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.
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.
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.
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!