O ripe tomato, fat and fine
You hang there ripening, on the vine
Until we pick you!
It’s that time of year when we have grown tired of the garden. It’s time to change our habits as we move into fall, and to stop having to figure out what to do with the produce. We Kansans have especially enjoyed a prolific season of tomato-mania. The growing season is long in this area. In some northern states, the gardener plants 30 or 40 tomato plants because the growing season is very short. I grew up in an area like this. One never knew when it would freeze, then warm up again. Poor gardener!
How many ways can one enjoy tomatoes? Let me count the ways!
In Great Britain, they halve them and broil them to serve at breakfast. In Austin, Texas, “Migas,” the breakfast of crispy tortillas, chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers and eggs are a favorite. And in the south, fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese are the basis for many recipes. And don’t forget, tomato bisque, salads, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, Italian lasagna, and Mexican fare.
Fred, the gardener, continued to deposit garden produce in our kitchen sink all summer. He’s proud, like the cat who brings the dead mouse to the back steps so that we can admire her good work. He brought okra, onions, potatoes, green peppers and scads of tomatoes. I decided early that I had better get busy. We gave much of it away. But, I realized I better get to work.
We own an old, large pressure cooker. Many cooks fear canning and cooking with a pressure cooker. But, I have found that the pressure cooker is a time saver. It is efficient and gets the canning done much faster. It won’t blow up. It seals tight and is very safe.
I canned the tomatoes in quart jars. After canning about 8 quarts, I thought (foolish me) “There that’s all I am doing.” ... I decided I was done, and then a whole bunch of tomatoes would ripen and attack me. I rationalized, “We can use the canned tomatoes for stews, soups, and spaghetti sauce.”
I have canned about 24 jars of tomatoes. That’s a big accomplishment for me!
Fred concocts a mean salsa, and I jarred it and canned it. He stood at the counter, chopping and plunking the ingredients into the food processer: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, hot peppers, salt, garlic. Adding more garlic salt, and more hot peppers, he tastes over and over, until it’s just right.
Hey, salsa gets rid of a lot of tomatoes!
Greta says she freezes her tomatoes. She whips them up in the blender, and pours the sauce into freezer bags, and/or vacuum bags. When I freeze the tomato puree, I fill the freezer bag and lay it flat on a cookie sheet, about 4 bags to a sheet. The bags freeze flat and then they stack flat or on edge like a bookshelf. But, for me, I prefer the canning method.
If I freeze tomatoes, I throw them out in the spring.
Tilly makes some tasty meals with tomatoes. She quarters the skinned tomatoes, adds larger green pepper chunks, onions, heaping spoons of garlic, and raw hamburger. She says she just dumps it all in the kettle. Her “grammy” always added zucchini slices too, if available. Chester gobbles it up. She sometimes makes rice and spoons the mixture over the rice. Sounds delicious to me. I would add grated cheese to the dish.
I generally think of ways to add calories to my dishes.
Tilly added that people bring garden produce by her house, ring the doorbell, and leave. It’s sort of like “trick or treat” in reverse!
Tomatoes are the King of vegetables (and yes, I know they are really a fruit. Ha. Caught you!). They certainly will be missed, especially when they show up in the grocery stores, overpriced and under-flavored!
But, I am glad (more like ecstatic!) that it’s fall and this labor is almost over! There are some great movies I want to watch!
A Woman’s View” is Judi Tabler’s reflection of her experiences and events. She is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, grandmother, and even a great grandmother. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.