A Mostly Labor-less Weekend

Happy Labor Day weekend! Hope everyone out there is enjoying the last, unofficial throes of summer. We had something of a busy Saturday and a very lazy Sunday — it was wonderful! PLUS, we have a whole entire day off tomorrow as well! It’s quite a good thing.

We planned to take it easy this weekend in terms of garden chores, and have so far followed through with that. An extremely warm and humid day today was capped off with thunderstorms, and more rain is on its way. So it’s unlikely that we’ll be doing any major outdoor work until next weekend. But that doesn’t mean we have ignored things completely.  The tomatoes are still going strong, and everyday we’re bringing in at least a pound or so of new fruit! Here what the haul looksed like just a few days ago:

So much goodness in one basket!
So much goodness in one basket!

So what does one do with a billion and one (approximately) tomatoes? You get creative! Almost every single meal we’ve eaten lately has included tomatoes, from raw in salads to roasted over pasta to pureed in sauce to diced over nachos. We also pulled out the dehydrator and set about drying a whole mess of cherry tomatoes.

Ready…set…dry! (If only it was that simple.)

While they take a long time (up to 24 hours in our dehydrator, anyway), the results are totally worth the effort. The dried tomatoes turn out sweet and chewy and are great in salads or for snacking.

Meanwhile, we took a bunch of the larger tomatoes and made some of the most delicious stewed tomatoes we’ve ever tasted.

Cleaning and...
Cleaning and…
...getting ready for chopping!
…getting ready for chopping!

We searched around for recipes and eventually settled on one that also incorporated some of our peppers. Peel and chop a couple pounds worth of tomatoes. Chop up several peppers of any non-hot variety. (Non-hot is our preference, but we suppose hot peppers would work well too.) Throw everything into a large sauce pan and season with salt and pepper, as well as a little sugar, to taste.  (You can omit the sugar if your tomatoes are very sweet.) Add a little water and then bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and let the mixture cook for at least 30 minutes. (We simmered ours for a good hour just because.) The resulting stewed tomatoes taste so incredibly fresh! The peppers add a little kick of flavor without being overwhelming. The stuff is great over rice or pasta and serves as a great base for a heartier stew. For one meal, we added in corn, okra, Cajun seasoning, and kielbasa for the a great gumbo!

But life hasn’t been all about tomatoes, because we do have other stuff growing in the garden. (Hard to believe at this point but it’s true!) Over the past couple weeks, our large mammoth sunflowers have slowly been wilting. We cut off a couple of the flowers and set them aside to dry in order to harvest the seeds.

Are there and seeds in there?
Are there any seeds in there?
Yes! But...
Yes! But…

When we started to pull out the dried seeds from the flower, we noticed a bunch of small, brown and white striped caterpillars among the seeds. The more we pulled and the closer we looked, we noticed that the caterpillars were actually coming from inside the seeds. Yucko! Almost all of the seeds we pulled had holes in them, and the bowl was practically wriggling (gross, sorry), so about halfway through, we abandoned out efforts. Afterwards we went online to see if we could figure out what had infested the flowers we pulled. Turned out we had (and maybe have, as we still haven’t checked all the flowers) an infestation of the sunflower moth, a very common pest that affects sunflowers in all types of regions. Well, boo on that. Though we’re hopeful that we might have at least one good harvest of seeds, after reading about the moth, it’s very likely eaten up the insides of most of the seeds in the other flowers.

But not all news concerning seeds has been bad. For as much stuff as we’ve been eating, we’ve been saving seeds left and right!

In reparationf or next year (and the year afer that and the year after that...)
In preparation for next year (and the year after that and the year after that…)

While it’s fine to dry some seeds in the open air (we set everything on wax paper or paper towels, which we then label in order to keep everything straight), some seeds like tomatoes and cucumbers, have to be prepared in water first and then dried. (We went over this process last year.) So just about every last inch of free space in the kitchen is being used to dry something or other. It’s a bit of a hassle now, but the more seeds we save, the less we need to buy in the future! Plus, when we find a variety of fruit or vegetable we really like, the best thing we can do is  continue to propagate the variety. Maybe it’ll even hybridize over the years and become something new! It’s little things like this that make gardening a true adventure.

And so concludes this post.

But wait…there’s more! Because there’s always more!

Next week, weather permitting, we’ll do another general update of how things look in the yard. As we head into fall, it’s good to take stock of how far everything has come over since the spring (feels like ages ago!).



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