Saturday, July 11, 2009


This is the first year I've attempted to grow vegetables. To my complete astonishment, I've actually been fairly successful with my tomatoes.

Here's a picture of the little guys outside:

Lately I've been having a big issue with something eating the fruits in the middle of the night. I suspect its a possum, possibly a racoon. As soon as a tomato is nearly ripe, it gets clawed up and chewed on during the night.

This makes me sad. He's not even EATING most of them, just clawing them and getting possum cooties all over them so no one can have them. I added the chicken wire around the plants to try and protect them, its helping a little, but whatever I'm up against is agile and smart, so I'm still losing a few. The best defense I've found is to pick the tomatoes as quickly as I can and bring them inside before the little bugger can destroy them.

I've been using them one at a time in salads and soups. When I harvest more than one or two in a day, I stick them straight into a bag in the freezer (yes, I put the whole tomato straight in the freezer). I finally accumulated a bag full and decided it was time to attempt making some marinara sauce.

The great thing about freezing whole tomatoes (besides the fact that possums can't open the freezer) is you can just run them under water for a couple of seconds, and the skin will slip right off. So I skinned and chopped up my bag of frozen tomatoes and cut out any weird or icky spots. I heated up some olive oil in my big stockpot and sauteed some onion and minced garlic. Then I threw in the chopped tomatoes and used a potato masher to squish them up a bunch. I added fresh sweet basil leaves (also from my garden), oregano, italian seasoning, salt, and a pinch or two of sugar (according to my mom, the sugar helps cut down the acidity of the tomatoes).

It's been simmering on my stove for a few hours and it smells awesome. I'll probably let it cook for most of the day. One thing I should have done is made more effort to remove some of the seeds before I added the tomatoes to the pot. I don't think it will be awful this way, but I'd probably like it better with fewer seeds mixed in. This is a learning experience for me :)

Now besides the frozen tomatoes, I had about 8 more tomatoes I picked this week sitting on my counter. I haven't delved into the world of canning yet, but one thing I do know is how to freeze stuff! So I set out to preserve some of my bounty.

First I cut off any weird spots on the tomatoes, then I stuck them in boiling water for about 1 minute, and then dunked them into cool water until they cooled. After this, the skins peel right off.

After that, I just diced them up and rinsed them a bit in a colander to remove the majority of the seeds (this is how I'll do the sauce next time). Then I measured them into 2 cup portions (about the size of a can of diced tomatoes) and put them in freezer bags. Here's what I ended up with for all my hard work:

Yup, that's the equivalent of 2 cans (approximate retail value $1.36). Actually, I had a little bit more, but I decided to just throw it in to the cooking marinara sauce. That's ok though, as I said this was more of a learning experience than anything. There's a lot of green tomatoes still on my plants, and the possums aren't going to get all of them... I hope :)


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