Wondering what to do with the various and sundry bits that remain in the late season garden? Join me on Twitter tomorrow night where I’ll be guest hosting Seed Chat for an hour on the topic of preserving the harvest.
Be sure to pre-submit your question through the Seed Chat form to ensure that your question makes it within the time frame.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
8pm Central / 9pm Eastern
Follow along using the hashtag #SeedChat or via TweetChat
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) has been making a yearly appearance in my garden in some way or another for some time now, but never like this. My new yard’s sun and sandy, well-draining soil turned out to be the perfect place to grow the sort of plant I have only seen in the tropics. Until now.
The tomato season is ending quickly. As of today, I don’t foresee many more ripe tomatoes coming off of the vine. I’ve had a good run: 110 lbs of ripe fruit in all! This was my first year weighing the harvest, so while I can’t make an accurate comparison to previous years, I think it is safe to say that it was my best year, ever.
It’s time now to focus on the unripe, green tomatoes. In an attempt to squeeze a few more ripe fruit from the harvest I’ve been nestling those that are nearly there inside paper bags. This sort of treatment isn’t exactly necessary, but with fruit flies still around, I find it easier to keep them off of the goods this way.
In my experience, not all green tomatoes will ripen by this method. The fruit that is really young and underdeveloped tends to go wrinkly and rot rather than ripening, so I reserve this process for the tomatoes that have a blush of colour and save the darker green fruit for eating fresh and preserving.
Eating & Preserving
My favourite way to eat green tomatoes straight off of the plant is batter fried. They are also delicious roasted in the oven. When it comes to preserving, my go-to is green tomato chutney. Everyone loves this condiment, and there is never a lack of friends available to take the surplus off of my hands. If you’re not interested in canning or only have a small batch to work with, you can cut the sugar (and some of the vinegar/acid) from my recipe and store it in the fridge short-term. My no-sugar added, short shelf-life, small-batch version is available in my first book, “You Grow Girl” (see page 154).
The concept is so simple I wish I had thought of it: take the throw-away tomato skins that are left-over in the preserving process and make them into something useful. Something other than compost.
With over 80 lbs of tomatoes (and counting) harvested from my garden this year, it is safe to say that I have been knee deep in canning these last weeks. While I am experienced and adept at canning tomatoes in many forms, I had never heard of drying the skins into a powder until I came upon it a few weeks back in Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.
Drying the skins is easy. Simply lay the wet skins out onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and slow dry in the oven at the lowest temperature setting until they are crisp. I recently ran out of parchment (and my Silpat is too big for our tiny oven. Long story) and used a paper bag cut open. That works in a pinch, too. You can do this in a dehydrator as well, but I put mine away recently and have been too lazy to lug it back out to test.
Once the skins are dry, grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. I have one exactly like this that is reserved for grinding herbs and spices only. A food processor will work, but it will turn out something more like tomato flakes than powder.
The result is a colourful and tangy flavouring that you can sprinkle on top of your meals. So far I’ve used it on breakfast eggs and in ricotta cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms. I’m sure I’ll discover more applications in the coming weeks as the possibilities seem nearly endless.
The new yard came with violets… lots and lots of violets. They’re blooming now and even though the yard continues to look like the excavation site of a dead body on a television police procedural…
I’m in heaven.
I have longed to have the space to grow enough violets to make cheerful springtime jellies. A few years ago I set about making this dream real by installing white and purple violet plants into a shady corner of my community garden plot. I began growing them in a large trough on the roof, too. Then we moved here and I inherited a yard of them.
Between all of these locations I should have more than enough to candy, make my jellies, and eat fresh in salads. I like the young leaves, too. Of course, we are currently in the process of digging up the yard, but I’ve been careful to dig around the violets and set each one (barring a few casualties) for replanting. I plan to carefully extract the plants from the grass that is growing around them, and replant them into their own swath along with the three other colour varieties I have collected over the last few years. You think I’m crazy for taking so much care with a plant that spreads like a weed, but I can’t wait for you to see it.
Man, do I ever love having a yard.