52 Weeks Fresh: Prepping for Tomato Bounty

By: Michael Blakeney
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There’s no such thing as having too many tomatoes, but it does pay to be prepared for the onslaught. The fruits are just beginning to ripen in East Coast gardens, so we have about two weeks to get ready for tomato mania.

Until then, take advantage of near-ripe varieties by making fried green tomatoes. Green ones appear in September and October (when there isn’t enough heat to fully ripen those still growing), so now is a great time to test and refine your techniques for the main event. A dollop of goat cheese on top with some torn fresh basil and cayenne powder will balance the tart flavor. Or keep the stove off by making a raw tomato sauce. Dice fresh tomatoes, and mix them with olive oil, finely chopped garlic and basil, along with some rosemary and sage.

The ruby-red prizes will start popping up in the next two weeks, so below is a primer to the tools you'll need to can the fruit to have year-round.

What to have on hand:
  • Colanders (for proper ventilation as you store tomatoes on the countertop)
  • Large bowls
  • Paper bags (for ripening)
  • Freezer bags (for quick storage)
  • Canning jars and lids
  • A food processor or blender
  • 1-2 large stockpots
  • Baking sheets (for drying tomatoes)
  • Markers and masking tape (for labeling)

The next post will cover processing the early yield.

PRODUCE REPORT: String beans of all kinds are looking good. Prepare them in advance by quickly blanching them after you pick them. Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week for quick salads and snacks.

The quinoa is now about three feet tall and budding nicely (pictured above); the amaranth is about six feet tall. The garden bed with sauce ingredients will be ready for harvesting in about two weeks.

EAT WITH THE SEASON: Mix up your pestos. Follow your favorite pesto recipe, but swap in fresh parsley or sorrel for the classic basil. If pine nuts are difficult to find, sunflower seeds are a nice alternative. Don’t forget the garlic, olive oil and Parmesan.

Self-taught gardener Michael Blakeney enjoys his Bedford, N.Y., garden all year: working in it, watching it grow and eating it through every season.  A visual artist and arts educator, Mike has been gardening for 25 years. You can find him at mikegrowgarden.com and on Instagram at mikegrowgarden1.

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