Heathy foodies, have you ever grown some of your own food?
When the beginning of spring rolled around, our beekeeping friends Matt and Marianne, owners of Gees Bees Honey Company, generously offered my wife Sarah and I a plot on their land to start a veggie garden.
By all accounts, it was an offer too good to refuse. It was an opportunity for us to get outside in nature, tend to the land, grow our own food, and have friendly (physically distant) encounters with Matt and Marianne, which was a huge boost to our sense of community, especially during the pandemic.
We grew a whole bunch of stuff, from potatoes to beets to leeks and more, and a major highlight was the avalanche of tomatoes that we’ve been picking non-stop over the past couple of weeks. During our planting phase, Matt and Marianne watched and warned us that we’d get more than we could chew on – and they were right!!
At first, we kept up with our tomato harvest by eating them (it’s hard to walk by a bowl of ripe, vibrant cherry tomatoes without snacking on a few) and then we started giving some away (mason jars of cherry tomatoes make great gifts!). But now that its mid-August, everything is in bloom and we are completely overwhelmed with tomatoes!
Luckily, my healthy-foodie friend Gwenn had some great tips on how to preserve tomatoes, and so did my sister-in-law Steph, who also grew plenty of her own veggies this summer. Preserving them at peek freshness will keep their nutritional value high as we continue to enjoy them over the fall and winter.
So based on their guidance, here are a few of the ways that I’m preserving my tomatoes: 1) Roasting & Freezing: Lather tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper and bake or roast in the oven at 375 Fahrenheit for an hour or so. When the tomatoes are just about done, switch the oven to a broil for 5 minutes to blister the skins of the tomatoes, which will add a smokier flavour. When done roasting, let them cool and then place in a freezer-safe container or reusable storage bag. When it’s time to make a sauce, combine with other ingredients like garlic, onions, veggies and herbs and cook again.
2) Stew & Freeze: Stew tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and other herbs of your liking. Once done, let them cool before freezing in portions. Stewing them with basic ingredients will enhance their flavour but still keep them as a versatile base for many soups, sauces or chilli’s – maybe even Sicilian Chef Mimmo’s traditional tomato sauce (click hereto get the recipe).
3) Freeze Whole: You can freeze raw cherry tomatoes whole on a cookie sheet, and then store them in a reusable bag or container in the freezer. This way is definitely simple and hassle-free. Now, whenever it’s time to make a tomato sauce, a stew or a soup – I can simply pop them in!
4) Pickling: I’ll wait to try this more advanced method of preserving once I get an in-person tutorial, but my sister-in-law says it’s pretty easy. Start by combining 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp sea salt and 1 tbsp organic sugar in a pot, and then bring the ingredients to a boil. In a pint-sized mason jar, add 1 tsp of peppercorns and 1 clove of garlic and fill the remaining space with your tomatoes. (TIP: pierce each tomato with a toothpick to allow for more flavour). Once your jar is tightly packed, pour in the boiled mixture, leaving just a little room at the top. Release any air bubbles, and once you’re sure that they are all gone, screw on the lid and store in the refrigerator.
Preserving, canning, fermenting and freezing are all traditional ways of locking in the flavours and nutrients of the season. Even if you haven’t been growing your own food, I highly recommend making a trip to the farmers market, stocking up on your seasonal favourites and trying the above methods for preserving. It’s a great way to support your local farmers and have some nutritious and delicious things waiting for you in your freezer.
P.S. Did you know that cooking tomatoes and combining them with a healthy fat, like extra virgin olive oil, makes them more nutritious? It’s true and you can get the details in this blog titled: Three Foods that Bust the ‘Raw is Better’ Myth
P.P.S. For more healthy foodie recipes, check out my archive by clicking here.