"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 18 February 2012

My (shadecloth) veggie patch harvest: part 2

The other vegetable we harvested from the shadecloth veggie patch was tomatoes.  Lots and lots of tomatoes. Over 20 kgs of ripe tomatoes, and I left loads of green ones on the vines.

All the companion planting of sweet basil, rocket and marigolds resulted in no visible pest damage on any of my tomato plants.  The rocket got a little pock-marked (small holes eaten in the leaves), the basil seems fine, the marigolds are flowering wildly and the enclosed shadecloth veggie house kept the rest of the pests at bay.

Unfortunately, the potato which made a surprise appearance in the veggie hut, and which I (stupidly and stubbornly) left in situ, turned the closest tomato plant black - very nasty.  So - what they say is correct.  Tomatoes and potatoes are not good companions... :)

Just some of the tomatoes I harvested in the
20lt cooler box.  The green ones were were
accidentally knocked off their vines - ah, well,
they'll ripen nicely on the kitchen windowsill :)
I harvested huge, meaty heirloom beefsteak tomatoes.  Cocktail sized red and yellow ones.  And large oval ones and round ones...

Firts off though, RMan and I had an Aubergine Parmesan on Saturday evening.  It's really simple to make.

All you need is a ripe aubergine, some tomatoes, a few basil leaves and some grated Parmesan cheese.  Simply slice the aubergine length ways (stalk to tip) making roughly 4 - 6 slices (depending on how large your aubergine is) and sprinkle with salt to draw out the bitterness.  Set aside whilst you prepare the tomatoes.

Wash and cut up some tomatoes.  Place them, together with a tablespoon of water, in a pan on the stove to cook, adding some salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped basil towards the end.  As soon as the tomato juice has reduced right down, remove the pan from the stove.  (You can also do this step in your solar oven - just omit the water.)
Tomato and basil mixture
Rinse the salt off the aubergines and brushing with a little olive oil, grill on both sides until brown.
Aubergine + reduced tomatoes and
basil + grated Parmesan
= deliciousness
Place the tomato "sauce" on top of the aubergines, sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese and place under the grill until the cheese is brown.  Serve and enjoy :)

This last Tuesday I spent preserving the tomatoes which I had brought back from the farm.
Using the solar oven to preserve
whole cocktail tomatoes for winter
Using Lynda Brown's "The Preserving Book", and my solar oven, I bottled whole cocktail tomatoes, and I also made up a batch of tomato soup.
Whole solar preserved tomatoes and tomato soup
For the soup, I initially washed, chopped and boiled the tomatoes in my 10lt pot on my small gas stove with 100ml of water.  (There were just too many tomatoes to fit inside my largest pot in my solar oven.)  When they were nice and pulpy I pushed the lot through a sieve and I filled clean, warm preserving jars with the juice, and then placed them in my solar oven.  3 hours later - presto!  The lids are firmly attached to the jars, and once they are cool, they can take their place on my pantry shelves :)
Tomato soup
I also did two loads of solar dried tomatoes.
Solar dried whole tomatoes
Two layers this time...
I nicked some of the 10lt pot full of tomatoes to make tomato ketchup.  All I did was add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spice and boil until the liquid was sufficiently reduced and it was as thick as double cream.  Again, warm sterilized bottles were filled with piping hot sauce and quickly sealed.  Then they are stored in the fridge.
Tomato Ketchup
With the last of this harvest, I made , and bottled, some tomato sauce for pasta in the solar oven.
Tomatoes cooking in the solar oven prior to
being placed (in portions) in the freezer
Providing that the locals don't totally strip the loads of green tomatoes I left on the vines, I am probably going to be doing this all over again next month...

I can't wait :)

Finally, I want to share a tip I discovered (by accident) for supporting tomatoes.  I have nylon string supports attached to the upper "roof" and "side wall" wooden cross beams.  Tying that nylon to the base of the plant to anchor it, all I did was very gently and carefully "twist" (wrap / entwine) the pliable top of the plant round the nylon string. It could easily be achieved in your tomato garden if you "planted" two sturdy upright poles with a cross bar fixed to the top, and "strings" which hang down towards your tomato plants.
Tomato plant twisted round the
string for support
It works a real treat :)  And there'll be no fiddly support strings that cut into my tomato stems, nor will I have to undo the lot at the end of the season.


Mad dog and Englishman said...

Wow, that tomato cook-up looks fabulous! Next time....tomato jam!

Sue said...

I've read of folks trying string to support tomatoes and always wondered if it turned out. Sounds super simpe.
I might try that on one. I generally have to use HUGE cage-type trellisses because of our cold summer temps--easy to put up tarps to protect the plant.....but near the house this just may work. Thanks!

Dani said...

Teach - LOL, I'll need to find a recipe for tomato jam...

Dani said...

Sue - Super simple it is - at least for me. Cages would also be lovely, though... Especially if you can cover them with tarps for your weather.

Mr. H. said...

Looks like you have had a wonderfuly seccessful harvest and I enjoyed seeing how you are preserving your tomatoes. We bottle our sauce differently in the U.S. so it is always fascinating for me to see how people outside this country do it.

Dani said...

Mr H - I'd love to know how you bottle your sauce :)

Please, don't take me as normal - others in South Africa probably use the same method (pressure canning?) as you. I'm just bumbling along using my solar oven, but it seems to work, so why change...? :)

Mrs. Mac said...

Your solar oven is so intriguing. You not normal? ;) Why you're just writing life as you live it! The best way to live .. blazing ahead of the pack with energy saving ways. Keep on inspiring the pack following behind :)

Dani said...

Mrs Mac - LOL - you're too kind. I AM off the wall, but as you say, if I'm forging ahead of the pack with regards to solar preserving, then so be it - someone has to do it...

I will ALWAYS share what I try / learn - otherwise, what is the point? And, if it doesn't work, well, you'll all be the first to know.

tami said...

You know... I passed a garden last summer and saw T-posts in a tomato patch strung along the top with heavy cords. I wonder if they supported theirs the same way you suggest. I think I'll give it a go this summer! BTW I thought about buying a solar oven just to do the canning outside and keep it cool inside! I've never tried drying tomatoes. (add to list)

PS...I posted "how to" on my blog to get rid of WV if you still want to.

Dani said...

Tami - Thanks - I switched back to the old Blogger and disabled word verification. Cool - thanks again :)

If you have the weather, go for it. I've never regretted buying my solar oven - not once :) Not sure if my "canning" is legal in the US but it certainly works for me. As a test I kept one of my solar bottled (cocktail) tomatoes from last year - and it's still perfect :)

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I agree with Mr H., if our Department of Agriculture saw you reusing those types of jars and lids, not to mention that much head space left in the jar, they would flip :) We have very specific rules here for preserving. Some are good, some are ridiculous. Just be careful because you can not taste or smell some of the deadliest bacteria that can survive in preserved jars.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I feel very inadequate as other than eating tomatoes, all I make with mine is pasta sauce..........

Gill in Canada

Energiser Bunny said...

Hi Dani
I worked on the solar cooker pilot where the German government paid millions to test eight German models of solar cooker and let us throw one SA model in. We did user testing for two years in Huhudi, Onseepkans and Barley West (ie. where its hot enough to fry an egg on your head) and surprise, surprise, the SA model came up trumps!! The SunStove then went into commercial production with the best performing German model

Dani said...

Jane - Yeah - You've got me on the re-using of the two jar lids and the two bottles. Although I thoroughly sterilized them, and their lids, I was naughty...

But, with the head space, those particular jars were (as per the recipe) filled to the absolute brim when they went into the solar oven - the tomatoes "collapsed" during the cooking process thus sinking down to 6/8ths full.

And the tomato ketchup - again - I did re-use sterilized vinegar bottles. They are kept in the fridge, and, again as per the recipe, will be used within 3 months.

Thanks for your warning, I appreciate it and your concern. :)

Dani said...

Gill - LOL - tomatoes are my very best fruit - couldn't imagine a day without them...

Dani said...

EB - My first solar oven was a SunStove, but I found the temperature didn't reach higher than a max of 1005oC, which was very limiting.

You lucky girl - I would've loved to be involved with that test!

MsBelinda said...

I'm with Gill - That British Woman, I feel inadequate because at least she can make pasta sauce but I can't make anything :(

I so admire all the hard work you put into your garden and are now reaping the fruits of your labor. I can not believe how many tomatoes you harvested.

You are a real inspiration!

Dani said...

Ms Belinda - Thanks - I, too feel very grateful. It could've all gone so horribly wrong, and instead I have all these absolutely wonderful vegetables.

I was like you - all it takes is some investigation, reading up, very welcome advice from fellow gardeners. Why not try growing just one tomato plant - you'll feel so rewarded when you harvest it's fruit and can eat it in a salad or on a burger:)

frann said...

I had to do a search to find out what aubergine was. It all looks so yummy!

Dani said...

Sorry Frann - I normally give the common word - I didn't this time. They are very yummy!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dani

Please can you tell me where you bought your Solar oven?

Dani said...

Andre - Welcome - thanks for hitting the follow button. Please let me have your e-mail address and I'll give you the info :)