Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tomato Time @ High Star Farm

This summer, I had my worst luck - ever - with heirloom tomatoes. Let's just blame that on over confidence. Poised for huge success with fancy, new containers in a sunny, protected spot, I expected blue ribbon results.

I'd saved up a whole winter of coffee grounds and egg shells. (Nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous makes for some very happy tomaters.) But, then I made the fatal mistake of blogging about it.

Had no idea my veggie garden nemesis, Mother Nature, reads my blog posts. She swooped in (on June 16th!) freezing pineapple sage, baby bell peppers and the most delightful delicacy of all, Black from Tula heirloom tomatoes. [Note to self: watch the weather reports.]

Normally, I would have started over. It takes more than one cold night to foil my plans. But, this year I'm volunteering at a local organic farm so why bother?

No amount of TLC in my sorry gardens can match the luscious bounty produced in this greenhouse. [I get to nibble the whole time I'm harvesting. How sweet is that?]
On my last harvest day at High Star Farm I picked 18 pounds of tomatoes and I barely made a dent. That got me thinking about what conniving little buggers tomato seedlings can be. In springtime, seedlings look small and innocent, inspiring you to plant twice as many as you really need. Come August, those tiny plants have evolved into monstrous vines and you've got tomatoes coming out your ears.

Here's 2 hot tips for handling the harvest:
1) Grill the big ones: Thick slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan and Asiago cheeses, garlic and parsley. They taste so yummy, you'll run out before you know it.
And....
2) Dry them in your oven to save them for a rainy day:

Oven-Dried Tomatoes
  • Slice small tomatoes in half, slice larger tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt ~ this improves flavor and speeds up the drying process.
  • Set the oven to 175 - 200 degrees (F).
  • Slowly roast until they feel pliable, kind of leathery. It could take anywhere from 3-6 hours, depending upon the size of the tomato slices.
To Rehydrate Dried Tomatoes:
Soak in water for 1-2 hours or toss directly into soups and stews.

PS: If these ideas don't snap your socks, send those extra tomatoes to me. :)

23 comments:

Deb Mc. said...

Yes! to tomato chips! I tried oven-drying last year with about 10 - 12# of Roma tomatoes from the farmer's market, adding cracked pepper, basil & oregano to the sprinkle. I quartered the biggest ones, halved the small ones, and lined the cookie sheets with parchment paper to save scrubbing between batches.

The house smelled like an Italian restaurant for about 6-8 hours, and the boxful of tomatoes turned into about half a dozen quart ziplocs of leathery chips that went into the freezer.

Handfuls have gone into soups and stews, only stopping to chop into smaller pieces while still frozen beforehand. I've begun haunting the markets awaiting the new crop to do it again. yumyumyum

Amy said...

Kate, My mouth is watering - oh, such gorgeous fruits. My garden is woefully sad this season as the growing season was delayed and delayed and delayed. The poor seedlings just never figured out what to do! They are fairly good size now, healthy green, but very little fruit. Weird year - btw, that grilling idea for large tomatoes is a great one, so thank you!

Kate said...

Hi Deb!
Great tips! Thanks for sharing. And, I love the thought of turning my kitchen into an 'Italian restaurant.' :D

Kate said...

Hi, Amy;
Weird year, indeed. I count my blessings, each Wednesday, when I visit the farmer's market and find veggie gardeners who've had better success than me.

Sonia from Park City Guide said...

Last year we had so many green tomatoes on the vine in September and then the frost came. I still have frozen green tomatoes in the freezer from last year. I made some sweet green tomato pies like you would with apples and my family couldn't tell the difference.
When our tomatoes do ripen there are so many all at once that I end up crushing and freezing them for sauce. But the freezer gets full quick so I like your idea of oven drying them instead. I'm hoping more red than green and soon!

Kate said...

Hi, Sonia;
Thanks for stopping by. :) Sweet green tomato pies sound fab. Care to share the recipe?? Let's cross our fingers that we have a long, warm autumn to make up for our chilly spring.

Carol said...

Hi Kate!

What a bountiful harvest!! Wow! I love your photos and good advice. Yummy!

jan said...

I am finally catching up on my bloggery reading and really enjoying your beautiful photos! I can almost taste those tomatoes!

Rose said...

Tomato growing can be a tricky business. I swore this year I would only plant a few, then the seeds I started indoors did so well that I couldn't bear to discard any of the seedlings. So, yes, I have them coming out of my ears right now.

Thanks so much for the recipe for drying tomatoes! This is something I've always wanted to try. I have a few recipes that call for sun-dried tomatoes, and do you know how much a jar of those costs?!

Melanie said...

Those tomatoes are so pretty and tasty to I bet. Thanks for the recipe can't wait to try it when my tomatoes are ready in a few weeks.

Snowcatcher said...

Before I realized the pictures were not YOUR tomatoes, I was green with envy! All but two of my plants got bit by that same frost, and I have about 20 tomatoes now. All about the size of peas...

I hope they'll grow large enough that I can actually dry some of them. Count me in as another who loves to turn her kitchen into a foreign restaurant by drying things with homegrown spices!

Kate said...

Thx, Jan and Carol ~ It's my dream to grow tomatoes as pretty as these. Until then, I'll just take pics of other gardener's gorgeous produce! :D

Kate said...

Hi, Rose;
Can we talk you into sharing the sun-dried tomato recipes? I would LOVE to give that a try!

Kate said...

Lucky you, Melanie!
I'm happy to hear your tomato crop is growing well this summer.

Kate said...

Hi, Snowcatcher;
Until I get motivated to build a greenhouse it's doubtful we'll see such scrumptious tomatoes in my gardens...

Tufa Girl said...

Those tomatoes are amazing! What a great place to spend your time. The tomato growing thing is never the same. One year one type will perform better than another - the next year the bugs get the whole crop. One thing about tomatoes - you gotta grow some.

joey said...

Can't seem to get my fill of tomatoes. Thanks for sharing the yummy recipes. Besides simple fat slices, I love them with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (light sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper). It's tomato heaven time, a haunting taste that we will remember in winter when we settle for anemic tomato 'wannabes' :)

Wendy said...

yes that does snap my socks! I'm going to try drying them.

troutbirder said...

The blight got mine this year. I think I should have been looking for a local organic farm to volunteer at! :)

Grace Peterson said...

Hi Kate, Tomatoes are so rewarding but not always the easiest to grow. I'm still waiting on my cherry tomatoes who are taking their sweet time. These photos look delicious and are making me hungry!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

LOL, Mother Nature doesn't need to *read* blog posts, she is all knowing. My tomato crop isn't great, either, but I take what I can get. And really, how may tomatoes does a person (who doesn't can) need?! That's what I console myself with, anyway.

Brad said...

So sorry to hear about your tomato crop, but glad you get some fresh from the organic farm. Tomatoes are what I've missed most this summer about my last garden. I would make meals of tomatoes 4-5 days a week. My favorite is caprese salad with some heirloom tomatoes. Fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and the tomatoes of course. Delicious.

Shelle said...

i freeze my extras (cheap overripe produce from the store) whole in a ziploc...when i need pasta sauce i just throw them in the pot, they'll disintegrate enough to make a wonderful sauce, all you have to do is pick out the black tips. i very rarely buy canned tomatoes now!of course they're great for stews too.