"Oh my, all those tomatoes" Part 1

You believe that you are raising too many tomato plants.  You even fear, a la Garrison Keillor, you'll resort to leaving anonymous bags of fruit in people's unlocked cars.  I have many suggestions for this non-predicament, and will start sharing them throughout the season.

Suggestion 1 - Fresh tomatoes in winter  All that green fruit remaining on your vines when the weather turns cold can still be ripened -- inside your house!  They won't taste like those that develop in-season on the vine.  But they will be better and cheaper than anything you buy after Thanksgiving.  Here are several nice 'n lazy methods (my preferred style) for ripening tomatoes at home.

Tomatoes ripening, Nov. 2011
a.  Put up to 2 layers of unripened tomatoes in a cardboard box with crumpled newspaper.  Leave the box in a dark, dry place (like the back of your closet).  Check weekly to see which are ready to eat; remove any that have gone bad.

b. If you have counter space, set them out in a bowl.  No need to put them in the sun.

c. Put the green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe apple and check daily.  Apples are efficient emitters of ethylene gas which accelerates ripening.

Suggestion 2 - Ketchup  One of the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen is a lust for potatoes (especially fries...duh) with ketchup.  But the bottled red stuff is insipid compared to what you can make. I never write anything down, so I borrowed a close-enough recipe from Susy Morris' beautiful blog about organic gardening in Ohio.

Regular ol' Tomato Ketchup (but better)

1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods (crushed) - Susy used 1/2 t. ground cardamom
1 star anise
10 black pepper corns
28 oz. whole tomatoes - Susy roasts hers; I don't bother
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 T olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar - I use about 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup organic white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hungarian paprika - Susy and I use smoked paprika, i.e., pimenton
freshly ground black pepper

1. Using a piece of cheesecloth or empty tea bag, tie the cinnamon, bay, cloves, anise, and peppercorns into a bundle.  Set aside.
2. Put tomatoes into a food processor or blender (or put roasted tomatoes thru food mill).  Puree till totally smooth, and set aside all but 1/4 cup.  To the 1/4 cup, add the onion and puree together.
3. In a large dutch oven (this will splatter so use a large tall pot), heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion puree and salt and stir well.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, letting the puree reduce and lightly brown.  Add the tomato puree, maple syrup, vinegar, and spice bundle, turn heat to low simmer and reduce for about 20-25 minutes uncovered, with an occasional stir (cooking time is reduced if using roasted tomatoes).  When it's done reducing, it should be a bit less thick than commercial ketchup.  Stir in paprika; season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Let ketchup cool and remove spice bundle.  Pour into a jar and chill overnight, or at least 6 hours.  Will store in fridge for up to 2 months (if i feel it is in danger of passing that time frame, I freeze some).

----- Arti

Tomatoes coming out of my ears

What if nature's exuberance results in a bumper crop (scroll down on Word Detective for unexpected derivation of this term)? Here are some options to extend the pleasure of growing:

1. Canning - The Seattle Farmer's Market has simple canning instructions, even though you are actually bottling them (go find the derivation on that for extra credit).
2. Freezing - The Ag Dept. in North Dakota, a state known for cold temps, published useful directions. It includes some lovely recipes for salsa and sauce which we know can also be successfully frozen.
3. Sun-drying - In California, we can easily use Renee's Garden's instructions, but there are options for those in moister, cooler climates too.
4. Donating - In the Concord area, Anna Chan is an urban saint who gleans from yards -- with owner permission -- by her OWN HANDS. See her blog, The Lemon Lady. If you are out of the area, your local food bank or church will likely be thrilled to get your surplus produce. In fact, we are donating a couple dozen of our plants to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano. They are going to grow some directly for their clients. Makes ya feel real good...