Lasts and a Tomato Sauce Tip
The view from the kitchen window has changed! Of course, now there won’t be a tanned, shirtless guy hanging out there since the last piece of tin was installed just before the rain Saturday night. Thank Heavens for that, it was getting a little hairy to watch from my safe vantage point at the tomato roasting headquarters. The weather vane was taken down and reinstalled, and it was weird to hold it in my hands. It was a gift from my hubby before he was my hubby and I look at it as a weather consultant each day. A weather sentinel with sentiments attached. I held it while new holes were drilled for the new mounting, and it was such a strange feeling; I always am looking up at it, and as I held the weather vane fast in my hands while it had its turn at the drill press (the inanimate object’s version of a dentist, I imagine), I found myself wondering if the new mounting would quiet the familiar whine and whisper during a wind storm, or if it would go back to its perch with its voice still attached. Sigh, winters coming, and soon we’ll know.
I’m harvesting the last tomatoes too. Thank heavens for that. Bar none, this has been the longest tomato season for this farm ever. I’ve been processing tomatoes since mid August, which means in garden speak, that I had too many to eat fresh. That’s a record for me as a gardener, despite having a greenhouse for my tomatoes.
I like to save my sauce making for last with these Bellstars for a couple of reasons. One, they tend to ripen in a couple of settings for processing, I like that, and it gives me a breather. Two, at this point in September they have not been watered since the first week of August (farming is about taming nature a bit and a greenhouse lets me do that to some degree) so the tomatoes I am processing now have a higher ratio of solids to liquid. Nice. So high in solids they are, that I am skipping my crock pot reduction part of the equation for this sauce. I have added a little step though, because I still have a little extra liquid to deal with. After each batch is removed from the oven, I am skimming the liquid off and adding it to the next pan. Sort of like tomato fond in a round about way, adding this liquid to the next pan deglazes it a bit and reduces and concentrates the flavors of the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. It makes for a kick ass flavored tomato sauce let me tell you.
The light is truly at the end of the tunnel for the tomatoes, as they give up the ghost, I have started ripping them in anticipation of prepping the greenhouse for its winter rest. I have to report that if you have to grow one sauce/paste tomato and you live in a cool climate and don’t like a fussy tomato, you should try Bellstar. The only con is that it produces too much! If you could consider that a con. In the pro column, it is a determinate so it doesn’t need staking or pruning; its open pollinated so you can save seeds; it doesn’t crack, ever; the sauce is so red you can’t believe it, and did I say it’s prolific? I grew mine this year on the dark green mulch, instead of the traditional straw mulch I had always used before. I can’t say that it made the tomatoes grow better or ripen sooner, but the biggest advantage was that I had zero waste to slugs or rotting tomatoes despite not getting them picked on time, every single time. The mulch created an environment that the garter snakes LOVE and the slugs hate, so no nibbled tomatoes equaled no rot whatsoever. That’s huge in my garden book.
Finally while fresh tomatoes are what we wait for all winter, the section on tomatoes in Jo Robinson’s latest book, Eating on the Wild Side, quickly spells out how the most nutritious tomatoes are in the canned food aisle at the grocery store. Cooking makes the lycopene and other nutrients in tomatoes more bioavailable for us, and processing tomatoes are always picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly processed. Such a different practice than how tomatoes are harvested for the fresh market. I liked reading the part about the more tomatoes are cooked the better they are for you, since I have been cooking the devil out of these tomatoes to reduce them to a saucy paste-like consistency. I’m still not finished with Jo’s book, yet so I will write a proper review when I am completely done, but if you don’t want to wait, I would recommend buying this book, it’s one you will refer to again and again when you are planning your garden.