Tomatoes

Where Does Your Food Come From?

Where do you get your food?

Chances are pretty good you hit up the local supermarket at least once or twice a week and load up your grocery cart (Trolley, if you're British.) with what you need.

Yup, I do it too. It's easy. But is it best?

In the great scope of history, this type of shopping experience is just a blip on the screen of time.

The first "supermarket" type experience was in 1916 when Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Before this remarkable, NEW, way of shopping, customers would bring a list to a clerk at the store who would gather their items, sometimes having to weigh them out into separate packaging from bulk supplies.

You also made trips to many different retailers. The local butcher for meat, the bakery for bread and you had perishable items like milk delivered to your doorstep.

Something else that most people had and utilized in their home was a LARDER: A room or area in their basement or cellar where they kept their stores of food. Food they had preserved themselves.

If a storm was coming, or some other problem arose, you didn't need to rush down to the store and hope that the shelves weren't bare. You already had what you needed, for the most part, at home.

Contrast that to today: Modern day statistics say that an average town has approximately three day's supply of food. That doesn't sound comfortable does it?

Even if you shop weekly at farmer's markets, the chances are the quantities you purchase are minimal.

Farmer Joel Salatin predicts, in his book, Folks, This Ain't Normal, that "if people went to farmer's markets to buy serious food, they'd wipe out the whole place in about twenty minutes."

You see food used to be stored up. You bought food in bulk when it was in season and preserved it in many different ways.

I was blessed to grow up in a home that did this. We caught boat loads of perch and crappie and, as a family, would filet and freeze the bounty. We shucked, blanched and froze freezers full of corn. We canned beans and fruit. We made applesauce, fruit leather and jams.

One of my most treasured memories is standing in the kitchen of my Michigan home, as an adult, canning cherries with my mom. She looked over to me and said, "I never thought I'd be standing here doing this with you. It's such a blessing."

She knew the importance of perserving food and was so happy that I had come to realize the same thing. (Let's just say as a teen I was less than domestic.)

Have you ever given food preservation a go? Would you like to try?

Now is the perfect time to test the waters. Gardens and fields are at the height of production giving one last push of abundance before fall sets in.

Tomatoes are a great option to "put by" or can.

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Preservation Method 1: Water Bath Canning Tomatoes

Supplies Needed:

  • 20 lbs. of tomatoes
  • Lemon Juice
  • Water bath canner (huge pot)
  • Canning jars, lids and rings
  • Jar Grabber (to lift jars out of boiling water)
  • Lid lifter (magnet to pull lids from boiling water)
  • Funnel (Keeps mess down when filling jars)
  • Plastic or wooden spoon (for removing trapped air in jars)

Process:

  • Sanitize jars, lids and rings- jars can be run through the dishwasher, I boil my rings and lids in a small pot of water for a few minutes on the stove top.
  • Fill your canner 1/2 full of water, place a lid on and start heating. Also have a smaller pot of boiling water started for filling jars.
  • Rinse and dry all tomatoes.
  • Fill sanitized jars with whole or cut tomatoes. I do not remove skins or seeds because both contain many vital nutrients. Leave about 1/4 inch of room at the top of the jar.
  • Add lemon juice to each jar- 2 Tbsp./quart, 1 Tbsp./pint
  • Finish filling jars to 1/2 inch of the top with boiling water.
  • Use the handle of a plastic or wooden spoon to free air bubbles by sliding it up and down around the inside edge of the jar.
  • Make sure the lips of the jars are clean of any tomato splatter. Use a rag, wash cloth or wet paper towel to wipe the lips and then place lids and rings on jars, making sure to tighten snugly but not too tight.
  • Place jars in the boiling water in the bath canner, making sure that there is at least an inch of water covering the tops of the jars. Keep the water boiling and process the jars of tomatoes for 40 minutes (pints) and 45 minutes (quarts). If you are at a higher altitude you will need to adjust the times and boil longer. (Google will be your friend to find out your altitude and how much time to add.)
  • Lift jars out of the water and let them cool overnight. Check to make sure each is sealed correctly by pressing the lid of the jar in the center. If it pops up and down it isn't sealed. Put the jar in the refrigerator and use right away.
  • Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place. Plan to use them within a year for soups, sauces and casseroles.

Preservation Method 2: Oven Drying Tomatoes

Supplies:

  • 2 lbs paste tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Chef's knife
  • Large bowl
  • Wire cooling racks
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cookie Sheet
  • 2 pint size canning jars, lids, rings

Process:

  • Rinse and dry tomatoes
  • Slice and core tomatoes- slice in half length-wise, cut a shallow "V" on each side of core to remove it.
  • Remove seeds and pulp- since we are drying the fruit it is necessary to remove as much moisture as possible before hand.
  • Season tomatoes with salt, tossing until coated thoroughly.
  • Remove all oven racks but one and move it to the lowest level in the oven.
  • Heat oven to 200 degrees Farenheit.
  • Make a dozen or so, golf ball, sized aluminum foil balls and flatten slightly.
  • Lay out tomatoes on the wire cooling racks, don't let them touch, and stack racks on the cookie sheet using the foil balls as spacers in the corners between racks.
  • Put the cookie sheet in the oven and dry tomatoes until the edges shrivel but the fruit is still plump. (4 to 6 hours)
  • Cool tomatoes to room temp. and transfer them to pint jars. Cover with olive oil (leaving 1/2 inch of headspace) and refrigerate for up to two months or freeze for up to six months.
  • Use them on top of eggs, pasta and toast!
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Bonus How To: Saving Heirloom Tomato Seed

Supplies:

  • Heirloom or open pollinated tomatoes (Hybrid tomatoes will not work.)
  • Plastic cups
  • Labels (scrap paper and tape will work)
  • Strainer
  • Plate
  • Glass jar for each type of seed
  • Q-tip for each jar

Process:

  • Wash tomatoes, dry, cut in half across the middle horizontally (not stem to base).
  • Gently squeeze the tomato seeds and juice into a platic cup, labeled with tomato variety. Fill cups about half full and move them somewhere out of direct sunlght.
  • Allow cups to sit 3 to 5 days until covered with white mold. (You may need to add a little water to keep the seeds floating.)
  • Scrape off mold with a spoon but don't remove seeds.
  • Fill cup with water and stir. The viable seeds will sink to the bottom.
  • Pour off water and discard floating seeds. Repeat until seeds are thoroughly clean.
  • Pour remaining seeds into a strainer and rinse again.
  • Place seeds on a labeled plate and dry for 1 to 3 days, keeping the out of direct sun. Make sure they dry and don't stick together- stir at least twice a day.
  • Store seeds in labeled glass jars with a q-tip taped to the lid (to absorb extra moisture) until planting time.

Whaddya think?

Are you willing to try any of these preservation methods?

Are you willing to start a home larder?

It is so much fun to go grocery shopping in the comfort of your own home and proudly satisfying to see abundance stocked, not at the store, but in your own dwelling place where you can access it 24/7.

Don't let your food supply rest in someone else's warehouse. Become your own store!

Got questions? Leave me a comment below. Want to come to a canning class? I'd love to organize one. Let me know if you are interested. You can comment below or email me at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com.

Until next time,

Bloom and grow

Cyndi

 

 

Late Summer Recipes Guaranteed To Be A Super Smash!

The sun is setting earlier these days but the garden is still in super production mode and chances are you need some fresh ideas on how to use your produce. Here are some yummy recipes that are sure to tease your taste buds and feature late summer garden stars: Tomatoes!

Heirloom tomatoes are my favorites, despite how ugly they look, because their taste is so superior. You probably won't find heirlooms at the grocery store but you will for sure find them at our farmstand, or at a local farmer's market. If you haven't experienced their flavor, I urge you to give them a try. You won't be sorry!

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Late Summer Tomato Pie (Serves 4-8)

Ingredients:

1 9" pastry shell, baked (use your favorite recipe)

3 heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thin

2 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup mayo

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a colander place tomatoes in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Arrange a layer of tomatoes, overlapping, in the bottom of the cooled pie crust.

Sprinkle half the garlic, basil, cheeses over the tomatoes.

Repeat layering process: tomatoes, garlic basil, cheeses.

Spread mayo over the top layer of cheese.

Bake about 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Cool on a wire rack.

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

4 heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, sliced in half horizontally

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Pepper to taste 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Put tomatoes on a cookie sheet, sliced side up.

Top with cheese, oregano, salt and pepper.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake 15 minutes or until tomatoes are tender.

Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (Serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

20 oz. cherry or pear tomatoes, halved

6 garlic cloves, minced

 1 tsp. coarse sea salt

2 tsp. pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl toss tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Transfer to a cookie sheet, spreading into an even layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and fragrant.

Eat alone or as a topping to your favorite dish.

Low-Carb Stuffed Tomatoes (Serves 10)

Ingredients:

10 medium heirloom tomatoes

1 lb. ground meat (hamburger, chicken, turkey, sausage)

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh basil for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brown meat

On the bottom of each tomato take off a small thin slice to that tomatoes will stand properly.

Slice the top of each tomato to make an opening.

Spoon out the center of each tomato.

Brush the outside of each tomato with olive oil.

Fill each tomato with meat and top with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 8 minutes.

Cool and transfer to a serving dish.

Garnish with basil.

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There you go! Four super new ways to enjoy the bounty of late summer. Treasure these last few days before the busyness of a new school year and a new season takes over.

Be sure to check back next week for the last installment in this four-part tomato series. We are gonna delve into ways to preserve tomatoes so that you can have tastiness put up for the entire year.

And... If you are local to Fox and Glove, Come on over to the farmstead! Buy your tomatoes before they're gone! Check out our contact page for hours and address!

Until then,

Bloom and grow,

Cyndi

 

If You Eat Tomatoes You'll Want To Know This!

My first experience with tomatoes was less than grand. My momma had one tomato plant in her tiny garden space when I was very little. On this plant was one lowly, green tomato waiting to ripen.

My mom was very excited for this little fruit to turn red so she could pick it and have fresh tomato. She told me green tomatoes were bad so that I would wait for it to turn red.

One day my mom went out to check on her tomato and it was gone. Very unhappy, she interrogated each of my four older brothers. Who would dare to pick her precious tomato?

All my brothers looked baffled. "We didn't do it," they said. This made her even angrier. Surely someone was not telling the truth.

Then I took her hand and led her to the garbage can outside. I lifted the lid. There, at the bottom, was Mom's green tomato. "Green, bad!" I told her.

Poor Mom. She had told me that green was bad, but failed to say we needed to wait for it to turn red.

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Don't worry... My mistake was graciously overlooked and, in her lifetime, Mom had many more home grown, ripe tomatoes.

Now, I'm a firm believer in letting food be my medicine and it turns out that those little jewels my mom waited for to ripen each subsequent year are actually a powerhouse super food packed with health.

Eating fresh tomatoes is doing yourself a favor!

Don't like tomatoes? You might change your mind after reading these ten tomato tidbits: (Disclaimer: I'm a farmer/health nut not a doctor or nutritionist. I just know how real food makes me feel.)

  • 1. Tomatoes are an incredible cancer fighter; reducing your risk of cancer because of the phyto chemicals called carotenoids contained in the skin. The deeper the color of the skin, the deeper the amount of carotenoids. Lutein, Alpha and Beta Carotenes, and Lycopene (carotenoids) contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage. To get the most benefit, eat your tomatoes cooked.
  • 2. Tomatoes also fight imflammation. They rank #12 on the list of anti-inflammatory foods. The fruits contain flavonoids called Quercentin and Kaempferol that are natural antihistamines. The carotenoid Lycopene also helps with inflammation.
  • 3. Tomatoes can lessen depression. The Folate (a type of Vitamin B) in tomatoes helps to facilitate your body's production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; all mood boosting chemicals. I'm all about that!
  • 4. The alpha-lopoic acid in tomatoes can help stabilize blood sugar. Tomatoes have a glycemic index of 30. Anything under 55 is considered low and means that sugars are released throughout the body in a slow and steady rate instead of a large spike.
  • 5. Tomatoes fight heart disease and can help keep blood pressure under control. Also related, they can reduce your risk of stroke and provide muscle relaxant properties. This is due, in part, to the potassium and Vitamin C, that tomatoes contain, and the jelly around tomato seeds that contain salicytates, anti-clotting agents. So to get the best heart benefits, eat those seeds!
  • 6. Eating tomatoes give your hair, skin and teeth a healthy boost from the Vitamin A and collagen they contain. One cup of chopped tomatoes equals over 50% the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for women.
  • 7. Pregnant or trying to get pregnant: The Folate in tomatoes helps tissue and cell growth. Folate is responsible for helping produce DNA, help cells divide and is important for proper fetal development.
  • 8. Tomatoes strengthen your bones! The Vitamins K and A as well as Lycopene reduce the specific inflammation that leads to the breakdown of bones.
  • 9. Want to keep your eyes in tiptop shape? Tomato carotenoids and Viamin A reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • 10 Finally, if you suffer from exercise induced asthma, an Australian study has come out that suggest that Vitamin A and Lycopene can help reduce attacks.

I mean, Wow! All that from a tomato! Who knew?!

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Now, for the best news of all! Tomato season has just started. You can stop by your local farm stand or farmer's market and take advantage of all the fresh off the vine fruit. Pick up a few for eating now and a bunch for preserving for later.

Here is a fresh tomato salsa recipe to get you started:

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and diced

1 clove peeled, chopped garlic

1/2 onion, diced

6 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Salt

Mix together, let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to co-mingle, add more lime juice and salt to taste.

Happy, healthy eating!

So whadda ya think?

Are you affected by one of those health issues above or maybe one that isn't mentioned?

I'd love for you to scroll down to the comment section below and tell me your biggest health issue and if you think food can heal your body. Let's get a conversation started. I'd really like to hear from you!

For now, Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi

Ten Timely Tips You Need For Tomato Season!

The season of the fresh tomato is just about to hit in Michigan. 

I don't know about you, but I wait all year long for this.

There is just no comparing a bland grocery store tomato with fresh, local varieties plucked straight off the vine.

Here is a bit of tomato 101 for you...

There are both hybrid varities and open-pollinated/heirloom varieties.

Hybrids are bred in nurseries and will not reproduce true from seed the next year (Don't waste time seed-saving. You don't know what will grow.) while open-pollinated/heirloom varieties will reproduce true from seed. (You can save the seeds, plant them and they should grow into exactly the type of tomato you got them from.)

Heirloom tomatoes are old-fashioned, open-pollinated varieties that have been around for generations.

Heirlooms are generally regarded as the tastiest type of tomato available.

They are also fragile and hard to transport long distances making them undesirable for commercial farmers to grow. Because of this they are rarer and command a higher price.

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Now if you, like me, have been anticipating these beauties showing up at farmstands and farmer's markets all over the area, I've got some helpful tips to guide you to your version of tomato heaven!

1. The size of the tomato doesn't dictate it's flavor, texture or quality. Choose a size that works for your intented use! That being said...

2. Decide what you want to use your tomatoes for and choose accordingly.

  • Grape and cherry tomatoes are small and sweet. Because of their size they are best used to garnish salads, fill appitizer trays and top hors d'oeuvres.
  • Roma, paste or plum tomatoes are perfect for making sauces, soups and mixing with meat dishes. They are smaller and firm. They have thick, meaty flesh and are less juicy and seeded then other varieties making it easier to cook them down faster.
  • Beefsteaks- the big boys of the tomato world- are what you want for sandwiches, burgers, making into salsa and for stuffing. Are you getting hungry yet? I am!

3. Don't squeeze a potential purchase. Instead pick it up and rest it in your palm. Does it feel heavy for it's size? It should.

4. Smell the tomato. A fresh tomato should have an earthy, slightly sweetish smell. The stonger the tomato smells, the more tasty it will be.

5. Inspect the tomato. Make sure it is free of bruises, or deep cracks. Heirlooms are fragile and are not bred to be uniformly shaped but bruises, deep cracks or holes indicate a tomato that isn't any good.

6.. Purchase tomatoes as you need them. Plan on using them with in a couple days of purchase as tomatoes continue to ripen off the vine.

7. Store tomatoes at room temperature on a plate. Do not put them in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

8. When cutting into tomatoes use a knife with a serrated edge. Use a light-handed, sawing motion. This will prevent the downward pressure of force from squishing the tomato.

9. For the best health benefits don't peel that tomato! Tomato skin holds a high concentration of caretenoids (fat-soluble pigments of yellow, orange or red) and flavonols (another type of plant pigmentation). In plain speak... They're good for you!

10. You don't have to seed tomatoes. Some recipes call for this, but it is really up to you. All seeds affect is texture. They do not affect taste.

There you have it! These tips should take the mystery out of choosing, storing, and prepping tomatoes for an abundance of incredible uses.

Leave me a comment. I'd to know what your favorite tomato is!

And...

Be sure to look for next week's blog... #2 in my 4 part tomato series! We'll dive into ten reasons to love tomatoes, even if you don't like them!

Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi