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We're getting ready! We are drying herbs, canning and planting cool weather crops for fall. With only 60 days until the average first frost in the valley, it is time to plant lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes and spinach.

Yesterday, we prepared sun-dried tomatoes. Those little cans you buy in the store are exorbitantly priced! You can make your own at home for almost nothing.

Use fresh Roma or Italian Plum tomatoes and simply cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and lay them on a cookie sheet. You may want to cut bigger tomatoes in slices about 1/4 inch thick. For real sun-dried tomatoes, lay them on an oven rack lined with cheese cloth, set another piece of cheese cloth over the top of the tomatoes and set them in the sun for a couple of days. Make sure you will be having hot sunny days and bring them in at night to avoid morning dew.

You can also use your oven. Place them in the oven at 200 degrees for around eight hours. Tomatoes are done when they are dry and leathery, but not crispy and not sticky - like a raisin.

This year we used our dehydrator. We brushed the tomato halves lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh oregano, parsley and basil and dried them for around 15 hours. We froze them separately on racks, filled a freezer bag full and popped them in the freezer for winter.

Some Italian free-thinkers store their tomatoes in a jar of extra virgin olive oil in their pantry. They say it keeps indefinitely, but with the advent of botulism, I play it safe and freeze them.

Eat these luscious babies on pizza, pasta sauces, sandwiches and on crisp Italian bread. MmmmMmm.

"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." — Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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