Last spring I was concerned whether it would be worthwhile to start a Montana tomato garden. With a cold start to spring and May snows I dared not plant tomatoes until about the tenth of June. I knew the number of days with prime tomato vine growing weather (85 degree highs and up) would be limited and I could only hope that lengthy mid-summer daylight cycles would make up for less than ideal temperatures. When I shopped for bedding plants at the garden store I looked for vines with short growing cycles. I found a Park's Whopper hybrid advertised for 65 days to maturity. I planted and caged but 2 plants, pairing them with a set of sweet pepper bushes, and hoped for the best.
Sure enough, our first ripe tomatoes came in during late August. We sliced the first to garnish grilled bison burgers, cubed others to mix in garden salads, and ate several separately as plump, succulent side dishes. Mmmmm. The peppers were slower to come around, but by September 1 we had a few. And soon enough we had too many tomatoes. Cue the spaghetti sauce brigade.
To make garden fresh spaghetti sauce start with at least 12 large ripe tomatoes. Core out the stems and cut twice perpendicularly across the bottom before placing in a vat of boiling water (I boil about six at a time). After boiling two or three minutes (or until the skin wrinkles) remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and slide off the now loosened skins. Discard the skins and place the pulpy remainder in a metal bowl. Drain off excess water.
I add one diced green bell pepper for each dozen tomatoes. Also I add a clipped and diced clump of garden fresh chives (you can dice onions or sprinkle dried chives from the spice rack). I add freshly ground pepper, dried basil leaves (next year we'll plant fresh) and garlic (preferably cloves pushed through a press for freshness, we've fall planted our own crop for next year) to taste (for us that means lots) and a few dashes of salt. Next you can either push the mix through a food processor, or, as I have found to be quicker and neater, mash manually with a potato masher. Then saute the concoction on the stove for one to two hours, checking and stirring periodically until enough of the liquid is burned off to achieve the desired moist but pulpy consistency.
|Ripening tomatoes on the window sill|
|We found an alternate use|
for the wine cellar.
Due to this summer's success, our plan next year is to dramatically increase tomato and sweet pepper production and, as mentioned, grow fresh basil and our very own garlic. We will bag and freeze meal size bags of the extra sauce, which will spice up our diet throughout the winter. Take that Ragu!