Tomato Season: Mortgage Lifter

I came home after being out of town for a week to an abundance of ripe and ripening tomatoes.  I only planted four plants, but I think it will get us through the winter.

This large tomato is a Mortgage Lifter. My local greenhouse carries a very few tomatoes and they are always unusual heirloom varieties. Last year it was San Marzano – and they were amazing. I think I’ll try to start some from seeds next year.

This year it was Mortgage Lifter and Amish Paste tomatoes.

This is the first ripe Mortgage Lifter – about the size of a softball – heavy – just under a pound. Definitely the biggest of this year’s varieties. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Freezing Fresh from the Garden


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It’s the time of year again when things begin to ripen faster than you can eat them, but there are still not enough to think about canning or cooking down and freezing. So what to do?

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I had a bunch of cilantro and two tomatoes which were rushing to ruin and decided I needed to do something so I didn’t end up composting them. You can do this with any leafy herb, such as the basil, parsley, cilantro and veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.

I added the tomatoes and cilantro into my blender, covered with water and blended together well. I froze them in 8 oz portions, as that is the amount I would use in soup or sauce. Ice cube trays are an option, too, but that size is better for when you’re freezing intense herbs, like basil, by itself, where you would only use a tablespoon or so in a recipe.

I also zest all my oranges, lemons and limes and freeze them in a thin and flat layer in ziplock bags. Then I break off whatever amount called for in a recipe.

Herbs can also be packed in oil (click here) as JeffreyW did with his basil pictured above and tomatoes can be flash frozen whole, as JeffreyW did with the batch  pictured at the top and detailed heregreen and red peppers can be seeded and cut up into large pieces and frozen in the same manner.

There are many more ways to preserve fresh from the garden produce and I’ll try and remember to document as I go along this summer. Until then….



Freezing Bell Peppers

DSC_8866 (1600x1060)We had a couple of pepper bushes survive our neglect and produce some fruit so I took a few hours this morning to deal with them.  After removing the stems and seeds the food processor with a slicer blade made short work of them:DSC_8867 (1600x1060)We’ve always used zipper bags to freeze our produce but decided to try the vacuum seal gadget this time.  I think it’s a pretty good choice of methods but the truth of it will be when we pull a bag from the freezer to use in a recipe.DSC_8869 (1600x1060)I kept a few out for lunch:DSC_8872 (1600x1060)

Freezing Cherry Tomatoes

Just too many to eat.  We looked at several storage methods and decided to go with the easiest this go around.  The pictures tell the story.

These are from 3 plants over two days.  There is a cherry tomato, a grape tomato, and the larger ones are from another variety of cherry tomato, a Husky Red iirc.  I believe the grape variety is a Tammy G but I could be mistaken.

Views of My Brother’s Harvest

Before I head out of town again, thought I’d leave you with some fall harvest photos.  Sadly they are not mine.

My youngest brother had a bumper crop this year in his garden.  He called last night to give me a final tally of the canning and freezing he and my sister-in-law did.  Sounds like they are set for the winter….and spring…and possibly next summer as well.

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The summer in NE was hot, so their bean crop was very late, but still abundant.  Sounds like the cucumbers overran the place, so there was lots of relish.  The yukon golds got so big, one was almost enough for a family of 3 for dinner.  And of course if you’re going to grow your veggies big, your bugs will  follow suit.  And I pretty sure I see some room on that shelf for apple butter, don’t you?

Freezing Bok Choy

I visited the local farmer’s market today to see what produce November offered.  I don’t get by there very often, this may have been the second time this year is all.  Probably wouldn’t have gone today except it is very close to the Asian grocery where I buy all my shrimp.  It’s only open on Saturdays and I usually get to that grocer on a weekday.

Anyway, they had the usual:  Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, greens of several varieties, a bit of expensive cheese, the odd craft item, squashes and pumpkins, several kinds of radishes, and turnips galore.  I bought some poblano peppers that I have in a low oven right now to see how well I can dry them.  What caught my eye was the bok choy-several sellers offered it and it was nearly all of the “baby” styled young plants.  I love that stuff and I bought more than I should have it was so inexpensive.

I got them home and figured the Google could tell me if it would freeze OK–and it  seems to be a decent candidate for storing frozen.  I read several “how tos” and went with the method most commonly used.  Blanch the stuff for 2 minutes, cool it quickly in ice water, drain,  then spread it on trays to freeze.  Once frozen the stalks are gathered and stuffed into plastic freezer bags for longer term storage.  This is similar to the way I froze peppers this summer except for the blanching.  I like the results so far, I have it all put up and it looks good.  I’ll mention how it cooks up when I get there.

The Asian grocer had a big box of fresh shiitake mushrooms.  Again, I bought more than I could use right away.  Google mentioned a few different ways to freeze them and I went with the saute in butter for a little while and then put into zip lock baggies in usable portions.  Wish I  had bought more of them now.

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Hard to describe these particular moments.  You know, the times when it seems a lightning bolt has struck, and suddenly you are not sure if you are quite as smart and aware and efficient as your Momma always told you you were.

Many of the meals I prepare share a common ingredient:  Green onions.  More than a garnish, although they are a superb garnish.  The only problem with them is that they are so perishable!  I try to keep a few bunches in the fridge but nearly every time I go to them I have to peel away an outer leaf because it’s turning brown, or worse, into green gooey slime.  The other day I was passing some time reading comments to a recipe on line and someone mentioned offhandedly that they kept their green onions in the freezer, already chopped.


chopped and spread on a tray for freezing

Will they be as good as fresh?  Doubt it for strictly “garnish”, but mixed in with soups or omelets or frittatas they should be just fine.

Pretty Pretty Peppers

Decided all those peeps out there who freeze their summer pepper bounty can’t be all wrong.  Reading through a few “how to” bog posts settled us on the method we used.  Deseeded the whole peppers, cut them into strips, and layered them on baking trays for freezing.  Once frozen we’ll separate them into useful quantities in plastic zip locks.  I saw one poster who froze diced peppers in ice cube trays, and a comment on her post mentioned muffin tins.  That sounded pretty good, so we oiled the muffin tin and managed to fill 11 of the 12 holes with the diced output from the food processor, mostly from the top caps.  We ended up with 2 trays of strips and the muffin tin of diced.

[Edit-8/8/10]  Took the trays from the freezer just now, and I can say without reservation that this is the way to go.  The frozen strips of pepper came apart easily (I feared they would clump a bit) and went right into a zipock bag and back into the freezer.  Easy peasy.  The diced peppers in the muffin tin are like little hockey pucks, each about 1/4 cup.  I added a pic of the frozen and bagged pepper strips to the slide show, not a great pic, sorry.  Had the wrong lens on and the bag was starting to fog up so I hurried it.

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