Tomato overload

I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since my last blog!  This August has been quite cool for Los Angeles.  David makes fun of me because I put on a sweatshirt in the evenings, complaining of the chill in the air, and I’m the one who’s lived in Minnesota and Maine before. Don’t tell anyone, but I think living in LA has made me a wimp about the weather.

The past three weeks have also been spent at a conference and professional development for school.  My teacher brain has been taking in copious amounts of information during the day, and my evenings have been spent either in the garden or kitchen.  Blogging has fallen by the wayside.

This coming Monday I have parent conferences with some of my students, and the kiddos arrive on Tuesday!  So, this weekend we plan to take care of the over abundance of produce that has been accumulating on our counters.  We have been eating a lot from the garden.  We’ve had zucchini roulades, roasted eggplant, zucchini soup, red kuri coconut curry soup, caprese salad and more.  Last weekend we had friends over and set up a table in the middle of the garden.  We’ll do that again, and I’ll make sure to take pictures next time!

Since I’ve been at school during the past few weeks, I’ve been harvesting food from our fruit trees and school gardens.  David stopped by campus to help out, and we picked figs from three different trees.

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We’re so excited about having fig jam!  We halved 3.5lbs of figs and cooked them down with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and water (we followed the recipe from Put ‘Em Up).

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Canning things as delicious as fig jam present an interesting dilemma- we want to crack the jars open and eat it now, but we’ve spent time canning it so we can eat it later.  We did have a small amount that wouldn’t fit in the jars that we were able to eat right away (with goat cheese and walnuts).  I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to resist this jam.  I’m not sure we’ll need to resist for that long, because I just found out about a fig tree in my community garden that is in need of harvesting!

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I found this pumpkin ready to take home at school.  The vine was dead and it was laying in the aisle.  There’s a second one, which I plan to bring into my classroom.  This one will become pumpkin puree. Pamela, from Brooklyn Farm Girl, got me thinking about how great pumpkin puree would be to have in our freezer.  Our baby Casper pumpkin plant is just starting to branch out, so hopefully we’ll have more coming!

Last night I went through our tomatoes, picked out recipes and started prepping them for the recipes.  I devised this new strategy this past week: one day find recipes and clean, core, cut, weigh tomatoes and put in bags for the next day where we cook and can.  It’s been working well so far.

In addition to harvesting from our yard and school, our neighbor has been out of town for two weeks and we’ve been watching his cat and caring for his garden.

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His early crop of tomatoes is finishing up, but his yellow and oxheart tomatoes are just starting.  He also has syrah grapes, which we nibbled on and planned to pickle but ended up composting. The bowls above are from the first week’s harvest.  We’ve filled another couple of bowls since then.

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David made ketchup and orange tomato jam with smoked paprika this week.  I asked him to take pictures, but that’s not his style.  But you can see how there are lots of jars!

Today I am using more yellow/orange tomatoes to make yellow tomato basil jam.  They are currently macerating in the kitchen and it’s just about time to head outside to pick basil.

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The food looks so beautiful while it’s being prepared.  Add a little bit of water, and everything looks better!

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The San Marzanos here are getting prepped for coring then fire-roasting.  I’ve been wanting to make a fire roasted salsa all summer, but these will become fire-roasted canned tomatoes instead.  We already have plenty of salsa in jars, but very few whole tomatoes. Fire-roasted whole tomatoes should come in handy.  I’ll have to inventory our cans, as this is our first year of doing this so it’s a guessing game as to how much we’ll really use during the year.

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These Isis Candy cherry tomatoes will soon be a balsamic cherry tomato caramelized onion conserve. The recipe looks like a winner! We’re always looking for more ways to preserve cherry tomatoes.

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After prepping for canning this weekend, we determined that we had 12.5lbs of tomatoes that will be going to our produce exchange this weekend!  This is first experience with a produce exchange and it’s coming at a perfect time.

We’ve already canned whole tomatoes, two batches of tomato sauce, three different salsas, tomato jam and ketchup.  We also have dehydrated and roasted tomatoes in the freezer and will be canning roasted tomatoes, tomato jam and tomato conserve this weekend.

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Rosie is great at keeping us company, but she seems to prefer when we’re in the garden as opposed to the kitchen.  Every so often we’ll toss her ball out the kitchen door to keep her retriever genes happy.

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As a final picture, we recently spotted one of our praying mantis friends!  I’m pretty certain that the brown coloration means this is a male.  We’ve yet to spot a female, but he should be able to find one.  And hopefully mate.  Then hopefully avoid getting decapitated.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Tomato overload

  1. Wow, that’s a lot of produce! I love the recipes you shared, and will be trying some of the tomato ones since my plants are exploding. I am not experienced in making jams or preserving at all, so your post came at a perfect time and has given me a bit of a confidence boost.

    • Canning is a lot more intimidating in theory than practice! Just keep everything clean and follow the recipes. Last year we did a little without proper tools, and this year we are doing tons and are thankful for the tools! Good luck!!

  2. Hi Sam! Glad to meet you and to get a view of what gardening in L.A. looks like. Oh, to have tomato overload would be a sweet thing. We scrip and scrap just to get a couple a week, so I am green with envy. But I’m glad to see you’ve got a boon of yellow tomatoes; I have a bunch of Yellow Kellogs moving and grooving right now, but haven’t grown or eaten them before. What variety are yours?

    • Welcome Valerie! We’ve been very lucky to have lots of tomatoes recently, mostly from our neighbor and school plants. I’m not sure what kind he’s growing (I plan to ask this week). We’ve loved our Jaune Flamme orange ones, although they exploded in the beginning and then took a break for a month. I’ve heard great things about Yellow Kellogs; I bet they’re tasty!

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