Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In which I give away the secret to growing tasty sweet tomatoes...

In the spring I planted 40 square feet of vegetables in out back acre. We have been swimming in tomatoes, squash, white corn, watermelon and onions. Still there are little watermelons on the vines (which may never amount to much now the cold seems set) the pumpkins are ripe and hardening on the vine, and our butter nut squash have my mouth watering just looking at them all smooth and skin-peach colored


The problem is the TOMATOES.
Not a problem perhaps just so many.  I had planted a lot with the intention of canning and using them for sauces. Three weeks ago I spent hours and hours processing a big pail of them only to finally get out at the end about three cups of tomato for canning. It was so disheartening. 

When I talked with friends about it they kept telling me: don't skin them just throw them in the sauce and puree the skins down.  Well... I have found that too is a faulty plan  for a couple of reasons:

1: My Uncle Tom who is the most wise and thoughtful person I know on this planet has been growing tomatoes as a farmer for over half a century and has a reputation both locally and further afield for raising the most delicious and sweet tomatoes.  His advice is to water starve your tomatoes if you want them sweet.  Our tomatoes are exceptionally sweet because I followed Uncle Tom's advice and hardly ever water them. They look like they are dying (they aren't- tomatoes are like weeds) but we have mountains of gorgeous red sweet tomatoes with  firm skins (another sign of water stressed tomatoes). 
2: Salt or sugar in sauces causes tomato skins to harden and become little strips of tomato leather over the heating time. Not nice. And salt or sugar are kinda necessary for preserving food. That's why your tin tomatoes always come skinned.

So thoroughly disheartened and  now completely incapable of standing for several hours let alone canning anything I spoke to my Auntie (Uncle Tom's wife) about what she does with theirs and she (being very practical) said:

 "I just bag them and throw them in the freezer we pull them out and wizz them into soup all winter long!"


So that's what I did. We pulled a bag out the other day for M. to make curry with and...  Voila! It works beautifully. The skins are "wizzable" or  (because I am removing the stalk before bagging) you can squeeze the tomato out of it's skin after defrosting which is MUCH faster than peeling them fresh. It also has the added benefit that if you need something thicker than a tomato puree you can strain the defrosted skinned tomatoes and a huge amount of their water gets separated leaving behind a much thicker paste great for ragu.

So here are my trade secrets:
Water starve your tomatoes- only water them when they start to wilt. (Also works with Watermelon BTW- stop watering them for a week before harvest and they will be super super sweet).
And freeze the blighters!

xx Jo