Back in March, I started my garden indoors! I used the super easy Jiffy Seed Starting Trays to plant my seeds. With 72 tiny peat pots in each tray, I’ve found them to work better than anything else I’ve ever used as a starting place for my baby plants.
I also used a heat mat to help them sprout quickly! Most of the seeds sprouted in less than a week. As the plants got larger they were transplanted into larger pots.
My little babies did very well, and recently Lisa, Heidi, and I finally moved them to their new garden home. It was perfect timing! Immediately after planting, they got an initial watering from the garden hose and then we got a deep rain that lasted for about two days. They are now off to a great start!
With that done, it’s really nice to take a moment to reflect on previous years’ gardens. Each year has its stars—where for whatever reason the harvest is so bountiful that it seems to take the stage and outshine not only all similar crops from previous years—but sometimes outshines everything else in the garden!
One year our Walla Walla onions were just amazing. What usually was a “so-so crop“ outdid itself and became a “super crop”! In the picture, you can see large onions, perfectly shaped, sweet and mild tasting, and lots of them!!
Another year it was the carrots! Usually, my carrots are nothing spectacular—they are kind of lackluster—nothing to write home about. But a few years ago the conditions were just right and I had a huge crop of beautiful multi-colored large delicious carrots, most of them perfectly shaped. They were the stars that year!
Last summer it was my tomatoes! Definitely the tomatoes! I had started quite a few in my trays and when it was time to plant them in the garden I just couldn’t bear to discard any of my little babies—so I ended up planting around 70! And then I even added to that number when there was a fantastic sale at a local nursery—large plants already blossoming and even bearing tiny fruit were selling at a ridiculously low price! So I thought I’d get a few so we’d be able to enjoy eating fresh tomatoes super early!
Well—fast forward to late last summer —the tomatoes were still blossoming and the plants were just loaded with green tomatoes, but I only had two or three tomatoes that had even begun to ripen. The nights were getting colder and it seemed that soon we would have a freeze— I knew I had to make a decision. I decided to go ahead and harvest my unripe tomatoes en masse. I ended up with 10 boxes of gorgeous hard, green tomatoes!!!! I stored the boxes in the garage where they stayed cool but were protected from freezing.
From that point, I would take one or two boxes at a time and bring them inside to the warmth of our home. Within a week or two in that environment, the tomatoes would change from green to pink to red. Periodically I would take the riper ones from the boxes and place them on the countertop so they could finish ripening. I had so many ripening that even though we ate lots of them fresh I still had loads that I needed to preserve!
Last fall I had absolutely no time to can my usual batches of salsa, pasta sauce, and just plain tomatoes. No time to dehydrate them either. What to do?
I quickly searched for ideas and found what I was looking for. In a few obscure articles, I found instructions for freezing tomatoes whole. I adapted the instructions to my personal situation and got to work. As tomatoes ripened on my counter it would take just a short time every couple of days to first blanch them briefly in boiling water, transfer them to a bowl of ice water, pop off the skins, put the skinned tomatoes in a large bowl then transfer a dozen or so at a time to gallon size plastic zip lock bags…then into the freezer! So easy! So quick!
One tip—I wanted the bags of tomatoes to be stackable in my freezer, so I would initially place the bags onto a cookie sheet which I placed in the freezer. There the bags would freeze where the bottom side was perfectly flat. From that point, I could take them off the cookie sheet and stack them neatly on top of each other in the freezer.
What a blessing this hitherto unknown (to me) process of preservation was at a time when I most needed it. Now I can take a bag or two at a time from the freezer, defrost and then cook the tomatoes into delicious pasta or pizza sauce, add them to soups and casseroles, or make delicious tomato soup whenever I want to! A couple of days ago I made a batch of salsa—it was delicious! What a blessing this new method is. I plan to use it again this year, as I’ve found it to be a super quick and delicious way to preserve the taste and nutrition of my wonderful tomatoes!