2017 Harvest

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Racing with the snow

This gardening year has been a real challenge. After a cold spring and a very warm summer, these past few weeks of the fall have been very moody. We haven't had too cold mornings or afternoons, actually, the temperatures were very mild for this time of the year. What has been troubling us have been extreme amounts of rain. We got our monthly rain amount in just a few days and since then there hasn't been a week without the rain.
Of course, this has been making the garden work almost impossible.
I've started deep digging a month ago and up till now, I haven't made much progress. Most of the time soil was too damp to do anything and it was basically a struggle to even stand on the downhill beds.

To make things worse I've been sick for the past two weeks which means that I have not done any work and that my garden has been stuck half finished.
I still haven't removed the bean net which is a whole day work on its own and have still 14 days more or less of deep digging.

I have absolutely no idea if I'll manage to finish the garden because I'm still not feeling good and the weather keeps getting worse. Right now we're having cold days with lots of rain and wind but the worse thing is that the snow border is getting really close to our place and all I can do is sit and watch.

I did manage to harvest everything in the garden. Due to the warm but damp weather, I had to harvest all my tomatoes while they were still green because they began to crack due to the excess of water.
On the other hand carrots and cyclanthera have enjoyed this kind of weather and I've been harvesting them through the October and the first week of November.

The moodiness of the weather is best shown on our raspberries. They have been flowering and producing fruits in November. Yes, we've got November raspberries.

What worries me the most is that young plants that were supposed to give fruits next year in April are flowering like crazy. I have absolutely no idea if they will act normally during the winter and produce fruits in the spring or they will dry out during the winter like 2-year branches. If they start drying I'm afraid there will be no fruits in the spring and possibly I won't have any fruits next year. 

Right now all I'm hoping for is to get better and to have just a few more weeks of good weather and a chance to finish deep digging because if not the gardening year of 2018 will be a real struggle.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sun dried tomatoes

Extremely hot end of the July and the beginning of August did a serious damage to our plants. Almost all of them have dried due to the lack of the water and some have even been completely burned.
In all the bad things extreme heat and drought bring there is one positive thing. Sun dried tomatoes.

 Storing tomatoes for winter without cooking can be a very difficult task. Cooking kills that strong tomato taste we love during the summer. Cooking with fresh tomatoes that didn't get enough sun and warmth during the growing season to me is like cooking with rubber tomatoes. There is almost no taste in them. This is why we don't buy tomatoes outside of the tomato season(June- September) instead of buying we use sun dried tomatoes.
Every tomato variety can be dried and used as dried tomatoes, still, in my own opinion, there is no better variety for drying than cherry shaped tomatoes. All those small round tomatoes are perfect. They have enough meat, don't contain too much water like for example oxheart tomatoes which are very juicy and hard to dry. Also, they have a higher concentration of the "tomato taste"  once they are dried.
All cherry varieties are perfect, pear shaped, red, black, yellow cherry. Every variety based on cherry varieties is also great,  Reisetomatoe (brainy tomato) is perfect and strong tasted, basically, every tomato smaller than the walnut shape is perfect. Bigger ones need to be cut in more slices and when dried the middle slices have a very small skin part and almost no meat.

Left to right: orange dwarf tomatoes, balcony yellow, Reisetomate

The process of drying is really simple, tomatoes sliced in half or slices if bigger are placed on a metal baking tray, sprinkled with a bit of salt (not too much just to help the process of drying) and then they should be placed in the sun during the day. The higher temperature outside the faster they will dry. In temperatures around 38°C(100F) tomatoes will be completely dry in a two or three days.

After a day of drying

When completely dry place them in a glass jar and cover with oil. The type of oil depends on the type of taste you like. Using olive oil will give your tomatoes a touch of Mediterranean flavor and placing a dried chili pepper inside the jar will make them spicy.
Completely dried tomatoes don't need pasteurization, they will stay fresh and won't go bad in months.

Completely dried tomatoes could be too dry to eat even after the cooking or baking process so before using them you can soak them in hot water for 30 minutes or just use them for cooking and remove them before eating the meal.
The other way to store them for winter without the need of pre-soaking is not drying them all the way but until they loose all the water and the meat is dry(a day and a half). In that case, you pasteurization is needed. Still, because of the oil process can be done at low temperature and for a very short time.
Just place closed and filled jars in the oven at 100°C(212F) and keep them inside for 30 minutes. This way tomatoes can be stored up to a year without going bad.

This type of tomatoes can be used in every meal and in every cooking process. They will add that perfect tomato taste to the meal. Oil is also perfect for cooking because it keeps the tomato taste and adds a touch of the tomato to the meal even without the fruit itself.
Sund dried tomatoes can be dried in the oven also on 100°C with two fingers opened the oven door, and dried until they are dry but of course, that means your oven will be turned on for hours and will probably heat up your kitchen which in the summer isn't the option we like.