Archive for August, 2012

How to: Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Saving your own tomato seeds is rather fun and has all sorts of benefits. Preserving heirloom seeds, ensuring a supply of your own favourites for next year, helping protect seed diversity, making a giant mess of stinky fermenting goo, it’s all there! It’s also pretty easy.

As part of our seed selling business we save fairly large quantities of tomato seed but the process is the same whether you are saving from a pile of heirloom tomatoes or from a paticularily tasty one you just sliced up for lunch.

First things first, you need to get your tomato seeds out of the tomato.  You can slice them in half, in quarters, scoop some out of the one you’re eating or just use my preferred method: Squishing. A serrated grapefruit spoon makes a great seed saving tool, especially when dealing with smaller cherry tomatoes. Just cut them in half and scoop out the inside of the tomatoes leaving the skin and outer flesh behind.

Next the seed pulp is ready to be combined with water in a container.  Glass jars are simple and food safe, but yogurt containers and tupperware are perfectly suitable. The only really important factor is that the container needs a lid. It’s going to get stinky so the lid is not optional.

Make sure to label each variety as you go as tomato seeds all look very similar and the coloured pulp is going to break down.

Place them out of direct sunlight and walk away for a few days. You’ll start to see the good seeds settle from the pulp down to the bottom of the container.

Now things will start to ferment. This fermentation process is breaking down the protective coating on each seed. After a few days and once you have a good layer of fuzzy stuff, dump it off, leaving the seeds in the bottom of the jar.  Any seeds at the top are duds, the good stuff is all at the bottom.  Top up the jar with some clean water and let it all happen again.  Once the seeds are starting to settle cleanly at the bottom they are done. Be careful not to leave things unsupervised for too many days as the seeds could start germinating.

Once the seeds are ready, pour off any remaining pulp and mould.

Using a strainer, give your seeds a final rinse. They should be looking rather naked by now.

Now you just need to let them dry.  A stack of clean rags or old tea towels work best, as paper towels sometimes stick.

Once again, label your seeds. Package them up a few days later when they’re perfectly dry and you’re set.  Next spring you’ll have more tomato seeds then you can plant.  Trading them with fellow seed savers and planting a few extra for gardening neighbours is highly recommended.

Heirloom Tomato Glamour Shots

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

I like photographing tomatoes almost as much as I like eating them. To wake up before everyone else at the farm and get to have a quiet cup of coffee and change lenses in peace is my idea of heaven. Here are some more photographs of this year’s tomatoes.  The seeds are fermenting and we are hoping to offer the seeds from these heirloom varieties in the shop for 2013.

Reistomate Tomatoes. They grow in clumps that you can pull off & eat one at a time. I cannot get over how amazing these are. Rebecca picked every single one, she couldn’t help herself.

Italian Noire Tomatoes.  These are quickly becoming my favourite tomato and it’s difficult to save the seeds because I keep eating them all. They are so flavourful, they don’t even need salt.

Red Pear Cherry Tomatoes are a classic heirloom that we grow every year.  The perfect tiny tomato.

Tim’s Black Ruffles.  So many ruffles and delicious to boot.

These are particularly perfect on a sandwich with basil, which I’m off to make right now.

Wordless Wednesday: Tigerella Tomatoes Look as Good as They Taste

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

How to: Freeze and Peel Tomatoes for Easy Preserving and Winter Hoarding

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The tomatoes are starting to roll in. It’s always exciting at first, those first tomatoes. Grown by spring rain and summer heat.  Quickly though, full on tomato panic starts to sets in. Where do you put them all? How can you prevent buying some in December when there are so so many right now? Canning is nice, but not always practical (especially when you are having a baby right at canning time. I clearly didn’t plan this very well).

Freezing is one of my favourite ways of preserving some of August’s glut of tomatoes to enjoy cooked throughout the winter.

Start by washing your fruit and then slice a simple x through the skin on the bottom of each tomato. This will keep them from splitting and make them easy to peel when cooking in a few months.

Next I lay them flat in a pan or tray and slide them into the freezer.  A cookie sheet works perfectly as does a pyrex or enamel pan.

When they’re frozen it’s time to bag them up.  They should stay separate so you can use exactly as many as you want. We keep giant resealable bags in the freezer and throw a few in when cooking tomato soups or sauces.

If you want to peel your tomatoes, either after they’ve been frozen or before, here’s how we do it.

Boil a pot of water on the stove and plunge your “x”ed tomatoes into the water for up to a minute. Remember we’re blanching tomatoes not cooking them.

Then quickly plunge the tomatoes into cold water.  You can scoop them out with a spoon but I like using a steamer basket and plunging the whole thing.

Next you simply slide them out of their skins. Easy Peasy! (unlike those pesky peaches last year). As Well Preserved points out, if you’re going to peel more than one pot worth you will want to wear gloves. The acidity of the tomatoes will really wreak havoc on your skin.

You’ll be left with a perfect pile of peeled tomatoes.  You can either peel from frozen or peel then freeze, what ever you prefer. You can also peel your tomatoes this way and then can them.  Freezing is simply the easiest way to preserve tomatoes for the winter when you can’t solar oven, sun dry, dehydrate, or can.

Wordless Wednesday: This is What August Looks Like

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012