Garden Lore

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”

Willa Cather (1876-1947)

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Autumn harvest and freezing tomatoes

The autumn harvest is being wheeled into house by the barrow load at the moment. They are melons in the photo – both water and rock varieties. The annual challenge for Mark is to get good crops of both through and to this end he takes some care and plants several different varieties of each. This year we have a bumper crop – too many to eat and give away so we have gone to juicing them for lunchtime smoothies. I did worry this week that the current fad of mixed fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies may in fact be the hipster take on Complan, that powdered product that used to be fed to fading elderly folk with no teeth. My anxiety is that we may be on the cusp of moving way past hipster age and approaching the elderly door.

But about the tomatoes. Experienced preservers will have their own tried and true techniques. For novices, faced by a surplus of tasty toms, I offer my method. In a fair division of labour, Mark grows them, harvests them, washes them, cuts out the tough stem end and any bad bits and lays them in a single layer in baking dishes. They are fan baked for a couple of hours around 130C. I then take over, strain off much of the clear liquid which is very flavourful and excellent for creamy winter soups. This I decant to plastic bottles and freeze. I then pull all the skins off the baked tomatoes. It takes a fraction of the time to do it after cooking rather than before. I then pack to meal-sized containers and freeze them. That is it. I add any extra flavourings at the time I cook with them, not at the time of freezing. I know tinned tomatoes are cheap to buy, but the only dollar cost in freezing our own is running the oven. The time required in preparation is minimal and, given the choice, we prefer to know where our food came from.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.