It’s Tomato Time!

Today, it was pointed out to me that I haven’t posted here on our blog since June…yikes!  In my defense, anyone who follows me on Facebook will have kept up with our busy summer schedule 😉  This blog is usually about our mushroom operation, but today I will digress a bit….

Last summer, as most of you know, we put up a greenhouse.  It was a big success, and apart from allowing us to extend the season (starting earlier in the spring, and growing later into the fall), the extra volume of vegetables that we grew allowed me to take some to the Inglewood Farmers Market, which I attend on Wednesdays.  This year,  we made the garden even BIGGER, we planted MORE, and I now have enough produce to take to the Elora Farmers’ Market, too!
The summer here (as in many parts of North America) was hot and dry.  There were struggles (watering, obviously, but also insect problems – brought on by an unusually mild winter with little kill-off and dry conditions).  There were great successes (beans, beans and more beans!).  As you can tell by the title of this post, tomatoes are doing very well this year.  I grow 99% of the tomatoes in our greenhouse.  Before planting, we had underseeded with oats, then worked them in as a green manure.  Mushroom compost was then put on and worked in.  The tomato plants which were started from seedlings in February and set out in the greenhouse while outside night temps were still dipping into frosty conditions, but still okay inside.  I did two things differently with the tomato plants this year.

80 pounds of tomatoes, ready for market!

First off, I mulched them all with a thick layer of straw.  This helped lessen evaporation, and allowed me to get away with watering only once every 4 or 5 days , even with our extreme heat.  Secondly, the watering was done with soaker hoses, which were a great conservation method, by soaking the roots deeply and only applying water where it was needed.  The hose ran about 2 – 3 hours each time.  A benefit of fewer extremes (ie. really, really dry then really, really wet) is that the thinner-skinned heirloom tomatoes did not split nearly as much as last year.  I highly recommend mulching the tomato plants to everyone!

So over 115 plants inside, and at least another couple dozen outside, and come the end of July, we were getting lots of tomatoes!  The first were the yellow Taxi, followed quickly by Grightmire’s Pride.  Manitoba, Old German and Yellow Brandywine, were next, with the Amish Paste being last to fruit.

Fresh tomatoes are SO delicious!  I eat them like apples 🙂  One of my favourite things to do with them is to slice up all the different varieties on a large platter, crumble some Feta cheese on top, some chopped basil, and drizzle with a good quality olive oil (and maybe balsamic vinegar)…mmmmm.  Unfortunately, the season for fresh tomatoes will be ending in another month or two, so I put lots away for winter enjoyment.

I love making pizzas in the winter.  Rather than buying over-salted pizza sauce in tin cans (not good!), I make my own pizza sauce.  I found a great, EASY recipe in a wonderful book called Saving the Seasons.  First off, wash up all the ripe tomatoes you have harvested.

Make sure your tomatoes are ripe and clean…

Slice them in half, and remove any core, seeds and juice.  Place face down on a large baking pan with raised sides.  Slice or chop one onion and 2 cloves garlic and distribute over top of the tomatoes.  I also like to add some fresh basil.  Drizzle it all with a good dollop of olive oil, and add sea salt and ground pepper.

Ready to get roasted…

Roast at 375 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.  The tomatoes should soften up nicely, and just start turning brown.  Let cool, then puree everything (yes, skins and all!  I told you this was easy!)  Put into sterilized jars, seal, and process with a hot water bath for about half an hour.

I like to use these little jars, as each one is just the right amount for one pizza.

If you liked this recipe, I highly recommend you order a copy of the book for yourself, especially if you are new to preserving food, or would like to try out some new methods.
I have also been making lots of salsa, fresh AND cooked.  The tomatoes, peppers and onions looked so beautiful, all chopped up, that I had to take a picture!  On that note, hope to see you at one of my markets…and for those of you who are up to your proverbial elbows in whatever food you are preserving, just remember how deliciously satisfying it will all be to take it off the shelf come winter!

Isn’t this pretty?

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