Happiness is… tomatoes!


Oh gleaming jars of glass, boasting your culinary wiles, is there any greater art than that locked behind those vitreous smiles?

Well, despite all the tomato disasters this year, I’m forced to send up a prayer of thanks to the gardening gods, for at the last minute, I was able to salvage some of the crop. The plants look awful – dead and decaying foliage and fruit in an almost complete state of collapse – but the urge to reproduce and salvage something for the next generation was so strong that the plants managed to ripen some of their progeny before being carried off. Only the earliest fruits that had started to form before the blight descended in full force managed to mature, but enough did to allow me to put up 30 quarts of tomatoes. This may sound like a lot, but it’s a fraction of the 100 plus quarts one would expect from seventy healthy plants. Still, I’m not complaining: that’s thirty quarts more than most folks around here, and far more than I had expected a month ago.

I did learn one interesting thing from this disaster: in the race to harvest the fruit before the blight infected it, I brought in tomatoes slightly less ripe than I normally would. The standard wisdom goes that you let tomatoes fully ripen for canning, but I picked quite a number early, when still orange red, rather than than the deep burgundy I would normally have waited for. As it turns out, this fruit is much easier to can, as the firmer flesh blanches better, and allows for fuller packing in the jars. And from what I can tell from sampling the product, there’s been no reduction in taste. Late blight, by the way, doesn’t affect humans, so there’s no worries about eating the fruit – it’s just a question of who get’s there first – you or the disease. Once the spores reach the tomato itself, it only takes a few days for the entire fruit to turn to brown mush. Frightening, really;  you can see why late blight was once considered a candidate for biological weapons.

Ah, well, on to more pleasant thoughts, like… fresh spaghetti!




Happiness is… tomatoes! — 7 Comments

  1. Is there anything more satisfying than standing back and staring at those beautiful, jewel-red bottles? I think not. Still waiting for *anything* to ripen here. Sigh.

  2. Yum! Glad you were able to save a few, darn blight has hurt so many. We didn’t get the blight but there were not nearly as many tomatoes as last year and the plants didn’t look all healthy and full like last year either~ Kind of sickly with beautiful tomatoes growing. weird! At least the tomatoes were delicious. I have yet to can tomatoes. I am not as brave as you are

  3. I’m a bit jealous too, I had only nine plants to start, and I’ll be lucky to get a dozen of tomatoes. What a crappy year for so many people. It just makes me wonder, what if I had to rely on the food I grow to live?

  4. Tatiana:

    You ain’t kidding. I’ve been thinking the same thing myself. I’ve done a number of lectures at Old Sturbridge Village, and know one of the curators there, Christie Higginbottom, very well. She’s an expert at period food and gardening, and what I’ve learned from her is that historically, diets were awful, and when crops failed, you just ate something else, or nothing else. And when things were bountiful, you felt truly blessed, made all the more obvious by previous periods of dearth. We should all be more grateful to the powers above for what we receive. And in that spirit, I’m thanking the heavens this year for the decade’s most bountiful crop of raspberries, and the best harvest of peaches I’ve ever seen.

  5. Indeed. I suppose we’d all be canning and freezing and dehydrating a lot more – at least we’ve got the tools to save all the bumper crops, and plant lots of varieties. If tomatoes fail, well, peaches are good to have 🙂

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