The Final Basil Harvest

I planted a prodigious amount of basil this year.  Like, a LOT, a lot.  After a summer of pruning here and there to make pizzas and pestos, it was time to cut everything down and see what I had.
final basil harvest

(I apologize for the iPhone pictures- it’s just what’s close at hand when I’m covered in garden dirt!)

I peeled all the leaves off and dumped them into a sink of cool water and swished them around a bit to knock the dirt off, and let them sit a few minutes so it all could settle to the bottom of the sink.  I had to do it in 3 batches, but everything was spun through the salad spinner to get dry, and then made into pesto and frozen.  (And YES: my next batch of laundry smelled amazing.  Thanks.)

final basil harvest

I used this recipe, from Sustainable Eats, and loved it.  I normally use a recipe from my trust BHG (Better Homes and Gardens) cookbook, but any recipe that says:

“I can force about a cubic foot of loosely packed basil leaves (removed from the plant) into a cup and a half of oil.”

Nice.  THAT’S what I want to hear at the end of the growing season!

I portioned it all into quart-sized ziploc baggies and froze them flat- I ended up with 8 cups of pesto.  Not too shabby!

 

 

Tomatoes at my House, From Seed to Kitchen

Every February or March, either my mom or I plant up a squillion or so tomato seeds in dirt trays in our greenhouses, and wait for them to sprout.  Once they’ve come up, we use a very careful method involving a teaspoon and a sharp pencil to pick up each little sprout and transplant it into a beer cup full of miracle-gro dirt.  (What do YOU call those red, 20 oz., Solo brand plastic cups?)

(These are actually basil starts, but you get the idea)
basil starts in the greenhouse

tomato starts in the greenhouse

We leave our army of tomato-seedling-filled beer cups in our green houses until they’re nice and big, and the weather has warmed up.  Once that’s happened, they’re transplanted outside.  This is normally in June or July.  This year, I took my biggest transplants and moved them to gallon pots in May and June, to give them bigger root systems before putting them in the ground.  Tomatoes can send out roots wherever their stems touch dirt, so I de-leaf the bottom half of the vine and bury it.

In years past, I’ve put my tomatoes in pots.  While lots of people have huge success with this (including my mom) I never do.  That’s probably because I’m not the most conscientious waterer, and plants in the ground are more forgiving about water since they can find their own.  Now, I put them in the ground, again burying the bottom part of the stalk so I can get a stronger root system.

I discovered my favorite staking method this year, and it surprised me: I found plastic “bamboo” stakes in the shed, left behind by a previous owner.  They’re about a 1/4 inch thick, and four feet tall.  I stuck them in the ground behind the transplants, and used a rubberized wire to twist-tie the tomato vines to the stakes as they grew taller.  Next year I’ll remember to snip off the top of the vine once they reach the top of the stakes, but even without this they did great this year and nothing fell over.

We had such a cold, late, summer this year that none of my large tomatoes (roma and Early Girl) ever turned red.  Not even close.  I got a handful of yellow pear cherry tomatoes, but nothing to write home about.

tomatillos and green tomatoes

When the Fall rains started, I harvested every tomato I could find.  I put all the big tomatoes into a cardboard box, in two layers with some newspaper in between.  I intended to just store them in there until I used them in curries or salsas, or found recipes to use them in.  As of right now, three weeks after that harvest, fully 3/4 of my big tomatoes have ripened and are delicious!  Totally surprised me- next year, I’m going to harvest tomatoes as soon as they’re full-sized and let them ripen inside.  I’ll get ripe tomatoes all summer, and the plants will focus on the next crop of tomatoes when I remove the most mature fruit.

early girl tomato

What I’ve not eaten, I’ve been throwing into gallon ziploc bags and putting them in the freezer for later.  From what I’ve read, I’ll be able to just thaw them and the skins will slide off.  Then, I can cook them into quick sauces, soups, salsa, etc.

sweet 100 tomatoes

green tomatoes in the sink

The cherry tomatoes have not done well ripening on the counter, for some reason.  The ripe and almost ripe were picked too late after the rains started, and they’d already split open and were mealy.  Luckily, I’ve been on a pickle kick lately and have a new favorite brine.  In the end, I had two gallons of green cherry tomatoes and they are all taking a bath in a sextuple batch of that brine.  I’m pretty stoked.  (They’ve been fermenting three days now, they have four more to go before they go into the refrigerator.)

Harvest Season

Now that Fall is here, and it’s time to bring in the last of the garden, things are getting busy!

We had the 2 cases of peaches that were canned, and the one that was frozen.
huge red globe peace

 

 

Beets from the garden

beets, greens, and carrots from the garden

Oven-dried figs, from Mom’s tree.  I didn’t get a picture, but I’ve dried a few sheets of roma tomato halves as well- they’re stashed away in the freezer for this winter.  Drying is easy- cut the fruit in  half the long ways, lay them skin-side-down on a cookie sheet (I use a silicone mat, too) and leave them in a warm oven with the door cracked.  My tomatoes took about a day, but the figs were faster.  I literally have a “keep warm” setting on my oven- about 170 degrees.

oven dried figs

Orange tomato , basil, pesto sandwich- tomato from Mom’s greenhouse, basil from mine, and pesto…from Costco.  Heh.  These things just find their way home with me when I visit my parents!  Oh, and pickled beets.  Every sandwich needs a pickle.

basil and tomato sandwich on wheat oat bread, pickled beets

Here are the 25 quarts of canned peaches, plus a few pints of fig preserves.  Again, the figs are from Mom’s tree.25 quarts of peaches

Pickled beets.  So. Very Good.

pickled beets

 

6 quarts of apple sauce and 6 quarts of apple juice, courtesy of two crates of apples I took off my friend’s hands.  She was short on time and long on apples!  I have another case of apples in the garage, plus a few more trees that need harvesting in Mom’s garden when they ripen.

making applesauce and apple juice

Before the next week is over, I’m going to pull all the basil out of my garden and make a mondo batch of pesto for the freezer.  Now that fall rains have started, and the weather is cooling down, I’m going to harvest all my tomatoes and do what I can with them.  (Tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse, I’ll leave them there, and move in any pots I have- hopefully I can get a few more weeks of on-the-vine time, and I’m hoping the basil will last.)

We ate our first red tomato tonight with dinner, it was AMAZING, but I just know we won’t get many more.  There are a few that are pinking up, and I’ll let them ripen in newspaper.  I’ve been collecting green tomato recipes- I’ll load some gallon bags up for the freezer, to use them in curries this winter.  I’ll pickle a few quarts too, but that seems like such a leap of faith- the best recipe I could find on allrecipes.com says it takes 3 months for them to pickle in the refrigerator.  What if I don’t like the brine?  I had an AMAZING pickled green tomato from a friend a few months ago- she bought it at a store, so I can’t get the recipe.  But it had the funk of a good green olive, plus a little heat.  Oh my wow, it was good.  If anyone has a favorite pickle brine, please share!