Thursday, August 16, 2007

Picky Picker Pickin' Pretty Produce

Monday, paste tomatoes start ripening in quantity.

Yes, that would be me, the picky one. That's what certain family members call me, and I admit it, I am picky. It's not a bad thing, I think. My hubby says that's a good thing that I'm picky because I picked him. I agree. Being picky also drives me seek out the best and also do my best. It's a good thing.

Once you start growing your own veggies, you get even pickier. Yes, it's true, sorry to say it. Subpar just won't do. How can you go back once you taste the crispiest of cucumbers, a truly vine ripened tomato, or crunchy snap beans fresh from your own garden?

It's August, time for picking. Lots of picking. Time to start doing something with all these tomatoes. Last year, I made sauce, lots of sauce, my own homemade roasted tomato sauce. I then canned and processed it. Canned sounds like I put it in tin cans or something. Canning is just the term for preserving food. The sauce was sealed in glass jars and then processed in a steam canner to ensure that it would not spoil. It's really not as hard as it may sound. Is it time consuming? Sure, but then in the winter when we want a quick dinner, I can just pop open a jar and there we have a homemade meal. My my, I sound so domestic. Make no mistake, I see myself as a career girl... who also likes to grow things... and eat them.

This time around, I plan to make sauce again, but also a few other things. Maybe can a few tomatoes straight up, and try my hand at Salsa. I'll let you know what I decide. I'll have to start processing tomatoes this weekend. I've been picking about 15 pounds of tomatoes a day.

Tuesday, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and cucumbers.

Wednesday, I decided I was in the mood for some fresh fingerling potatoes. I dug up some Rose Apple Finn potatoes. As the vines were starting to dry up and die back, I knew they wouldn't produce anymore. Potatoes can be harvested at anytime, but for maximum output, wait for the vines to dry up. I dug these myself, but prefer to do it with hubby. He's more thorough about finding them all. I'll have to wait for him on the next ones. Since fingerlings don't store very well, I've become less shy about harvesting some as the mood strikes. Saturday, we ate a healthy amount roasted on the grill, for dinner. Last night we ate some of these, pan cooked with garlic and thyme. Very tasty and the texture is wonderful.

My snappy beans are producing again. I picked a good amount. I have a second planting of beans that I haven't started harvesting yet. Soon though.

Wednesday, potatoes and a second crop of beans from those first plants.

More tomatoes and the first of my gold zucchini. I planted those zucchini seeds July 7. Three seeds planted and three plants grew. Five weeks later, we have fruits to pick.

Thursday, more tomatoes, a Pickling Cucumber, and two Gold Zucchini.

Well, well, well, what do we have here? I found this nice ripe tomato hanging on the vine with a bite taken from it. It was the only one, so I have to rule out nocturnal critters. If a critter got in there at night, when we are indoors asleep, he would have gone down the line taking bites out of all of the tomatoes. How do I know this? Because that is exactly what happened last year. It was a mess. I don't know how many tomatoes I lost to that critter, but it was a lot. Since there was only one tomato in this condition, I have to think it was a squirrel. They sneak into the garden occasionally. Being diurnal, they have to be quick, strike and get out before someone sees them.

Uh oh, a critter took a bite out of this tomato!

Finding this tomato, makes me more vigilant. I have to pick those tomatoes fast before I lose them to critters. If they are not completely, utterly ripe, I put them on the counter for a few days before using them. Now a home grown tomato is a bit different when it's ripe. I mean deep color and soft flesh, that kind of ripe tomato. Some ask, how do I know when a non-red tomato is ripe? This is a good question because a ripe tomato in my garden may not match the pictures of the seed catalog. Most seed growers are located in warm and sunny places like Florida for example. So called black tomatoes will have a much deeper color in hot climate than it would in Connecticut.

I've learned to feel my tomatoes. When they start to soften, I take them from the vine. Usually, a few days on the counter does the trick and they get even more flavorful with that last bit of ripening. One could leave it on the vine for those extra days, but then you take a chance that your tomato might get tomato-napped by a critter, or a heavy rain could cause it to split, or insect could decide to make it their lunch. So a few days early is okay. As long as it has colored up most of the way, and is starting to soften. Some folks who have really bad insect or critter or cracking problems, will pick their tomatoes as soon as they start to blush. That's too early for my taste. In my opinion, that will never get to be as flavorful as a fully ripened on the vine tomato. However, if it's pick at blush, or lose the tomato completely, I'd just pick it early and call it a day. What you will get is much more vine ripened than what the grocery store labels as vine ripened... trust me.

Now, I've mentioned several times about setting tomatoes on the counter. You will never, ever find a tomato in the refrigerator at my house. Why? Because they don't belong there. The only reason to put a tomato in the refrigerator is if you want it to lose all it's flavor. But then, why would you want that? Exactly my point. No refrigerator! No!

A closer look at Sebring Gold Zucchini. Pretty yellow.

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