in the best canned tomato sauce. Sometimes I take a whole tomato with a salt shaker and eat it like an apple.
This year I planted two seedlings in each cage, over 150 plants in total. The results were mixed, with lessons to be learned. There were plenty of tomatoes for kitchen use, to give away, and to donate to the food pantry.
The daily harvest is a generous bushel right now. The season won’t last long, so we make the most of it.
When it is tomato time, daily inspection of fruit waiting to be processed is essential. Blemished tomatoes produce useful bi-products. I wrote and posted this process to my Instagram and Facebook accounts:
- Cut off the bad spots, quarter and put them in a soup pan to cook. Bring to a boil, cook until the skins are loosened.Turn off the heat.
- Ladle the tomatoes into a funnel, the kind that comes with a wooden tool to press the tomatoes against the screen. Let them sit until the liquid stops dripping out.
- Remove the liquid and store for other use.
- Using the wooden tool, press the tomato pulp against the screen until all that’s left is seeds and skin. In the catch-basin will be tomato puree.
- Pour the tomato puree into a flexible muffin sheet and put it in the freezer.
- Once frozen, remove from the muffin sheet and put in zip top freezer bags for storage in the freezer.
The plan for plum tomatoes was foiled by placing the two main varieties under the oak trees. Not enough sunlight affected production. The season is not over yet I know there won’t be as many jars of canned tomatoes for winter. The San Marzano variety was planted in the main tomato patch and did well. There won’t be enough of them to make up for the under-production of Amish Paste, Granadero and Speckled Roman.
Someone asked if I save seeds. I do not. Most of what I plant is F1, or not a pure genetic strain. I don’t like the idea of being constrained in the garden by choices made about which seeds were saved. There are a lot of available tomato varieties I haven’t tried. I also want seed companies to continue in business. I’d feel a bit like I was stealing the genetics and jobs from people who need them by saving seeds.
There is a never ending life with tomatoes. It can be a great life if one gets a grip on it. I feel I am almost there.