Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I say Tomato...

We have had a hard time trying to grow tomatoes this year. We originally started with at least 10 different varieties this Spring, including Beefsteak tomatoes, Coeur de Boeuf from France, Black Krim, Tommy Toe, Indian Moon, Prescott heirlooms, etc. Unfortunately many of the seeds did not germinate in the greenhouse, others did not survive the transplant process, and many others developed some weird fungus or got eaten by weird bugs.

At any rate, I did not think this was going to be the 'year of the tomato' at Antigua Farms. Luckily, even with over 50 plants dying, we are now getting loads of tomatoes in from the garden. I've made ratatouille, soup, ketchup, marinara sauce, casseroles, salsa, and salads. And now my family is officially tomatoed out.

Mini mini cherry tomatoes

There have actually been so many tomatoes that I've had to think of ways to process and store them. So here are some pros and cons from my tomato storage wars:

1. Canning
Pros: No energy used to store. Long shelf life. Ready to eat out of the jar. Cons: Time-consuming. And do not look up botulism on the internet...

2. Freezing
Pros: Whole tomatoes, soup, sauce; it can all get dumped in the freezer.
Cons: Freezer burn, defrosting takes time, lots of wasted electricity.

3. Drying
Pros: Quick and easy to do. Versatile. Takes up very little storage space.
Cons: Can get moldy if not stored properly.

Sundried tomatoes are a winner!

Verdict is in: if you have too many tomatoes, just make your own sundried ones! You can invest in a dehydrator ($30-$50), you can dry tomatoes in your oven but that means your oven is on all day, or you can do it the super easy way.

Just slice your tomatoes lengthwise (Romas seem to work best) and remove the seeds. Place them directly on a baking sheet. Park your car in the sun and let the tomatoes sit on the dashboard  for a day or two and voila!

Make sure you store them in a dry place and check that the leftover moisture from the tomatoes, if any, does not get trapped in the bag or jar. You can also sprinkle the tomatoes with salt, herbs, or dunk them in vinegar before letting them dry out. Sundried tomatoes are really sweet and can go in everything; salads, omelettes, pizza, casseroles, etc.

New projects for next year?!!

Square tomatoes for better shipping and storage*

Bioengineered, anti-aging, purple tomatoes**

GMO tomatoes with mutated fish genes***
 *  http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/11618

** http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/126892.php

*** http://www.amazon.com/Pandoras-Picnic-Basket-Potential-Genetically/dp/0198506740

Monday, September 17, 2012

Carrottes Rigolotes

The Great Carrot Expedition of 2012
The best part of having a garden is finding cool and unusual veggies. We are so used to having all our produce always looking the same way, it's fun and refreshing to find some funky vegetables!

Carrots have been particularly exciting, especially for our kids, who go carrot hunting. They love the surprise-factor of grabing a bunch of greens and seeing what pops out. They love them so much, they eat them JUST after picking them, still covered in dirt!

We've had an insane amount of tomatoes (more on that later) and have had to come up with a lot of different ways of preparing and storing them. Well we've also gotten a ton of carrots, and I thought we'd have to start pickling them, which frankly does not sound that appetizing. But so far, we just eat them as we pick them.

In my opinion, there is no better way to enjoy a carrot than to just steam it and eat it with a little butter and salt (or you can ask my kids for their "carrots and dirt" recipe). Here are some of the cool and unusual carrots we've gotten lately:

Rainbow carrots

Hogwarts carrot

Jayma's 'Rabbit' carrot

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Canning extravaganza

Holy crap, this last week was pretty insane. It started off quite innocently enough:

"Hmm I have a few extra tomatoes, I should make some spaghetti sauce and freeze it. Maybe I'll run over to the farm real quick and grab a few green onions."

Rewind a few days...

This last week of monsoons really boosted our summer harvest, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, and chiles are growing like weeds. So I spent most of Friday morning picking veggies and came home with probably about 50lbs of veggies.

On the way back from picking up my son, we drove by a house that had several trees loaded with pears and apples. "What the heck, let's go knock on their door." It turns out the owner can't eat them because of sugar issues; so an hour later we left with about 100 lbs of fruit.

"I'm pretty sure this won't all fit in my freezer." So... I went to the store and got about 100 Mason jars and spent the weekend dicing, pearing, and cooking various dishes.
The final result? 4 bags of frozen, chopped-up fruit, 5 jars of frozen basil pesto, 8 tupperware of frozen Greek eggplant/tomato dish, 6 jars of jam, 10 jars of jalapeno jelly, 6 jars of applesauce, 1 bag of dried rosemary, 1 bag of dried basil, 1 jar of dried red chiles, 10 jars of pear compote, 16 jars of apple and pear butter, and 20 jars of spaghetti sauce.

Tomatillos and jalapenos

Salsa verde and spaghetti sauce

Jalapeno jelly

Canning yellow tomato sauce

Final product

And two days later I thought, "Hmm let me go see how things are going at the farm..."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Men at Work

OK, so credit needs to be given where credit is due. And it's overdue. A big shoutout to all the strong gardeners who have helped and worked so hard these last few months at Antigua farms!

Although I like to discuss the progress of this gardening endeavor via my cute little blog, I think it's only fair that the people actually doing 99% of the work should be acknowledged!

So here we go with the acceptance speech; the 2012 Garden Awards go to...

Jim and lots of little jalapenos

Jim! It's all his fault really, he saw the opportunity and investment in buying the land, fixing up the old house and turning a giant mass of weeds into a gardenHe's worked long and hard to build fences, gates, a greenhouse, and a shed; mend beds, turn the soil, weed, compost, sow seeds, and water the plants! The garden would not exist if it weren't for him.

Thomas in the cornfield

From left to right; Hercules, Caitlin, and Booty

Thanks to Thomas and Caitlin, the kickass duo that comes everyday to feed and milk the goats, and take care of all 50 chickens, that walk our equine friend Hercules, and who both work at several other gardens too! Thank you to Ted, who helped fix fences and build the greenhouse. And Frank who comes daily to share his knowledge and grow food. Thanks to Sean who spent all spring and summer watering, seeding, and weeding. And many thanks to all the volunteers who have come these last few months to help plant seeds, transplant our starts, and water the growing beds. You guys all rock!

Frank and many volunteers at our garden party in March