Tag Archives: garden

Easy, luxurious tomato sauce – good on pizza.

backyard botanics – Thomas’ beautiful cherry tomatoes from last year’s summer garden

Last year at the end of April we invited our friends Thomas and Lisa Mikkelsen for dinner. They arrived with a bottle of wine and a four pack of seedlings that Thomas had grown.

I had some tomatoes of my own started, heirloom brandywine (I know, very snobby) but Thomas’ were different – more robust looking – so I added them to the garden.

By August I had gigantic non-determinate cherry tomato plants overtaking the entire north end of the garden. I had cherry tomatoes coming out of my ears. Jon was saying “more tomatoes? really? when will they stop? what will we do with all these tomatoes?” Mind you, four plants. (Thank you Thomas.)

We were getting the brandywine tomatoes, too, which I was in a battle to harvest ahead of the rabbits getting them. But we had plenty of cherry tomatoes to satisfy the rabbits and still fill our bowls to overflowing.

During a later summer pick up from our nearby CSA, we complained to the farmer that we didn’t need his tomatoes – we had too many of our own. On hearing this, he exclaimed “Too many cherry tomatoes! What a luxury! Throw them in a pan and make sauce! That’s what I’d do if I had too many cherry tomatoes!

We did. I sautéed some onions and added basil and oregano, halved the tomatoes, added salt and pepper and crushed the tomatoes while they cooked with tip of my spoon. No peeling. No processing. Just sautéing in a pan of oil. So easy. And absolutely delicious.

Tomato sauce: great on pasta or pizza

This year, I got some free seeds from the Holliston Garden Club seed bank to try– little golden pear tomatoes.

Again, a forest of tomato plants appeared. Thankfully, they were determinate this time; they got to around 6 feet, which still is about 2 feet higher than my tomato stakes.

I’d like to pause here for a short rant on tomato stakes. Because–really? The hoops and stakes you can buy, even the ones in reputable gardening magazines, while made of a nice plastic-coated durable metal, are always WAY shorter than even the determinate plants. They are a complete rip off, leaving tomato plants to climb all over the garden, falling over into walkways and breaking their tender stalks while fruit is till ripening on them. You’d think one of these garden supply companies could create an affordable stake that actually accommodates the height on such a common garden vegetable. But I digress.

yellow pear tomatoes with a few volunteer cherry tomatoes from last year’s plants

We’ve collected a half a dozen gigantic bowls with more coming… cherry tomatoes are prolific. Time to make tomato sauce. This year I have too many green peppers so I’m cutting up and sautéing onions, green peppers, adding salt pepper and oregano and basil from the garden or rosemary (or whatever I have around). The fact is this sauce doesn’t even need the herbs because the tomatoes are so fresh and sweet.

tomatoes, green peppers, onions in some olive oil

This is delicious on pizza dough, too — we all like it better than the traditional thicker red tomato sauce — with cheese over it.

finished tomato sauce

This year I’m freezing the sauce. I even gave mason jars a try, having read in Treehugger.com that they are a reasonable choice for freezing liquids.

Tomatoes keep coming almost to the frost date here in Massachusetts. I figure by then I’ll have filled the downstairs freezer with sauce.

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Gardeners plan … the Goddess laughs

Vegetable gardening is in my blood on both sides.  My mother’s father had a farm in Norway and my father was raised on a farm in Texas.  We had vegetable gardens and berries at our house and I love to eat food that grows in the yard. One of the first things I put in my garden when we bought the house we are in now was a rhubarb plant I bought at our town garden club plant sale.  It has provided many stalks for crisps and pies, goes well with strawberries, and is currently on track to take over the entire garden.

Last year I decided to save some seeds for this year’s garden.  I saved delicata and butternut squash seeds that had been locally grown by an organic farmer (Upswing’s Brittany Overshiner) as a hopeful experiment. 

Meanwhile, and unrelated to that decision, I bought some carving pumpkins, decorative pumpkins, and winter squash to eat last fall. 

The seeds, much fussed over and occupying a place of honor on the dining room table, were stored in envelopes. We enjoyed the squash, pumpkins, and jack-o-lanterns, and like good diligent homeowners we composted the uneaten bits of squash and post-season decorative pumpkins, including the seeds.

When spring came, we added compost to my garden and planted tomatoes, carrots, peppers, leeks, bush beans, cabbage, lettuce, radish, cucumbers, marigolds, nasturtium, delicata squash and butternut squash. 

And all of those things grew. 

But also there were many squash plants appearing.  They popped up in all the beds, and even in the walkways.  I started pulling them since I didn’t want them to shade and choke out what I’d planted.  Apparently, our compost pile had not heated up enough to kill off the seeds we’d composted and they were everywhere; clearly we did a good job of mixing the compost since it appeared no square foot in the garden was without a squash plant!

After the first week or two of pulling them out to protect my delicate new seedlings and sprouting seeds, I decided to leave a few.  Some part of me just couldn’t bear to pull them all out.  I started to notice that they were not all the same:   the leaves were slightly different from one plant to the next, which piqued my curiosity, and so I watered them along with everything else, cut back what was untenable, and waited.

It’s August as I write this.  My garden has pathways through it… they are narrow.  It’s like a jungle in there.  I have a range of winter squash – the same kinds we ate last year, there are decorative pumpkins, big carving pumpkins and there are even some delicata and butternut squash, though it’s not clear they are the ones I intentionally saved and planted.  I’ve also read that cross-pollination results in hybrid/mutant type squash so there will likely be squash that aren’t exactly like anything I bought last year.  

I’m rolling with it, viewing this as an exercise is humility and a lesson in letting go. After all, it’s rare to get more than you asked for.

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What grows here

We have a modest vegetable garden; it’s not large. We spent weeks mulling over the layout last winter and settled on a 22X45 area with a bunch of 32 inch wide rows. My old back can’t lean any further than that to pick and weed.

Though modest, the garden has character. The compost this year, it turned out, was full of live winter squash and pumpkin seeds. They grew among my leeks, my tomatoes, in the bed that actually was planted to be delicata squash, among the lettuce and now they are taking over the walk ways and fences.

There are squash hanging all over the place in there.

My son’s friends were over the other day visiting and when they left he let me know how impressed they were with my pumpkin patch. The one I didn’t plant. No mention of the killer rhubarb, carrots, or cabbage.

I’d like to note that last year I planted pumpkins. I got 2 and they were tiny. I guess they needed more compost.

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