Friday, October 8, 2010

The Last Tomato Harvest

Sigh.  The last tomato harvest. 

With frost threatening a few days ago, it was time for the last tomato harvest.  Since tomatoes don't do particularly well during and after a frost, even when the weather warms back up, that first sub-40 forecast means it is time to bring in everything that can possibly be useful.

Which, really, is quite a lot.  If you haven't yet made your last tomato harvest, do so when frost threatens (or now, if it already has happened).  Take every tomato of any size that is shiny green.  Some gardeners prefer to only take "breakers," those tomatoes that are just getting a blush on them, but I grab everything with a shine to it.  These tomatoes will ripen in the house.

As you can see, I pretty unceremoniously throw all my green tomatoes into a cardboard box, then every day I grab out those that are turning orange and put them on the counter to use quickly.  These are not high-quality red tomatoes like you had in August; they will be a bit tough, and they go bad quickly.  You will not really be wanting to eat them raw or slice them on a sandwich, but they are great for cooking.  These give you a few late-season extra-cheap garden meals before you have to start hitting your cans, freezer, and cellar for provisions.  Last night, I used some of these house-ripened tomatoes to make a simple pasta sauce:

4-5 large house-ripened tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 leeks (still going strong in garden)
1 package Andouille sausage cut into chunks ($3.99 from Trader Joe's)

Simmer all ingredients until flavors blend.  Use to top pasta or rice.  With the addition of some cheap pasta from the pantry, I had a meal of two dinners and two lunches for under $5.

The Analysis

Fast:  Yes, that last tomato harvest comes all too "fast."  Seriously, it takes no time to run out to the garden and fill a box with shiny green tomatoes when frost threatens.

Cheap:  Another few cheap meals are just what the budget ordered, and another way to get more veggies in our diet.

Good:  I can't really call the last tomato harvest "good."  I hate harvesting the tomatoes when the wind is blowing up a chill, and I hate the feel of cold tomatoes when I just spent the whole summer picking and eating them while they are warm.  But using the last of a precious resource is very good, indeed.  I'll probably have cooking tomatoes until the end of the month from this last harvest.
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