Rushed Harvest

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Ripe tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and a jalapeno getting a mild wash.

Tomato season is well underway in my garden. We have a short growing season here, so I’m always relieved if the tomatoes start coming in before the first frost. A couple of weeks ago, I pulled my first harvest, and I searched for ways to preserve them.

Tomatoes getting ready for the big squeeze
Tomatoes in the hopper

Last year, I froze them whole. I had purchased tomatoes that way once from a farm stand, so I thought I would try that. I just tossed them in the cooking soup and let them cook. I discovered last winter that if I’m making something besides soup, or I want to cut up the tomatoes or tomatillos before adding them, it all got gross. When I thawed them, they released a considerable amount of water, making an unappetizing mess.

food strainer
Here’s the crank-powered food strainer in action. Juice comes out the front while the skins and seeds exit the cone on the left and drop into the bowl below.

This year, I made tomato sauce. I used a food strainer, which is a cranked device that takes away the skin and seeds so that the juice and pulp run free. My first harvest this year yielded 5 quarts of tomato sauce! I put it all in the freezer to enjoy this winter.

Then last week, the forecast called for a hard freeze and snow, which is unusual for us in September. Just like last year, I was outside harvesting vegetables as the front rolled in. I pulled every jalapeno and tomato I could find. I gathered most of the tomatillos, but they have a much longer growing cycle, and I left the small ones on the plant. They were too small to be much more than husks.

The green tomatoes are on the windowsill, next to Gracie’s favorite spot, to ripen. I cooked with some of the tomatoes and tomatillos; Sugar, our cockatoo, started eating the jalapenos. As I look over the tomatoes I just took in, I think that I will quarter them and freeze them that way, so I have a variety of preparations in the freezer so that I have some choices, depending on what I’m making. That way, I can toss them in a sauce, soup, or stew, and they can thaw while cooking. I will probably do the same with my tomatillos.

I’m afraid to can anything as I have no experience, and I’m afraid I’d kill my husband and me with botulism or something. My mother-in-law is great at canning, and she could coach me on this, but she’s too far away and has her hands full. So, freezing is my preferred method for now.

These sweet little yellow tomatoes are my husband’s favorite. Our cockatoo likes them too, so this bowl emptied quickly!

We did have the predicted freeze and snow earlier in the week. The ground was warm following weeks of 90-degree (F) weather, so the snow melted quickly. It looks like the jalapeno plants are not going to bounce back. I don’t think the tomato plants will either, but I can’t tell. They aren’t brown yet, so there is hope. Surprisingly, the tomatillos seem to be no worse for the wear. When next year’s wacky weather event comes, I can probably leave them on the vine. As it is, there is enough time for the blossoms and tiny tomatillos to mature before our next winter storm, knock on wood. After an early spring freeze killed all hopes of peaches, apricots, and apples, I’m happy that some corner of my garden isn’t scared of a little snow!

If anyone has any advice for perpetuating the garden’s bounty for use in the winter, please let me know in the comments!

Yum!

26 comments

  1. What a wonderful harvest and so many chillis. I love the pear shape yellow tomatoes. I love growing cherry tomatoes lovely to snack on. I am dreaming of the summer days when I can harvest my home grown tomatoes.

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  2. What an awesome haul! I’ll be doing that when I get home from my shop tonight, we are expecting our first frosts over the next 3 nights.
    I’m afraid of canning too, I also fear I’d kill us! But also, it just seems like way more work than freezing! I freeze the tomatoes whole, just removing the stems, it works for me since mostly I just use them to make sauce when they come out.

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    1. I still have some in the freezer to use in soups. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one afraid of canning. Good luck bringing your vegetables in. It’s not like you don’t have enough to do!

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  3. Yellow PEAR tomatoes!?!?! WOW! I’ve never heard of these before Monika! They are lovely looking. What are tomatillos?? I have serious food allergies to Tomatoes & all Citric Fruits so am not well versed in Tomatoes at all…
    I think your ‘crop’ is very abundant! You have a totally GREEN(yellow) thumb, lol….
    ((hugs)) Sherri-Ellen & **purrss** BellaDharma

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    1. I won’t tell you how many things have died on me rather than go the distance. I’m not a good gardner , which is why I’m so excited that these did well. Tomatillos are used in Mexican cooking and are used in green salsas, soup, etc. They have a great flavor.

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  4. A wonderful harvest! We’ve been getting toms all summer and for once didn’t suffer a glut. In fact, it’s a shame as we haven’t got any in the freezer this year. Good luck with ripening and saving in any fashion you can.

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  5. Don’t be afraid to try your hand at canning. I did that in my early 20’s. Go to your local hardware store and they will fix you up with a hot bath canner plus the jars and lids you’ll need. Google it – it’s really easy.
    As for ripening the tomatoes, put them in a brown paper bag. Looks like you’ll need some big bags! You have a beautiful crop.

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          1. My basil didn’t thrive as well this year – in the shade of the taller plants around it. But it also didn’t bolt to seed. Unfortunately, there just isn’t any shade on the garden, despite all of our trees. A few died the past couple of years, at the end of their natural life span. Our new trees are placed in different places, so there might be a little garden shade in a few years. Just enough to filter the searing sunlight. I’m glad that you are finding success with them!

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    1. Before I planted this year, I added worm castings to the soil, which the plants like. Sunshine isn’t an issue, but i have to water them religiously or they burn up. I’m not sure what the secret to my success is, as I’m not much of a gardener, but I’m ready to enjoy what I get!

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  6. I pulled my tomato plants last week. They had started to ripen in early July so had a good run. I find that the later tomatoes don’t last as long as they do earlier in the summer and I don’t like to wait until it’s freezing cold to clean up the garden. I have roasted tomatoes and frozen them. They get a bit mushy but I will chop up and throw in a salad or on pizza anyway. They taste wonderful.

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