The only thing better than growing your own produce is eating it in the off-season after you have preserved it! However, to say that I grew these fabulous peaches and tomatoes would be far from the truth. In fact, the only thing I grow every season are herbs and tomatoes. It is sad, but it is the truth. What’s even sadder is that the tomato plants that I did plant, were actually scorched by the Seattle sun this year (yes, Seattle does have sun) and produced a mere 5 tomatoes. Each year I tell myself I will figure out a way to grow more vegetables. In Florida, my homes had lots of space and sun, so it was quite natural that one could plant some seeds and watch a bunch of things grow very easily. In Seattle, it is quite a different story. First of all, the ground is not warm enough to start many of your early spring seedlings, so you either need a greenhouse, or a place in your home with a lot of counter space and growing lights. I have neither. I did manage to fill the few windowsills that we have out of reach from tiny toddler hands with some seedlings in those plastic little “greenhouses” you can buy from the garden store. They did very well, but unfortunately, I lacked space to actually plant many of them once it got warm enough. Part of the problem is that we are still renting. It really hard to be inspired to dedicate the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into planning and in my case, creating a garden space that could very easily only last me one season. (Who knows how long we will live here) The second issue is, in order to really grow a great garden here, it would require that I plant in the easement or dig up a bunch of plants already in the front, which our landlord may not be too happy about. But what about the community garden you ask??? Well, it looks like I am not the only one with space areas in Seattle! I signed up for the P-Patch Program when I moved here and am STILL on the waiting list. Needless to say, I relied on the farmers at the local markets to supply me all of produce seen in these pictures. And it was actually fun!! I spoke with a least a half-dozen farmers, and in the process learned more than I ever thought I could know about tomatoes and peaches.
Peaches come in earlier than tomatoes so they were first on my list to preserve. I decided to dry them, so I could have a quick, delicious snack for the cold winter months ahead. They turned out as delicious as I thought they would. The only problem is that they only lasted me until late summer! While drying is easy and fun, it takes a looooonnnnggg time and there is really not that much space in the dehydrators. I know you can always use the oven, but who wants a hot kitchen with no air-conditioning in the summer???
Tomatoes were next on this list. I really wanted to can them, but had no dishwasher and really didn’t want to undergo such as task alone. Luckily, one of my good friends M is a canning pro (ok, well perhaps not a pro, but a seasoned veteran!). My job would be to hunt down some local, organic tomatoes at a good price (not as easy as you think) and her job was to host the all day event. I tracked down a farmer, Richard Ness, who owns the Kittnas Valley Greenhouse in Ellensburg, WA. I was able to purchase 60 pounds of the most beautiful tomatoes at the market for a really great price. I forgot to take a picture until the very end, so here was shot of the ones with spots. Out of 60 pounds these were the only ones with blemishes.
Overall, I think both project went very well. We only messed up one batch of tomatoes by adding a little too much water, but the rest of the batches came out perfect. If you are thinking of doing some canning next season, I dont think it is really necessary to add any water at all. The tomatoes are really juicy enough. The ones we canned without water, came out perfect!
Our last project of the year will be apples. I have already picked up 20 pounds of Cameo apples from Kurt Tonnemaker and am planning to can lots of apple butter and sauce this weekend. Look for some pictures later this weekend on my Flickr page.
Thinking about canning, but not sure you are ready to jump into tens of pounds of produce?? Well then I have a perfect recommendation for you. I just picked up Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan and it is truly a gem for anyone interested in trying it out.