Friday, September 16, 2011

The Night Before Frostness

Being a tomato grower in these northern parts is an absurd thing to do. It means you plant your seeds in February inside your warm house that you will be heating for a couple of more months at least. Then you may move these little seedlings out to a greenhouse that you might heat as well on those cold nights (we do). Come the end of May or early June you will transplant those baby sweethearts into soil out in the fields and hope you don’t get one of those unlucky early June frosts.

Come the end of July you might see one of those green lovelies turning the slightest bit of red. You will hope to see your first tomato in July but most years, okay every year, you really won’t until August.

You tell people at market that you’ll have tomatoes next week. Then you don’t. You hope it will only be one more week but it probably won’t be. Mid-August you begin to see red tomatoes. Then you start kind of wondering what you’re going to do with all of those tomatoes. Then you are sort of drowning in crates and crates of them and delivering mass quantities to anybody who will take them.

The slightest ugly spot or bruise and the tomato is rendered chicken feed or…

There comes the day that it is time to put tomatoes away for the winter. Out comes the propane outdoor burner and the 60L pot and my gigantic whisk that I got at a restaurant supply store.

The tomato rig

Almost done!

After a day of turning the whole tomatoes into crushed sauce, I run the whisk around the sauce until a mass of skins gets stuck on the rungs. I give the whisk a big shake in the directions of the chickens. After a few of these there are much fewer skins left in the sauce.

Into sterilized jars they go and back into their cardboard box. Sometimes I use medium Ziploc bags lined into a shoebox type thing to keep them from folding until they freeze. The jars are put in the freezer as we grow a lot of heritage varieties that are low in acid and don’t keep too well on a shelf.

This is where I must buy a pressure canner. Or just buy a fourth freezer. Likely I will do both.

Thank you dear tomatoes for coming to fruition this year once again. In this climate it is a full wonder that we ever see you at all. The next two nights show a frost warning in these parts. Perhaps we will see you again next year. Perhaps we will get lucky and you will survive another week or two (or three or four).

Time to go put on some row cover - a gauzy blanket-type material that runs the length of the 200 foot rows. I know we can't elude you very much longer, Frost. As always, you mark the beginning of the end of another long and plentiful season.

And a well needed sleep for these farmers.

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