Big harvest heirloom tomatoesAugust. Ugh. I’ve learned to just say no to anything additional in August. Because its hot, and everything I’ve worked since March for is ripe and needs to be harvested. Onions. Potatoes. Seemingly endless cucumbers. Peppers galore. And of course, tomatoes. Lots and lots of heirloom tomatoes.

I’m often asked, just what IS an heirloom? There is no hard and fast officially government sanctioned definition, but in general, the plant has these traits:

  • The variety as been around for at least 50 years
  • It is open pollinated. This means that if you save the seed, it will come back the same. No hybrids allowed.
  • The variety often comes with a story, of being handed down from generation to generation, or grown in the same region for many many years.
  • Often, but not always (ask me about the heirloom string beans I grew sometime – wink) they are exceptional in flavor but have other traits that make them unprofitable to grow commercially. Heirloom tomatoes, for instance, are often very thin skinned. Harvesting makes me feel like I’m picking water balloons. If I set them down in the grass, the grass will often poke a hole in them. The tops often split on the vine, making them ugly. I tell people, when I put them in bags at farmers market, to act like I’ve handed them a bag of eggs.

This year my tomato list included:

  • Sungold Cherry – sweet yellow cherry
  • Principe Borghese – Heirloom Italian large red salad cherry/drying
  • German Pink – large pink heirloom
  • Stripped German – large orange/yellow striped heirloom
  • Cherokee Purple – medium to large purple heirloom. They always crap out on me after the first harvest, but oh the flavor of that first harvest….
  • Brandywine – medium red heirloom
  • Valencia – medium yellow heirloom. Always a long term producer for me
  • Evergreen – large green/yellow when ripe heirloom. My new favorite this year for flavor.
  • Mortgage Lifter – large red heirloom
  • San Marzano – large (larger than typical) paste/roma type for sauce and canning. It won my paste tomato taste test.
  • Jet Star – hybrid small to medium tomato, but EARLY at 70 days.
  • Plus a couple of Tomatillos and Ground Cherries thrown in for good measure.

 

 

A grand total of 35 tomato plants, 2 tomatillos (plus the volunteers that come up ever year) and 4 ground cherries (plus the volunteers that come up ever year).

I sell a lot of tomatoes at farmers market. But of course, so does everyone else during the height of tomato season. So I often come home with extra, and there are always the ones that just don’t make the cut for market, but are fine if processed quickly.

When we moved to Walla Walla, knowing we’d have a much better growing season, my husband asked, “What are you most looking forward to growing more of now?” And my answer was, “Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.” We managed to sneak away for a 6 day vacation up to British Columbia in Canada, and I came home to a lot of “needs to be processed quickly” tomatoes, lol. Sometimes, when I feel like I’m drowning in tomatoes, I question that new-to-the-growing-area enthusiasm, lol.

Here’s what I’ve been doing with all of my extra tomatoes.

Normally, I make about 50 jars of salsa every year. But with our new Whole30/Paleo diet, which we’re pretty much sticking with, my husband is generally avoiding corn chips, which cuts way back on the salsa consumption, so we still have some left over from last year. But I did make one batch a few weeks ago.

I also normally make some BBQ sauce as well. But we’re still good on that from last year. I’ve learned that it’s best to have a 2 year rotation on the canned goods plan, so that you aren’t stuck with too many of last years leftovers while you are adding this years bounty.

I’ve done two batches of oven roasted tomato sauce to stash in the freezer (still some left from last year – but it’s SO good and easy – you really can’t have too much if you have the room) and will probably make at least one more batch before we get a frost.

I did put up 9 pints and 4 quarts of plain San Marzano tomatoes in their own juice for future soups and stews (I still have a few left from last year, but not enough to last the winter). Interesting, I finally got an answer for why “in their own juice” is a longer processing time than in water (because who, in their right mind, would can tomatoes in water rather than juice)? It’s because the juice is more dense, and so takes longer for the heat to penetrate. Makes perfect sense once someone points that out.

Conserva heirloom tomato pasteI made a new batch of conserva, estratto, estrattu, ‘strattu, aka super concentrated tomato paste this year. Twenty five pounds of tomatoes reduces down to less than a quart of concentrated paste. It’s thick enough at the end that you can literally fold it over on the baking sheet in the oven, which is pretty darned cool. It takes a good two days to make. I keep mine in the frige, and I’m still working my way through the very last of the batch I did a couple of years ago. It lasts forever, and is about the best umami bomb you can add to any savory dish. I highly recommend all things Hank Shaw, including his Hunt, Gather, Cook Facebook page, which is one of the best groups on the internet.

I’m on my third batch of Tomato Jam, of course. My recipe is a tested by WSU variation of this one from Food In Jars. Always fun to have that back in stock at the farmers market.

V6 tomato juiceAnd most recently, for the first time, I decided to try my hand at making my own V6 juice (tomato, carrot, onion, pepper, celery and parsley). Twenty two pounds of tomatoes went into that! And as always with the first time on a canning recipe, it made quite a bit more than the recipe claimed. I ended up with 14 pints plus 2 quarts of juice. If I were to do it again, I’d stick blend all the other veg but the tomatoes once cooked before putting through a food mill. But otherwise, I think we’re gonna really enjoy it, and it will make a good veggie stock for soups as well.

V6 juice and Salsa Roja sauceAnd lastly, I made this small batch of Salsa Roja, which I’m planning on using as more of an enchilada sauce. But I always have dried chilies on hand, so it seemed like a great fit.

I love that Healthy Canning site for not only recipes, but deeper explanations for WHY things are done the way they are. Though the website is pretty ad heavy and sometimes slows my computer down, which is frustrating.

 

We’ve also, of course, been eating fresh tomatoes at just about every meal, from traditional fried tomatoes with your bacon British breakfasts, to shakshuka (spicy North African style tomatoes and eggs) to Barbacoa and curried Butter Chicken for dinner to a vegetable Moroccan tagine (loosely based on this recipe) for a barbequed lamb pot luck. And we’ve been having BLT burgers sans buns (essentially a BLT burger salad), which is about the most perfect summer dish ever. If it calls for tomatoes, ANY kind of tomatoes, from canned to sauce, I just throw in fresh ones and cook them down. Because I literally don’t really eat fresh tomatoes outside of mid July to early November. But this time of year, I’m often found eating them sliced with salt over the kitchen sink. Grin.

Fence gate bent from overactive ramIt’s almost breeding season for the sheep, but in their opinion, it should be breeding season NOW. Kenny, our 2 1/2 year old ram, has tried to put his head through three different fence gates, leaving them like this. And broken three railroad tie fence posts. Yeah. October can’t come soon enough (we time it to have babies in early March – when it’s not too stinkin cold). Meanwhile, we’re using electric net fencing in the pasture to reduce any more damage.

Below are a few vacation pictures from our trip up to British Columbia. We spent a few days in Victoria, one in Vancouver, and then drove east and came back into Washington at Osoyoos, where it was still very smoky from the fires.

Victoria BC at night

Victoria harbor at night

On the Victoria to Vancouver ferry

On the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver. We saw a wale breach!

Curlew Lake State Park, WA.

Curlew Lake State Park Washington haiku:
We sit on the bank
Watching trout raise at dusk
The dogs make us laugh

May all of your heirloom tomato dreams come true. Mortgage Lifter heirloom Tomato

© Miles Away Farm 2018, where we are miles away from being done with the season, but are SO glad its September!