Drowning in Tomatoes – Or So We Thought

For the longest time, I’ve been saying that I couldn’t wait until I had enough tomatoes to make my own sauce. I got my wish this year.

Our tomatoes did awesome. We had so many that we couldn’t harvest them fast enough. We had a few plants that never got staked up and just grew along the ground. Even with all that we lost, we still had more than we could imagine. The bucket below isn’t even all of them.

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

We decided to dedicate a Saturday to straining and canning what we thought would be jars and jars of pureed tomatoes.

A while back, C’s grandfather gave us his Squeezo Strainer. The postmark on it said 1987 so you know it’s awesome already. Even though it was used countless times, it still looked brand new. The Squeezo helped us by peeling and pureeing the tomatoes so when we were done, we just had to boil off the excess water.

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

“We’re going to be eating tomatoes in January!” C exclaimed.

Well, not really. We didn’t realize how many tomatoes you needed to have enough to last until January. Once the excess water is boiled off, you end up with about a half of what you started with. In this case, we ended up with 2.5 quarts of pureed tomatoes that can be used to make sauce at some point in the future. Despite all that hard work for just 2.5 jars, I’m happy for the learning experience. We finally got to use our pressure canner, which I’ve avoided touching out of fear that I’d blow up my house.

That's a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

That’s a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

We’ve since tilled our garden, putting all of the plants back into the earth to help feed the soil. It had become so overgrown it wasn’t even manageable. The plants had started to slow production and the risk of getting bit by a snake wasn’t worth climbing through the brush. We still have our aquaponics garden with some really great looking Romas continuing to thrive, so we aren’t at a total loss. Before the summer is over, I’d like to take another crack at canning some more tomatoes for use during the winter, but if it doesn’t happen at least I can say I finally did it.

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Fresh from the Garden: Caprese Salad

Bear with me. I’m attempting to post this from my phone using the WordPress app. Technology is so neat.

Our garden was touch and go for a while. The spring was unseasonably cold and we got a late start planting our seeds. They took a while to germinate and we lost a lot to poor planning, weather and soil. We ended up buying starter plants from a local nursery about two miles away.

The starters from the nursery and ours that survived are doing better than we imagined. Our tomato plants are doing awesome and we finally have enough to make our first batch of sauce next weekend.

Check out this awesome caprese salad I made with our garden tomatoes and basil from our CSA.

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After the Knot

That night we also had baked striped mullet from Locals Seafood and squash fritters made with yellow squash from our CSA.

Sounds good right? It was pretty great.

Are you growing a garden? How’s it going?

CSA Week 7: Fennel, Squash and Chard

Summer has unofficially hit North Carolina and with it came the heat and humidity that I dread all winter.

Sure, I was one of those people bitching and moaning about it being cold, but that doesn’t mean I want to be uncomfortably hot. It’s not even like we get a real break from the cold anyway. My office building is kept at arctic temperatures, which means I have my heater going while the AC is blasting just so I can keep my hands from hurting. It hurts my granola hippy heart to waste energy so needlessly.

The heat also means that leafy greens are starting to wilt or flower and we’re getting fewer of them in our CSA share. In exchange, we’re seeing more summer vegetables like squash and cucumber.

For week 7, we got:

  • cucumber
  • broccoli
  • lettuce
  • turnips
  • chard
  • fennel
  • squash

I was pretty bad with taking pictures this week so I apologize for the lack of mediocre iPhone photography you’ve come to expect from this blog.

We’re still getting quite a bit of lettuce and honestly, I won’t miss it once it’s gone. We’ve been doing a ton of salads and I’m really tired of them. I have this odd quirk where I like salads if they’re made by someone else. Salads I make myself are less than exciting and it’s easy to get sick of them after a couple of days. The turnips and cucumbers, though, have made nice additions to our salads.

 

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

 

I’m trying to add more beans to my diet and I had an idea to make a chick pea and fennel salad for lunch for the week. I’m happy to say that it was a successful experiment. Along with chick peas and fennel, I added green onions, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. The same salad is on tap for this week, but I swapped feta for parmesan cheese.

Another experiment included fried swiss chard stalks. Every Christmas Eve my family makes cardoni. Cardoni, or cardoon as it is known in English, is a bitter perennial that looks like flattened celery. It’s boiled then battered and deep fried, and while it can be a little tough to find, it’s been a Christmas Eve staple for as long as I can remember.

 

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

 

I decided to try and make the swiss chard stalks in much the same way. I boiled them until they were tender, battered them in Italian style breadcrumbs and fried them until golden brown. A bit crunchy and a bit bitter, they came out great. Next time I’ll try baking them to cut back on the oil.

 

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

 

One of my favorite things to do with zucchini is make zucchini patties. I mix shredded zucchini, bread crumbs, one egg, green onion, pressed garlic, and any fresh herbs I have growing outside including basil, sage, and oregano. I scoop out a handful, flatten into a patty and fry until golden brown. I used the same recipe for the yellow squash.

 

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

 

Strawberry season is unfortunately over, but I did get an extra week out of the strawberries from my backyard garden. I’ll miss having them for breakfast each morning. But, peach season is coming soon and I’m sure those will be just as delightful.

 

CSA Week 6: We Got the Beet

csa-week-six-title-image

As the spring quickly turns into summer, we’re getting ready to see the last of our hearty leafy greens.

I’ll miss some more than others. I really enjoy Swiss chard, but I’m kinda meh about kale. I’m still figuring out bok choi, but I think I enjoy it.

CSA Weeks 6 brought us:

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli

Strawberries are also on their way out. Our farm got hit with a fungus and being that it’s an organic farm, they don’t go dousing the fruit with fungicides. It’s part of the risk that comes with being part of a CSA. I will miss having strawberries with my breakfast. When it comes to healthy eating, breakfast is the only meal I seem to get right. I always manage to screw it up with lunch and dinner.

Strawberries, multigrain English muffin with coconut oil and a hardboiled egg with sweet chili sauce. Photo // After the Knot

Strawberries, multigrain English muffin with coconut oil and a hardboiled egg with sweet chili sauce. Photo // After the Knot

Beets are one of those root vegetables that weren’t part of my diet when I was growing up. I’m generally at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them, but I also don’t want to throw them in the garbage.

A quick scan of Pinterest gave me a couple of ideas. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making a root vegetable medley that included both beets and turnips. I also added two sweet onions and a few potatoes. For flavor, I tossed in some sage, oregano and rosemary from my garden.

Photo // After the Knot

Photo // After the Knot

I’m trying to include two vegetable sides with each of our meals. I decided to chance things up a bit and saute the bok choi in butter and lemon juice. I don’t typically use butter, but wanted to try something a little bit different. Admittedly, half a lemon was a bit too much and the flavor was quite overpowering. Next time I’ll a quarter.

Photo // After the Knot

Photo // After the Knot

Both sides were a great complement to the flounder I picked up from Locals Seafood at the State Farmers Market. Flounder is my favorite cooked fish. I like to prepare it by battering it in egg and coating it in breadcrumbs mixed with a generous helping of parmesan cheese.

I toss it in the oven at 350 until it starts to turn golden brown or about 20 minutes. Once I see that it’s browning, I turn the heat off so it continues to get crispy, but doesn’t burn  (I have an electric oven so I’m not exactly sure how that would work with gas).

Photo: After the Knot

Photo // After the Knot

This week it looks like we’re getting some broccoli and cucumbers, which is pretty exciting. Like carrots, cucumbers are a zillion times better fresh from the garden than from the grocery store.

Hopefully, I’ll have my act together this week and I can share some yummy inspiration.

More info about In Good Heart Farm can be found here.

 

Upcycled Tire Planter Project

Some people look at old things and immediately find a new way to repurpose it into something really awesome. I’m generally not one of those people. Like many folks, I have Pinterest to give me those kinds of ideas.

About a year ago, C found a bunch of garden projects that could be done using old car tires. We were in the market for a few new tires so the timing worked out well.

Mechanics will usually charge you a disposal fee when they replace your old tires with new ones. So not only are these old tires free, you’re actually making a little money on them by not paying the disposal fee. We had seven or so tires that were going to see new life as something really awesome.

Unpainted Tires

And then they sat in the yard for a year. There’s nothing that says white trash like a pile of tires sitting in your backyard, next to an empty IBC and the broken skeleton of a greenhouse that was destroyed before it was finished.

The Plan

I decided to use five of the tires to plant flowers in one of the flower beds in our front yard. I would spray paint the tires white and plant pollinator-friendly flowers, like black-eyed Susans and daisies. The three ornamental bushes would be torn out and replanted along the fence in our backyard.

My plan began to spiral downward when I realize that whoever did the landscaping for my house 15 years ago did a really awesome job. It took me 15 minutes of digging to realize that the landscaper had put black netting under the wood chips to keep the weeds at bay. The bushes had grown roots on the top of the netting as well as underneath. Unfortunately, I realized this after I had cut all three bushes down to almost nothing.

After a brief discussion with C, we decided that removing the bushes wasn’t worth the effort. We’d likely need to use a car to rip them out. Truth be told, I really just didn’t care enough to do that.

The Project

Each of the tires got three coats of white all-surface spray paint. C had bought six cans for another project, but he no longer needed them. Feel free to use other fun colors, but I didn’t feel like spending money.

Painted Tires

Now, I would recommend putting down some kind of tarp or covering if you don’t want painted circles on your lawn. The area where I painted is covered in pine needles and leaves, all of which can be raked. If you actually have nice grass, I’d recommend protecting it.

When it came down to tire layout, I didn’t have many options because I had to work around the existing bushes. I have two more remaining tires that can be painted that will hopefully add to the aesthetic. For a little variety I used two large planter pots, but I’m not entirely thrilled with them. I have been moving the pots around trying to find a spot where I’m happy with them.

 

Two more tires should complete the design.

Two more tires should complete the design.

I’m a huge fan of bees and other pollinators so we planted bee-friendly flowers, like black-eyed Susans, echinacea, and Russian sage. We also planted perennials because I’m too lazy to plant flowers every year.

Since this part of the house faces north, it gets minimal sun. The sun that it could get is blocked by my neighbor’s pine trees. I took a chance and despite being flowers that wanted full sun, I planted them anyway.

A week later, they seem to be doing just fine. If their condition changes, we’ll transplant them to another part of the property and start over.

Extra Stuff

 

  • We talked about using edible plants like potatoes, cabbage or herbs, but we were concerned about the rubber leeching into the soil. We opted instead to use the tires for inedible plants.
  • We needed three large bags of soil to fill two tires and two traditional planters.
  • Planters tend to go dry quickly so make sure to provide adequate water.

 

 

Have you done anything fun with tires? Inspired enough to try a project of your own?