2017 Harvest

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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We've got rain

Finally, after almost two months of dry and sunny weather, we've got some rain. In the past 3 days, we got over 70 liters of rain which places us back to the average rainfall month even though they were completely unbalanced. In the past 7 days, we also had the hottest day in this July with 36.2°C (officially measured), the second coldest morning with only 12°C and the coldest day with only 15°C.

Fortunately, there was very little hail so there was no damage to the garden, unlike some villages just couple of miles from me that were completely devastated by the hail that was sometimes the size of a golf or even tennis balls.
The rain came on Monday morning with a roaring thunder but without any wind. By the looks of it I was sure we would be hit with hail but as I said there was only few hail pods and that was it.
The amount of rain was nice, but it was still not enough after a long and dry period.

Luckily, the showers continued throughout Tuesday and yesterday so we even got some water problems like flooded yard.

After all the rain we got we woke up to a cold and foggy day like we were transported to the middle of September.

Garden is now completely wet and finally, my plants can recuperate a bit after a long and stressful period.

Like I said there is no damage in the garden, only a few tomatoes that fell down from the wind, but it doesn't matter because they will ripe perfectly fine at home on the balcony.

It is a great feeling to have a break from the constant heat.