Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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Tomatillo fix: Neutralizing the acidity

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I made some posole in the crockpot on Sunday, and I used a large pork roast and some frozen tomatoes and tomatillos from my garden. Although it was good, it was a little too meaty and not very soupy. I had tons left, so I froze half of it and decided to make the other half soupier by adding a home-canned jar of tomatillo sauce. 

After dumping in an entire quart, I stirred and let it cook for a bit before tasting. Then discovered that it was so tart and tomatillo-ey, that I knew my darling hubby wouldn't like it. I mean, I didn't really like it. So I frantically googled to see what I could do. If I had a stronger background in chemistry, this solution might have come to me, but since I have a strong background in conjugating verbs, it did not. I read a kitchen fix that said to add baking soda, so I tried it, one teaspoon at a time. It bubbled up when I first added it, but after stirring it in thoroughly, I gave it a try. It was amazing what a difference it made. Still tart, so I cautiously added more baking soda until it lost that acidic bite that can make tomatillos so unappealing. I think I ended up adding about 3 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda to my stew. 

Of course, I forgot to take a photo. Trust me, it was good, although truth be told, it wasn't that appealing to look at... 


These catalogs feed my addiction

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I have to confess… I’ve started drooling over garden porn again. I can’t help it! The catalogs come right to my mailbox with big, beautiful, glossy photos of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and more.

It’s been just long enough to forget all this past season’s failures and get me excited about growing an even better garden this year. I can’t help but look through the catalogs and get excited about plants I’ve never heard of or ones that I know won’t do well in my garden.

I order from Park Seed every year, and since I'm a reliable customer, they'll probably send me another three catalogs. I've ordered from the Vermont Bean Seed Company, but have never ordered from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I've got my eye out for a tomato variety called Black from Tula. So far, none of the catalogs I've received carries it. 

Because I ordered seeds from at least three different catalogs last year, I’ll probably another dozen in the mail. I'm sure one of them will have Black from Tula tomatoes. I’ve given these three a quick glance through, but I’m making myself wait for the long, endless days in January to really get serious about reading them and selecting seeds for 2016.  


Using the last of the fresh garden tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Like almost every other gardener out there, I picked green tomatoes a month or so ago and gave them space to ripen. Some people put them in a cardboard box, others in a brown paper sack, I simply left mine in a couple of baskets and bowls on the counter. I think I had three or four bowls/baskets full of tomatoes a month ago.
I’ve been slowly using them and had five or six red ones and two small yellow ones left yesterday. I’ve also got a couple of green tomatoes in the fridge that I deliberately put there so they would retain their green, unripe and tart flavor to use in a lentil and rice dish. As I wrote the headline for this, I realized what an oxymoron it is... can you call them fresh garden tomatoes when you picked them more than a month ago? 

Although the red ones on the counter looked pretty, they tasted like grocery store tomatoes and not garden tomatoes, so I decided to use them in something cooked, where it wouldn’t make as much difference. Same with the yellow ones.

I also had some kaniwa, which is predicted to be the next superfood, but which I bought at Sprouts mostly because I was curious and it was on sale. I decided to make a hot kaniwa dish with red tomatoes and Swiss chard (which I picked right before Thanksgiving). As I was cooking, I decided to add some amaranth seeds, and then I thought a little corn meal wouldn’t hurt. I also added some cream cheese and grated parmesan, to make a creamy polenta-type dish. The kaniwa are the little brownish specks in the photo. 

My hubby thought it didn’t look particularly good, but admitted it tasted pretty good. (Then again, we’re from the tribe that thinks shoe leather with enough cheese would probably be good.)

For the shrimp portion of our dinner, I sautéed onions, garlic and the yellow tomatoes, then added some shrimp, fresh rosemary and a bit of fresh lemon juice. We ended up eating the shrimp on top of my ancient grains polenta (doesn’t that sound more appetizing than polenta with weird seeds?).
It was all quite tasty and probably incredibly nutritious, since both amaranth and kaniwa are supposed to be some of those nutrient-dense foods. Plus, it was a way to use up the last of my red tomatoes. I’m making the rice and lentil dish tonight.  


The last harvest (really, I mean it this time)

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I know I said it was the last harvest a couple of weeks ago, and it was the last harvest of warm weather crops. I left a few things out there in the garden and decided that it was time to pick the remainder last weekend.
Not a bad haul in my book. I mean, it’s almost the end of November, and I got a bowlful of Swiss Chard, a few carrots, some small purple kohlrabi, a few leeks and a whole bunch of kale.
I should have frozen some of it, but I just rinsed it and put it in plastic bags in the fridge.
Now there’s nothing left to do but look for seed catalogs coming in the mail.  


Preserving the garden’s bounty

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Because it’s hot and there’s always something more fun to do and somewhere else to go on weekends in August and September, I’ve quit canning tomatoes when I pick them. Instead, I wash the mud and dirt off, and then put them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

My gardening buddy, Jan, does the same thing, and since Jan is also my canning buddy, we get together to can tomatoes whenever our freezers get too full of tomatoes or the weather finally cools off and we’ve got a free weekend. Sometimes, we do both.
This year, we canned a couple of times in the evening after work, which is how I got a couple rows of canned tomatoes on my shelf in the garage sometime in October. We both still had more than a dozen bags of tomatoes in the freezer, so we got together on Saturday for Cannapalooza.



We worked for about five hours on Saturday, and we canned about 35 quarts of tomatoes. We grew yellow, orange and red tomatoes, so we decided to separate them by color when we canned them. Fortunately, we decided this before we ever put tomatoes in bags and stuck them in the freezer, so our frozen tomatoes were all color-coded.



We ended up canning the yellow and orange ones together, and we think they’re pretty gorgeous. It will be interesting to cook with them.  





We both still have bags of frozen tomatoes in our freezers, but we also have room for other stuff, so our canning adventures may be finished for the year. That does not make me sad. 




My pantry shelf does look a bit more full, however, and that makes me happy, mostly because I know that between my hubby and me, we will create tasty food from it. 

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