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This weekend’s project (which really did take most of the weekend) was to make tomato paste. I never tackled this before but seemed like it was a worthwhile project to use the overabundance of ripe Roma tomatoes that had suddenly appeared in the basement.
When they were predicting frost a few weeks back, I picked pretty much every single tomato that was left on the vine, most of them, sadly still green as anything. It always is such a pain to do pulling all the tomatoes, particularly when its usually last minute and freezing out, but it seems so wasteful to let these beautiful summer fruits just freeze on the vines. Hence, my basement is now filled with trays and trays of green tomatoes. The problem is that many of them decided to ripen simultaneously. So what does one do with a bounty of tomatoes? There are many things that you can do and I have done a lot of them, yet the tomatoes continue to ripen and beckon for someone to do something with them. This seemed the next logical step.
What is absolutely amazing to me is how concentrated it becomes. I started out with 10 lbs of Roma tomatoes, which is a lot of tomatoes for this batch of paste. I then split them in half, taking out the seeds and put them in a pot. Even split and cored, these tomatoes still filled a huge pot. The tomatoes boiled down for about an hour until they were soft. I then allowed them to cool and put them into the fridge overnight, for no other reason but my own schedule which did not permit me the time necessary for the next steps. The following day, I took those tomatoes out, put them through the food mill on a fine setting to get rid of the skins. I still ended up with a sauce pot full of cooked tomatoes. I added a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and allowed this to boil down for another hour or thereabouts until it was reduced by half. This mixtures was then spread onto a silicone sheet on a baking sheet (covering the whole sheet pan) and cooked for several hours — probably about 4-5 total at 200 degrees, stirring every 1/2 hour or so to keep it from burning until it was reduced down to a thick concentrated paste. This paste amounted to two tiny little jars of paste. But these are not just ordinary jars of paste, no sir, they are tiny little jars of summer. Summer concentrated and squeezed into half pint mason jars covered with a thin layer of olive oil.
They will now reside in my fridge and I will dip into them every time my cooking needs a little taste of summer. Covered with oil and refrigerated, they will last a year. Just in time to do it all again next summer.
How does your garden grow? This year, I must say I am pretty pleased with my garden. In years past, it has either been too big and gotten out of control by this time of the year or we have been away or busy and it has gotten overgrown and weedy to the point of disgust. This summer we are enjoying being around here and consequently, we have been tackling a lot of yard work. I enjoy popping in my headphones and getting out there and weeding or just sitting down and weeding without the tunes, enjoying the sunshine and the summer breeze that always seems to exist in our neck of the woods.
Here are some garden pictures I’m happy to share with you.
Purple Habanero Peppers
Corn – This will be a first, thanks to the generosity of a friend and neighbor who shared his seedlings.
The Garden looking east
The Garden looking west
We try to compost our food scraps around here, although I will tell you that it’s a lot easier to get psyched about composting when it’s nice and sunny and warm out. When a trip to the compost pile is a welcome walk in the summer breeze, taking time to literally smell the flowers along the way. During winter and particularly of late, with our sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chill, composting is a whole lot less desirable. There is something about the thought of bundling yourself up and walking across the wind swept tundra that we call our yard to the compost pile that just doesn’t make it all that appealing.
So, what’s one supposed to do when you are saddled with the guilt of not composting and the real fear of freezing to death while doing it?
Recycle your food scraps! Okay, I know you are going to say that composting your food scraps is recycling and perhaps this woman’s brain has already been affected by those sub zero temperatures she was talking about just now. No really, there are different food scraps that you can recycle by re-growing them. Scallions, leeks, fennel, garlic (for scapes), lemongrass, bok choy, romaine lettuce, ginger, potatoes, onions and cabbage.
The last time I bought bok choy from the supermarket (for sadly the farmer’s market had none) I decided to take the bottom that I cut off and place it in a shallow container with a little water. I added to it two leek bottoms that I had used for potato leek soup later in the week.
The bok choy started to show green growth pretty much the next day which surprised me a little since it was from the grocery store and God only knows how old it was when I bought it. The leeks took longer, in fact, I was pretty sure that they were going to rot and was ready to remove them from the bowl when I noticed that one had a little green stalk poking up from the center. The second one has yet to show any green growth but it has roots that are now about 1/4 inch long almost all around the base.
They will remain in the water for a while longer and then when there are real roots, I will plant them in some soil and see what happens. In the dead of winter with frigid temperatures it is very nice to see some green growing around the house.
Today at the Farmer’s Market we were just about to walk out the door when I spotted it…the table selling seeds. (Must be my gardener’s instinct). Lots and lots of different kinds of seeds. When I walked over and spoke to the mom that was with the kids at this table I learned a lot and thought that I would share for a very good cause.
The table belongs to a group of Shrewsbury homeschool kids that are conducting a fundraiser for the Vermont Farmers Food Center (a/k/a The Farmer’s Market) selling Fedco seeds. These kids –Silas Hamilton, Seamus and Avery Martin, Cedelle and Emmett Sirjane, and Manolo Zelkin with the help of parents, Licia Gambino Hamilton and Martha Sirjane are hoping to raise $3,500 to donate to the Center.
Since I’m not writing for the Rutland Express anymore (since they stopped publication) and I miss that ability to connect the cool things and people that I come across with people that might not know about them, I thought that I would post here about this group and their efforts in the hopes that folks in the area who plant their own seeds would take advantage of this fundraiser and help these kids with their goal. These kids are selling a variety of Fedco seeds (over 30 different types) to raise money for the Farmer’s Market to help with the work that remains to be done in and around the building and grounds. The kids have a table at the market and have set up and designed their own website http://seedsworthsowing.webs.com/ and Facebook page where they can be found at Seeds Worth Sowing. They’ve even hand stamped (in multi color, mind you) each and every one of their seed packets. Making a very delightful display as you can see.
You can purchase your seeds in person at the Farmer’s Market, or you can order them by mail and you can pick up an order farm locally from Pierce’s Store or Mount Holly Library. You can also download an order form while in your pajamas from the comfort of your own living room from their website (for my very lazy friends). If you mail in your order form, you can pick up your seeds from Pierce’s Store on March 21 from 3-6 p.m. or at the Mount Holly Library on March 24th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or at the Rutland Farmer’s Market on March 16th or April 6th from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For the charge of mailing ($1.95 to $15 = $3.95 shipping fee; $16 & up = $5.95 shipping fee) they will even be happy to mail your seeds to you so you can just walk to the mailbox for your seeds. So, friends of mine that are not in Vermont and want seeds, go to their website, download the form, mail it in with your payment and wait for your seeds to arrive via the postal service from our lovely little state of Vermont.
The group extended its original order deadline to March 31st — so I encourage you to take advantage of getting some good seeds to get that garden started and help out an industrious group of kids with their ambitious (and totally doable) goal of raising $3,500. After all, any of us that shop at the Farmer’s Market will benefit from their hard work in raising these funds.
- What Kind of Seed Are You Sowing? (phenum01.wordpress.com)
- sowing seeds (balconyberlin.wordpress.com)
- What to do in March (digginwivdebb.wordpress.com)
- GARDENING: Winter seed sowing can be started now (cindyhelens.wordpress.com)
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Time to Start Seeds (prweb.com)
- 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow from Seed this Spring (prweb.com)
Tim decided to update our side door. He wanted to put a flower bed in next to the stoop. Here is the way that it looked BEFORE.
After a few hours of digging up the driveway rock, moving dirt and topsoil, separating and replanting host this is the AFTER
It is certainly nice having him around. I love the new bed!
The other day I was on my hands and knees literally crawling around in the dirt, planting transplants and seeds in the garden. I took a break and stood up, out of the corner of my eye I saw something right next to me moving.
It was this guy
- For the Love of a Garden (catseyesk.wordpress.com)
- Garden taming…or sort of !!! (fabulousspirit.wordpress.com)
- Raised Bed Gardening: I Graduated from Containers This Year (janiceperson.com)
So, Sunday was a beautiful day. My garden was tilled (thank you Justin) and ready for planting. I put in two whole long rows of potatoes (from ones I had kept from last year) and a row of shallots and onions from seed (yes, I know, onions from seed grow really slow — but if it’s a warm fall I’m set, if it’s not, it was only a couple dollars worth of seeds I already had lying around). I also planted two long rows of various lettuces, iceberg, simpson, romaine, different types of mesclun mixes including fire lettuce as my neighbors’ boys call it. Much more to do, but it was a good start. Creme was watching me the whole time, they love the garden because they get the weeds and the bolting lettuce.
To give you an idea of how nice it was, here is a picture from the porch — did I mention that I love our porch?
Today, this little one was hanging on the screen door all day long. I have no idea what it is, but it is quite colorful. Anyone have a clue?
This is what the first tomato from the garden (and from TJ’s biology project plants) looks like.
Isn’t it just beautiful???
While I had the camera out to take the picture of the tomato, I thought I’d take some pictures of the other things happening in the garden.
and a little tomatillo
Here’s okra flowering
and the little okra
Took some pictures in the garden this morning. Things are finally starting to take off and grow like crazy. We are harvesting small snow peas from plants on the patio, the tomatoes are doing well and the peppers are actually growing this year. Amazing. The funny thing is that the basil is not doing well, at all. Can’t figure out why, just doesn’t seem to want to grow. Anyone else having that problem or is it particular to my little piece of earth?
Here are some pictures of the garden — it is growing and the combination of showers and sun is working its biological magic since each day the plants are bigger and stronger. The tiny tomatillos seedlings I set out a couple weeks ago are ready to be staked this week.
We’ve accomplished a lot in the past weekend and now we’re off to have some fun for a few days before the boys return home. It should be a very relaxing next few days — no chores that need or “should” be done, just spending some time hanging out together.
- Garden Update: From Seeds to Seedlings (thebittenword.com)
- My Veggie Garden (handyhomeownergirl.com)
- A Couple of Advantages of Using Raised Beds For Your Vegetable Gardening (hbb2obm.com)
Sometimes, taking your time and really paying attention pays off. You see things that you would normally breeze right over if you were operating at your normal speed. The other day, we were straightening things up on the patio for a party we were having and we went to move my pot of lettuce seedlings. Lo and behold, nestled in between the teeny tiny seedlings was a tiny toad. Seriously while he may look gigantic in this picture the little guy is only about an inch big. He was in the lettuce bed yesterday day and on the patio steps today. While I was watering he was jumping along next to me. I think that I might have made a friend.
Another little treasure I found while I was weeding and watering was a partial light blue robin’s egg. The occupant of this particular egg evidently has literally flown the coup, or at least I hope since the shell was on the ground.