Friday, April 15, 2011

Harvest Time Already—Well, I’m Thinking About It

Here we are in spring.I have tomatoes and peppers seeded up and sprouting in the greenhouse, snow peas in the ground, need to get lettuce, chard, and other cole crops outside.
I guess this all started with a friend asking me why I am growing 27-28 varieties of tomatoes? What are you going to do with all of them?
What am I going to do with all of them?
First off I am going to treat things naturally, try my best to not use inorganics or harsh chemicals. This started my mind rolling and a conversation with Annie Haven. Annie is known for her Moo Poo tea and her Haven Brand Products— and how she raises her manure producers. I am comfortable with a no GMO, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free cow/steerer making manure I am going to put on something that I will ingest.

My goal is to use the tea while the plants are still juvenile and growing in the greenhouse, then when before I plant them out into the garden I am going to ‘dunk’ them for a little boost, and then I will manure around the plant itself. Simple, sustainable, and where I live it might make a dent in the pile of horse manure. Eighty horses do create one large pile over a year or five.

Back to what am I going to do with all these fruits and vegetables? Eat them of course! But a growing season is too limited and I will be growing more than I can eat so I set a goal for myself this year tha I will learn to can. I know how to freeze things. I could dry them. But canning I have never done. I have watched friends of mine put away Peaches, tomatoes, and pickles, but I have never done it myself.

This basic kit is great for waterbath canning and is a great start to your food preservation future.

Already I am collecting jars. I hit junk shops, and garage sales. I have some great older jars that say Presto, Kerr (which I have even been to the Kerr Mansion in Portland, OR) and I know what Mason jars are. I know I should buy wide mouth jars…but ten, half-gallon size jars for one dollar that are old are cool! Small mouth I will live with.

Alright so the exploration is tomatoes and pickles. What can I do with tomatoes besides just can them? Come on now, I am a tad creative at least.

I am growing peppers both sweet and hot. Salsa is tomatoes and peppers, some cilantro, lemon juice, a bit of vinegar. Salsa.

But what about beyond salsa? Marinara, canned tomatoes, bruschetta, soup base, vinegar sauce, tomato jam. YES, that is correct, I said it. Sweet tomato jam made of golden tomatoes. I can do red, green and purple as well. tomato juice…or bloody mary mix?

Well, if I can make jam from tomatoes I can certainly do that with sweet peppers. I can also pickle the peppers. Peter piper did it, a whole peck.

Pickles, pickling, pickled. Cucumbers are synonymous with the word pickles. Sweet peppers, carrots, onions, garlic scapes, green beans. I could do these. I can! I can do then blood brilliantly. I am also going to try my hand at pickled squash. I know it is not something we are not really familiar with, but whats to say it can’t be grand?

Let us do a quick recap—Canned tomatoes, pickles, salsa, garlic scapes, pickle green beans, pickled onions, onion relish, relish, tomato chutney, bruschetta, marinara, hot vinegar sauce/hot sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato jam, squash pickles, pickled peppers, pickled carrots, tomato soup base, squash soup base, beets, garlic jam, pepper jam, and more ideas than I can shake a stick at.

Buy The seals are meant to be used once and you can never be too safe with food.

Now the great thing about canning is you clean out the jar and reuse it. The sealed lids are what you should buy new every year. With enough preparation one can have everything in place for when that day of days comes and produce is hauled by the box out of the garden! Talk about anticipation, I am so looking forward to this. Explore your best options, and choose those that suit your needs.

It’s early in the season and I do realize this is a strange time to talk about it, but I am doing my best to stay ahead of things and not get sideswiped.

Preservation and people in the know—I am so glad that people like Theresa Loe and Daniel Gasteiger are on the internet sharing what they have learned. My friend Bren is going to delve more into preservation as well, so will also learn together. Don’t forget Daniel has a great new book out Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It Too and Theresa is a trained Master Food Preserver and Associate Producer of Growing a Greener World.

So if you are nice, and not so naughty this year you may receive a basket of choice items for the holidays. Fresh from this years garden, preserved carefully with caring, and given with love.


If you are canning your own food for the first time you can contact your county extension office and they may have some suggestion, be organizing a class, or have a Master Food Preserver class starting up. You can also talk to people at your local farmers market and they too might be organizing a demonstration or class that you can sign up for. Happy canning!


  1. Good for you!! I wish you all the best in your new adventure. I've been canning jams the last few days (dried apricot, red grapefruit, and orange onion sage), and am planning on planting more tomatoes than ever. You've given some good ideas. Here's a pickle tip- don't let the water bath go over 185 degrees, and your pickles will be crunchy- no alum needed.

  2. How I love home canning! I make a nifty hot pepper jelly. But it's the tomato products that I love--in the winter it's like opening a jar of summer.

  3. Bruce, you will become a canning fanatic! Once you get started, you will not be able to stop. I have a few recipes on my site that I know you'll enjoy, and I'm working on my sweet onion and fennel jam recipe.

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