By LYNNE IRONS
I can’t remember a year when I grew so many tomatoes. I have painted myself into a corner. Wasting food is among my least desirable activities. This is going to require a real commitment to get them all processed. Be forewarned: I will be bringing tomato dishes to all potlucks in the coming season.
I know I’ve mentioned the Squeezo-Strainer in previous columns. I want to encourage a purchase. Mine is one of my most used pieces of equipment. I have had it for well over 20 years. Recently I gifted my friend Marie with one, I bought it from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (1-877-564-6697 or johnnyseed.com). It is called Sauce Master Fruit and Vegetable Strainer. The raw fruit goes in and the juice pours out with skin and seeds removed. It costs $60. There are various sized screens available to use for grapes, salsa, berries and/or pumpkins. Trust me, it sure beats the boiling water dipping to remove skins.
I pour the juice into my largest crock-pot and walk away for a day or so. I want the juice to reduce by half or more. Then the resulting sauce can be frozen, canned or mixed with your favorites for supper. My last 12 quarts reduced to three.
A great tomato soup can result by mixing that thick juice into chicken stock and caramelized onions and cream. Yummy! It’s not your Campbell’s tomato any more.
Did you know that tomatoes were cultivated and eaten by Aztecs and Incas for thousands of years but the tomato was regarded as a poison by American colonists because it is in the family of deadly nightshades? The tomato gained notoriety in 1820 when a Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson stepped out on the New Jersey courthouse steps and bravely ate one. To the amazement of the crowd, he did not get sick. From that point the tomato became a popular garden vegetable by the 1840s.
I have often wondered about the courage or perhaps foolhardiness of our ancestors. Who first ate artichokes, oysters or mushrooms? What else was tried to their peril?
I am happy to report that I am eating radishes planted a month ago. The lettuce planted at the same time should be ready by week’s end. I was so encouraged, I tossed in the rest of my spring seeds, turnips, beets, various salad greens and kale.
Thanks to my cousin Mark, visiting from Bradford, Pa., the garden is actually looking good. Usually by now it is a train wreck. I usually harvest food purely from memory.
I planted peppers and eggplants early on in the greenhouse and babied them along all summer. I am still disappointed by them. I envisioned bushels to be sold and/or frozen. Oh, well! I tried jilo for the second year. It is a lime-green Brazilian variety. I found it to be too bitter for my taste.
Here I go — about to expose myself once again as a commie-pinko. What is wrong with the American public? For a nation that calls itself Christian, there is a tremendous amount of self-serving. So much for feeding the poor, visiting the widows and the faithless in their affliction, clothing the naked, et cetera. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin need to go back to Sunday school and pay attention this time. How can we even be talking about extending the Bush tax cuts to the superrich? The remarkable thing is that the lower-middle-class working stiff buys the argument. These tax cuts will amount to over 700 billion dollars added to the national debt over the next 10 years. The real problem in our country is not the Republicans or Democrats but the Uninterested. We as individuals need to make some real sacrifices. If we want jobs we need to start buying American, staying out of Wal-Mart, write our representatives to cut all tax incentives to companies that outsource jobs, and stop whining about taxes. I want to drive on a decent road, get a good education for my grandchildren and have someone come when my house is on fire!