Tag Archives: tomato

Harvesting the Garden

The nights are getting cooler, the leaves are starting to turn, and my garden is starting to look a lot more brown than green.

It is time for the fall harvest.

After another two frosty evenings in a row, some plants in the garden are finished for good.

I went out in the garden and harvested all of our tomatoes.

Red – Northern Delight and a few Beefsteak, destined for salsa, bruschetta, and BLT sandwiches (where the “B” stands for Basil - yum!)  I already canned the bulk of them as salsa and stewed tomatoes. 

Green – not even enough to make green tomato mincemeat!  I might try to half (or quarter!) the recipe and at least make a small batch for winter desserts.

I also harvested all of the Mystery Keeper tomatoes, which will keep us in garden-fresh tomatoes for at least the first few months of winter.

The green and yellow beans are finished, but I did manage to have a snack of fresh green peas while I was poking around the garden.  This is my absolute favourite way to eat peas, in fact, they rarely make it into the house (there’s local eating for you!)

Our soldier beans are not quite dry yet (and with the wet season we have had, many have rotted away), but I did collect a small bag of the first of the season.  These will be made into baked beans (Hubby’s favourite!) throughout the winter, as well as substituted for other varieties of beans in burritos, nachos, soups and stews. 

And what would a garden harvest be without a zucchini or two?  We almost missed out on these with our cucumber beetle attack, but one plant survived and I have been able to harvest enough for fresh eating on pizza, in omelettes, and stuffed, and have frozen some of the bigger specimens, pre-grated, ready to keep us in muffins (and more muffins!) for the next few months.   I also discovered a wonderful recipe for zucchini waffles which I made yesterday and loved!  Kind of like a waffle version of zucchini bread.  I added orange juice along with the milk in mine for extra flavour. 

I pulled out the pepper plants which are no longer producing, and harvested jalapenos for salsa and jalapeno cheese sauce.  I like to cut them in half, seed them, and then freeze them for later.

The carrots, squash, lettuce, spinach, chard, and potatoes are still growing nicely.  The onions are curing on our deck, although I must admit I have already started cooking with some of them, I just couldn’t resist!

Most of the herbs are still flourishing, except for the basil which I pulled out by the roots yesterday and incorporated every leaf  into making pesto, which I also freeze for later, some in ice cube trays and some in small glass jars.  I of course saved a few plants to go with the delicious tomatoes all over my counter, but their season is almost done. 

I must admit I have a certain satisfaction in knowing that our freezer and store room are starting to fill up with the food that will take us through the winter.  Food that started as just a tiny seed in the ground only a few months ago.  Growing your own food is a wonderful thing! 

What are you harvesting from your garden?

Planting Your Garden

Did everyone get their planting done?  We have all of our edible garden planted (for the most part) but I still have flower gardens and pots to do.  What a rainy spring we have been having!

Here are some things about garden planting we have learned along the way.

1.  Make a Plan

This is especially helpful for the veggie garden.  By making a plan you can make sure you have room for everything you want to grow, and you can also make room for companion planting.   Did you know that tomatoes and potatoes should never be planted together?  We didn’t, and had diseased plants of both types last year.  This year I used the list in this book extensively when planting both veggies and herbs this year.    There are a few online lists too, like the one found here.  Hubby created a beautiful computer drawing of our garden this year – but in the past we have done this by hand. 

2.  Prepare Your Soil

Nothing worse than planting your garden only to have nothing grow.  Add your organic matter and dig it in.  Check out this post if you missed it.

3.  Give each plant the room it needs.

When planting tiny seeds and little seedlings it is easy to forget how big they will become and plant them close together.  Crowded plants are more likely to become diseased and will often produce a diminished crop.  Follow the guidelines on the seed packet, give your plants room to grow!

4.  Stagger your planting of quick crops (lettuces, peas, beans) so you can harvest all season.

Despite being an avid vegetable gardener, hubby doesn’t actually like eating most vegetables.  When we used to plant all of our seeds all at once, everything would be ready to harvest at the same time, and most of it went to the neighbours or to waste, because I just couldn’t eat it all myself.  Spreading out the seed planting in 2 – 4 week intervals gives me veggies throughout the season, in smaller amounts.  Some day I want to try succession planting, but I don’t think I’ll be ready for it this year!

How to Plant Your Seedlings

1.  Dig a hole slightly bigger and deeper than the soil around your seedling.

2.  Pour water into the hole.

3.  Place your plant in.  If you have leggy tomato plants, bury them right up to the bottom leaves.  If they are really leggy, you can tip them on their side when planting (you’ll have to dig a longer hole.)  This will give you strong roots.   If your plants have a lot of root growth already and especially if they are root-bound (you can see the roots in the soil when you pull it out of the container) break up the roots gently with your fingers before planting. 

4.  Place the soil back around the plant, filling in above the soil they were potted in.  Water again.

5.  Give your new plant some protection from wind and slugs.  We use tin cans and yogurt containers with the bottoms cut out.  These are fairly effective, although sometimes the slugs still get in, and sometimes the wind just blows them away. 

6.  Keep your new seedlings well watered. 

Do you have any gardening planting tips and tricks?  Please leave them in the comments.  Don’t forget you can post your pictures and blog links on our Facebook page!

Happy growing!

Oven-Dried Tomatoes for the Winter

Remember these?

After many cucumber and tomato salads, a batch of salsa, and some bruschetta stuffed zucchini (recipe to come soon) I still had a good harvest to preserve for winter enjoyment. 

Placed on racks, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and oven-dried at 225 for an hour or two, they turn into plump little drops of sunshine to be enjoyed when the snow is thick, the temperatures frigid, and summer seems a long way off. 

Ready for the freezer….

One of you inquired about my gathering basket holding the tomatoes.  It is actually a humble grocery store produce basket that held the peaches I bought in the summertime.  It does make a good gathering basket though, and easy to wash the tomatoes right in the basket.  Practical, recyclable and frugal. 

I love having food tucked away for the winter, don’t you?

Spicy Tomato Chicken Soup

This soup recipe is a favourite around here.  My friend Crystal introduced me to this recipe at our food party last year.  And I will be forever grateful.

I love it because it is a healthy, yummy, recipe that can be made on a week-night in less than 30 minutes, freezes well, and is also a great way to incorporate leftover roast chicken (see the variation)

Hubby loves it because it tastes good.  And it’s got meat in it.  A definite plus for the husband of a former vegetarian. 

 Oh…and it looks pretty too!  Nothing like whipping up a quick meal that looks like it would be at home in an upscale restaurant.   (At least I think it would…..I can’t remember the last time I was actually IN an upscale restaurant…..)

Spicy Tomato Chicken Soup

  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 – 3 chicken breasts cut in very small pieces
  • Toppings: feta, avocado, pita chips, cilantro (all, some, or none, your choice!)

Saute the onions in the oil for about 2 minutes, then stir in garlic.  Add the tomatoes and the paste and use a potato masher or side of your wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes. 

Bring the mixture to a boil and add the herbs, spices, stock and chicken.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle on the toppings of your choice.

To make Pita Chips:  Cut the pita into slices or triangles and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for 7 – 10 minutes, or until crispy. 

Variations:

  • Instead of using chicken breast add leftover roast chicken (both light and dark meat work fine) and cook until the chicken is heated through. 
  • I have used canned diced tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes in a pinch (the whole tomatoes or better, but this is still good)
  • For a more hearty soup you can add cooked rice (I have not personally tried this variation yet but I trust Crystal’s reccomendations!)

What are your favourite quick-but-healthy week-night meals?

Guacamole (for Breakfast)

I am sitting here eating guacamole for breakfast.  Untraditional, I know, but  it was sitting in the fridge, calling my name, and I do love my guacamole.

Especially this recipe.

Before this recipe I thought all guacamole was smooth, pureed-looking stuff made with dried spices and made creamier with the addition of sour-cream and yogurt.

And then I went to a work-related party that changed my perceptions of guacamole forever.

One of my coworkers had made a guacamole that was filled with chunks of fresh tomatoes and avocados, seasoned with cilantro, lime ,and a hint of garlic.   It received rave reviews from everyone and was quickly devoured.

We all asked for the recipe.

It is so easy and so good, that this is now the only way that I make guacamole.   And now I am sharing it with you (don’t you feel lucky?)

Here is what you need to begin:

An avocado (ripe, but not too soft), a lime, fresh cilantro, half a large tomato or a whole small one, and a clove of garlic.

Begin by cutting your avocado in half and removing the pit.

Then slice your avocado lengthwise and widthwise to create a checkerboard-type pattern.  Be careful not to cut through the skin!

Turn your avocado over a bowl and push through the skin (almost as if you were turning it inside-out) to pop out your chopped avocado.

Repeat with the other half.

Use your knife in the bowl to further chop some of the larger pieces.  (you could also scoop your avocado out of its skin and chop as you would anything else, but this way is much neater and faster.)

You will now have lot of yummy avocado chunks in your bowl.  

 Next, take your garlic clove and peel off the skin.  An easy way to do this is to lay your clove on your cutting board and place the side of your knife over top.   Hit the knife with the heel of your hand.  (If you hit too hard you’ll crush the garlic, but that’s not really a problem since you will be chopping it all up anyway so go ahead and work out some of your frustrations – satisfying, isn’t it?)

Now the skin will easily slip off.  Chop the garlic finely and place in the bowl with the avacado.

Mmmm…don’t you just love the smell of freshly-chopped garlic?

Now dice your tomato and throw that into the bowl too.

Do the same with the cilantro.  You can also use scissors and snip it in, but I prefer to chop. 

Now it’s time to fork a lime!  If you have a reamer, you could use that too, but I like using a fork (mostly because it’s fun to say…..what are you doing right now?  Oh…I’m forking a lime!)

Cut your lime in half and hold a half over the bowl.  Insert the fork and twist it back and forth to release all of the juice.

If you really like lime, you can use the whole thing, but it can make your guacamole a little watery so you might want to try half and then see what you think.

Season with salt and pepper.  If you like, you can even use a dash of Worcestershire sauce (I don’t do this, but the original recipe calls for it.)

Mix it all together and you’re ready to eat!

If you want to store this in the fridge for a while before eating, then mix everything together and add the lime juice last and then don’t mix it in.  This will stop the top pieces of avocado from going brown.  Give it a stir when you take it out of the fridge and you’ll be ready to go. 

I used a whole lime in mine two days ago and it was still a beautiful green when I pulled it out of the fridge for breakfast this morning.

If you like things spicy you could try adding some cayenne or chilli flakes, or maybe even a few drops of hot sauce?

And guacamole is not just a breakfast food! (shocking, I know)  I serve it with quesadillas, fajitas, nachos, burritos, or just by itself with tortilla chips or baked pita triangles. 

Enjoy!

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