2010 Tomato Harvest – Round 1

Freshly Harvested Tomatoes

This year I haven’t been nearly as active with my harvesting (and freezing) efforts as I was last year. I’ve certainly picked a fair number of beans and tomatoes (and the odd zucchini), but mostly just for a given meal here and there. As a result, many of my beans have toughened up and/or been munched by critters, making them fit for worm consumption only. I thought I might be heading in the same direction with the majority of my tomatoes, but ended up taking some action this weekend.

I’m sure that a lot of my inaction on the harvesting (specially, harvesting then freezing) front stems from the fact that I ended up quite disappointed with the produce I froze last year. As some of you may recall, I ran into some serious issues with a tomato disease last year and ended up having to harvest most of them while they were still green (see “The Great Green Tomato Rescue“). I’m a serious fried green tomato fan, don’t get me wrong, but I had FAR more tomatoes than could be put to use in a reasonable amount of time. I figured that frozen green tomatoes could be put to good use in soups, stir fries, sauces etc. As it turns out, they just were not appealing at all – so, the vast majority of them ended of as worm food (as did most of the frozen zucchini, chard and beans).

As you can see in the picture above, I have been forced to harvest a fair number of beefsteak tomatoes while they are still green (since these plants are among the hardest hit by the disease this year) – but I also had LOADS of beautiful, ripe grape, cherry and tomatoberry fruit (and expect to harvest many more before I need to chop the plants down). I am much more confident that these can be used for soups, sauces etc during the fall and winter – they should offer much more flavor – not to mention lycopene!
8)

I have been particularly impressed with the tomatoberries this year. Sure, they didn’t go gangbusters in the bucket systems (although I still managed to harvest a fair number of ripe fruit from them) – but it was another story altogether with the plants that border (or are growing directly in) my worm composting trench beds! Even with my failed support efforts, and some really lousy weather (and lack of care from me) as of late, the plants have done great! Although you might generally think of these as a type of cherry tomato, I’ve found them much more versatile than that – and as you can see, some of them have certainly grown a fair bit bigger than most cherry tomatoes as well.

Tomatoberries

The flavor is definitely sweet enough to enjoy them right off the vine, yet meaty enough to also make them a great addition to a sandwich. I’m optimistic that they will do just fine as a mini “plum tomato” (for sauces etc) as well.

I spent a LONG time preparing my tomatoes for freezing last year – which naturally seems like “wasted time” in hindsight – SO, this year it’s going to be a K.I.S.S. approach all the way. I tossed them in the sink for a soak (to wash off dust/debris etc), rinsed them quickly, patted them off in some tea towels (to avoid excess water in the freezer bags) then bagged them up.

When all was said and done, I ended up with four large freezer bags full (perhaps ~ 20 lb worth) with a small quantity in a fifth bag as well.

I didn’t do anything with the larger tomatoes. The plum tomatoes I picked are pink so I’m sure they will ripen fairly quickly, as will some of the pinkish beefsteak tomatoes. Any of the green tomatoes that don’t end up ripening on their own, or consumed / given away, will likely head right back to where they came from. I’m not the only one who enjoys munching on tomatoes (although I do prefer mine not to be rotten)!
8)

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Comments

  1. Very nice!
    I can’t remember if you started with seed or store bought plants.
    We bought some small plants that grew huge but, no fruit.
    Letty has 2 nice looking tomatoes (and don’t anybody get the idea to start a joke here).

    • John Duffy
    • August 24, 2010

    Hey Bentley & Mark,
    Do either of you use worm tea on your garden plants?

    • Bentley
    • August 24, 2010

    MARK – You are hilarious! lol
    All my plants were purchased when very small (next year my aim is to grow entirely from seed).
    ————
    JOHN – Worm tea is one of those things I keep meaning to get serious about, yet it never ends up happening. I did brew a small batch of very basic tea (simply sloshed a bag of vermicompost around in a plastic garbage can of rain water), but that was it. Next season for sure, I tell ya!
    8)

  2. Hi Bentley,

    I just love reading your blog, it is so entertaining! But some questions:

    Don’t you water your plants?
    I know you are in Ontario, Canada, somewhere, so when is does your growing season go dormant? In other words, why on earth are you picking green tomatoes so early? Please forgive me, I’m in Southern California where we really have no dormant season at all.

    Mark and Bentley,
    I make worm tea all the time! It seems to help keep the white flies down. I use the tea on strawberries and some others, then use the wet compost on the orange, lemon and lime trees.

    All,
    Wish me luck in my fall planting!

    • Bentley
    • August 24, 2010

    😆
    Dormant? You MUST be from California! (haha – teasing of course!)
    We prefer the term “DEAD” up here in the great white north.

    Joking aside, the reason I had to pick the beefsteak tomatoes green was because they were about to be taken over by a nasty disease (and some of them have ended up with it anyway) so I figured I would at least enjoy some fried green tomatoes.

    As for watering, yeah I’ve certainly had to water my tomatoes this summer, and perhaps the drought combined with not spending nearly as much time out in the garden these past few weeks (and thus not being as attentive to watering) HAS indeed contributed to some of the issues.

  3. Hi John,
    I messed around with the worm tea a few times. One time when I tried it we had not had any rain for a while. I went ahead and watered with the VC tea. 3 hours later we got an inch of rain. I pretty sure the rain did something to the tea and the 60 mph winds didn’t help either.
    I really want to get into the tea aspect of gardening and will keep trying, my worm friend Heather swears by VC tea.

    • Jean Kruse
    • August 25, 2010

    Heather is right, guys, worm tea is super and not hard to make. Vc in the potting soil and worm tea is all I use to feed the plants I sell in my nursery and the plants still look great at the end of summer.

    • Kator
    • August 26, 2010

    Cynthia – hmmm .. Southern California sounds pretty good to this Newfie gardner. 🙂
    —————————–
    Bentley – is there a general volumne ratio involved with the vermicompose and rain water. How well “steeped” should it be as a finished product and is there a downside if too concentrated?

  4. Bentley,
    If you still have green tomatoes around, I have stumbled upon a wonderful root cellaring method of preserving in my book “The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home”.
    Simply place a layer of crumpled newspaper in a cardboard box, then a single layer of the green tomatoes, followed by another layer of newspaper, more tomatoes, etc. in layers ending with a layer of newspaper on top, and place in your basement where they will stay cool. Check them regularly and if any begin to spoil, remove them. To ripen some for use (or for any that begin to ripen in the box), place them on a sunny windowsill and they will ripen up in a few days. They won’t taste as spectacular as vine-ripened tomatoes, but the method will prolong your harvest’s lifespan.

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