it all adds up

Yesterday morning I picked the red raspberries. I do this every other morning for a couple months, quitting either when I’m sick of them or the season ends, whichever comes first. The berries were late this year, but now they’re making up for lost time. I get two quarts, maybe three, every picking. It adds up.

While I was strategically worming my way over, under, and through the briars in search of every single berry, I thought about the other red fruit we’ve been picking: tomatoes. In the same amount of time it takes me to pick two measly quarts of berries, my husband can pick two to three five-gallon buckets of tomatoes. With such a discrepancy in size and quantity (less is more, right?), you’d think the berries would be light years ahead in taste. But they’re not. I probably prefer the tomatoes.

Every couple days, my husband staggers in from the garden under a fresh load of tomatoes. One of the kids lays them out to finish ripening on the table in the downstairs bedroom that is not a bedroom, and each morning I roast a batch of tomatoes for sauce.

The process feels classic in its straightforward simplicity. I halve the tomatoes, oil them up real good, and cram them into two big baking trays. I scalp a head of garlic, pour golden olive oil into the papery crevices, wrap it up tight in a piece of foil, and tuck the silver ball down among the tomatoes. As the vegetables sizzle and blacken in the oven, the kitchen turns steamy and unbelievably rich-smelling.

A couple weeks ago I did several batches of the basic roasted sauce. This week has been dedicated to roasted tomato and garlic pizza sauce. Six pints there, thirteen pints here. It all adds up.

Tomorrow I plan to turn an entire bushel of Romas into salsa. In preparation for the marathon chop session, I’ve been stashing the ripest of the tomatoes in the fridge, but even so there’s a bunch more on the verge of turning. In this heat—how weird it is to actually be hot!—the tomatoes ripen fast. Unlike my leisurely saucing-making process, the salsa project will be much more overwhelming. Come morning, I’ll set the kids up at the table with cutting boards anchored on ratty towels (to prevent slippage and to catch the juicy run-off) and we’ll have ourselves a party. If all goes as planned, at the day’s end we’ll have twenty more quarts of tomato product to add to the basement shelves.

Earlier this week, I bought a two-liter bottle of red wine for a spaghetti sauce. The wine was cheaper in the bigger bottle and I figure we could use a double batch of sauce. We sure do have enough tomatoes. The bushes are still loaded. My husband says we haven’t even yet reached the halfway point. The way I see it, I have at least two weeks, maybe three, of tomato puttering in my future.

Which is fine by me. Tomatoes and raspberries: they are a nice way to close out the growing season.

This same time, years previous: they’re getting it!, pasta with lemon-salted grilled zucchini and onions (we ate this for supper this week, but I added a few grilled sausages, YUM), 2011 stats and notes, and pesto.


  • Ann Marie

    If/when you get tired of dealing with your tomatoes, you just let me know and I will high-tail it to your house. My crappy little garden gave me nothing and the one beautiful tomato plant (which is growing voluntarily out of the compost pile) that I do have is being devoured by the deer. 🙁

  • Starr

    Our tomato bounty has been late this year, and it's awesome! I'm not sure if we'll just eat them all fresh–it's not like we have *that* much–make salsa or make sauce or what. They'll be enjoyed no matter what.

  • karen

    Yesterday and the day before I put up 4 caselots of roma tomatoes (we don't have nearly as much growing space where I live!) and only discovered on the 4th batch (12 litres per case) that there was rot IN THE MIDDLE of some tomatoes. Because I was canning whole, and the night before the light was low, and the first case was from an entirely different bunch, I didn't notice till that fourth case. Can you imagine?! While I'll get my money refunded, it sure was a lot of beautiful looking jars I'll likely have to dump. I mean, the rotted ones were nasty.

    I'm not sorry I did the work though. I love blanching, peeling, squishing. I love processing and admiring. And, as I told my husband, it could have been worse, eh? I could have spent the entire day on Facebook.

    I'm jealous of your raspberries this season. My patch is still in recovery from some yard work we did a couple of years ago (we destructed our garage for more yard space) but I'm optimistic for the next season.

    • karen

      I feel totally weird about being so okay with it. I'm going back to the drawing board tomorrow … the farmer's market where I can rip my tomatoes open with my bare hands and check their innards. *insert wiggly eyebrows here*

  • Mama Pea

    Forgive me, but I must confess to out and out envy of your tomato bounty. Cherry tomatoes are about all we can muckle up here in northern Minnesota unless you have some sort of hot house, greenhouse or large hoop structure in the garden. (Which we don't. :o( ) I really miss the days of canning quantities of tomato this and tomato that. When we lived in Illinois (100 or so years ago), I remember blessing the first hard frost because that would mean the last of the tomatoes and I didn't have to process any more. Garden ripe tomatoes there (as you have) were the norm. Here it's the rarity. Enjoy your bounty!

    P.S. I do have LOTS of raspberries though!

    • Jennifer Jo

      My heart goes out to you in your tomato-less existence! If you lived closer, I'd share. But if you lived closer, you wouldn't want them, so … never mind.

    • katie

      Just across the mountains here in WV it is a completely different story with tomatoes. We took a year off from growing them this year — and considering dropping them completely — we struggle with blight, which creates low yield and unusable tomatoes. The amount of work per lousy tomato is hard to justify. We've adjusted to enjoying the other veggies without so many tomatoes and buying a couple bushels for the requisite canned products for the basement.

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