Staying busy at work and trying to prepare all of the food coming from the garden has kept me away from writing this week. When I sat down to write this post I wanted to share all the information about the fruits of the garden and the ways we have turned it into delicious dishes. Since the post ended up getting too long, I have decided to do a series of posts called “Grown and Eaten” where in each post I will focus on a single fruit of our harvest and write about the things I have learned in the process of growing them and the ways we have turned them into tasty dishes. For now, I am going to leave out recipes, but I hope to put them up in new posts later. If there are any recipes you are particularly interested in, let me know and I can post them sooner.
Starting off this series with: TOMATOES!
The tomatoes have been, by far, the best produce of our summer harvest. With the heavy rains and the humid hot weather in July they ended up getting a fungal disease (I think it was leaf spot and/or early blight), and so I have been removing the affected leaves and applying an organic fungicide. We were lucky in that the tomatoes were already well on their way by the time the fungus started to spread, so we still got a TON of tomatoes with the first batch. Unfortunately, I think the fungus did too much damage to the plants, and I don’t think some of them will recover to produce any more. A few have started to grow new fungus-free (for now!) leaves, and so I will spray them every couple of weeks or so to keep them healthy.
Having the garden has taught me a lot about plants, especially when things don’t go as planned. With the sick tomatoes, I had to try and figure out what was wrong with them and how to fix it. Because leaf spot and early blight are similar diseases (with similar causes and treatments), I didn’t have to worry too much about getting the diagnosis perfect. (This is a nice link about the two diseases). The weather was a lot of what was to blame for the fungus as the humidity and heavy rains we were getting were the perfect conditions for fungus to spread and thrive, but there are some things that I could have done differently.
1.) Water them in the mornings and avoid getting water on the leaves. I typically did things this way, but once the fungus set in, I became extra cautious.
2.) Give the tomatoes a bit more space between plants. I was so excited to plant basil and marigolds near my tomatoes that I didn’t realize how large they would get, and how much they would crowd the tomatoes making it difficult for air to move through and dry off wet leaves. Once I read more about the fungus I went through and trimmed down the marigolds along with removing the infected tomatoes leaves. The plants started to look a bit bare, but I think I saved 1 or 2 tomato plants that way by keeping the fungus from spreading up the whole plant.
From our seven Roma tomato plants we have harvested over 35 lbs of tomatoes, and from our Patio Princess variety (which contracted some sort of fruit rot ) we got around 20 lbs of eatable fruit. That is over 55 pounds of garden grown tomatoes!!! Really, I don’t even like tomatoes, but the purpose of growing them wasn’t to eat them raw but to turn them into yummy cooked creations.
Just a few images of our tomato harvests:
So what did I do with all of these tomatoes?
1.) Roasted Tomatoes. The first thing was to roast them in the oven. As I wrote about in my pizza-making post, I much prefer roasted tomatoes on pizza rather than any sauce. So I invited some friends over and we made the same eggplant zucchini pizza, but with our fresh oven-roasted tomatoes! Not only were the tomatoes delicious on the pizza, but the olive oil left in the pan, became a wonderful dip for the fresh baguette appetizer!
2.) Salsa! This has been my first season of canning, and I have to say, that I think I have done a pretty awesome job. I started out doing a couple of small batches making around 4 pint jars at a time, but with the overflow of tomatoes lately I recently made a 16 pint batch! I have found (and made slight changes to) a thick and chunky recipe that both Andrew and I really enjoy. However, now that we are stocked with that yummy salsa (we have made 33 pints so far of varying degrees of spicey-ness), I might experiment more with fruit salsas and other different recipes.
3.) Tomato Sauce. I was excited to cook up more of our eggplant, and found a great eggplant parmesan recipe calling for 3 cups of tomatoes sauce. We had the tomatoes, so I decided to make the sauce from scratch. Doubling a wonderful recipe filled with onions and peppers, I used 2-3 pounds of Romas which made about 6 cups of sauce (half of it going into the freezer).
It has been a crazy tomato adventure with several hours dedicated to boiling, peeling, draining, slicing, roasting, simmering, and canning, but I am very happy with the results. I am not sure if this was what I imagined when I planted those tiny seeds indoors in March, but I am glad I went on this adventure, and I can’t wait to do it all again!
I am curious about how other people grow their tomatoes. Do you have any special tricks? What is your favorite thing to make from your tomato harvest?