is like a string quartet without violins.
pretty as a picture
Late September. There aren’t any signs of a frost in our northern river valley even though October is lurking on the next calendar page, and pumpkins, gourds and squash are the adornment in markets, shops and houses. The mecury still dances at 80 degrees — what a spectacular first week of autumn! Can you hear a long sigh of gratitude on this warm, early autumn day?
The tomatoes are still producing beautifully at Rose Cottage. The late afternoon sun casts a golden glow on the kitchen garden’s sweet tomato offerings — just as if each were in the spotlight before taking a final bow for the closing night of the season’s production. I dream of this moment each January as I study dog-eared pages of seed catalogues stacked knee-high next to my comfy reading chair. What can be better than enjoying the garden offering of a just-picked-from-the-vine warm tomato?
Grandmother’s vintage white enamel pan quickly fills with tomatoes of all shapes and colors. These are not the standard supermarket varieties–each is an abstract piece of art calling for my attention — they are divas, you know. I pause and consider the wide array of sunburst colors in the chippy, old dish pan.
Onward . . . stay focused . . . the sun is behind the hill and it will be dark soon. The indeterminate tomato varities — those that keep growing and growing — are nearing eight to nine feet tall and are spilling out over their five-foot rusty concrete reinforcing wire cages my sweet one made several years ago. The standard issuance available at most garden centers doesn’t support the likes of those grown at Rose Cottage.
I pick a handful of yellow, orange and red cherry tomatoes. The simple goodness is so satisfying. (Wait! Do I hear violins?!) At the moment, I really don’t think about how these luscious jewels are filled with all sorts of good-for-me things. Nothing matches the taste or the varied loveliness of these fresh beauties! I have set aside a large basket for you. Shall I drop them by for you to savor, too? It is my gift to you.
At Rose Cottage, we are ardent fanciers of these garden offerings — whether the heirloom dinner-sized plate version or dime-sized jewels . . . red, yellow, purple or orange . . . lusciously sweet or acidic.
Although, heirlooms are the hands-down favorites in taste tests for family and friends.
This year, over 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes found their home in the Rose Cottage kitchen garden. Some fared better than others in our little microclimate.
While we are not tomato experts, we are surely tomato aficionados and have been growing them organically for over 30 years — usually 100 or more plants of numerous varieties each year. I just can’t get enough of those sweet offerings!
preserving the beauties
My fingers are tinged dark green from the tomato vines. The aromas of earth, tomato leaves and fall co-mingle as the night air cools. The tree toads and crickets gather for their soire and begin their evensong. The tomatoes are gathered.
We try to preserve all the goodness and full-flavor of the tomatoes as quickly as possible. The kitchen is briming with tomatoes every which way. Most of the tomatoes we simply “put up” into quart canning jars following the USDA Guidelines for home food preservation.
Later on, these canned tomatoes are perfect for making tomato soup or pasta sauce, or adding to chili, stews. and more. What is your family favorite for using tomatoes?
Some of the tomatoes are simmered on the back burner for hours with savory herbs and spices. The result — amazing ketchup — so delicious that it can almost be eaten with a spoon out of the jar. Now, this does not taste like the usual varieties . . . nothing compares to these little half-pint pots of gold. How I would like for you to try some, too!
The ‘Principe Borghese’ variety and some other heirloom Italian paste tomatoes are oven-dried with a drenching of Italian olive oil and sea salt. They turn into candied tomato nuggets — similar to sun-dried tomatoes — and then stored in tomato herb-infused olive oil. Perfect for the antipasti tray, pizza or tossing into a salald or sauce!
The evening has quickly cooled down to 50 degrees. The sudden mecury drop is a reminder that summer is lingering for only a moment or two longer. What else is in the kitchen garden that needs to be gathered soon? Wondering . . . how can some of this lovely day can be captured in a “jar?”
Maybe . . . just maybe . . . if I put a bit more of this gorgeous summer in jar, there will be sunshine and warm memories when the windchills are 40 below zero.
How do you capture a bit of summer’s memories?
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There is nothing better than enjoying a late summer offering of the sun-kissed tomato. Since she was just a toddler, Rebekah grows weak in the knees when she sees a tomato . . . she never misses a sample or two or three or more! If I couldn’t find her, I need not look any further than the tomato beds. (Note: The images are early digital — they are a few years old. The toddler picture is vintage — was scanned from a 1981 photo when Rebekah just turned one-year!)
Happy, happy birthday, dear Sweet Cakes!
All the tomatoes you want are waiting for you at Rose Cottage!
We have put some summer in a jar for you, too.