More than Prunes

First things first: we survived the great PG&E “Public Safety Power Shutoff Event” of October 2019!  In actuality, it was really nothing more than an annoying inconvenience to be without power for a day and a half.  But, the chaos and lack of concrete information leading up to it only served to reinforce a feeling that the world is falling apart.

The warm weather is winding down and we are definitely ready for the break that comes along with shorter days and cool weather.  Though our crop of prunes stole the show this summer, we had luck with a lot of other things as well.

From mid-August through mid-September, we had reliable harvests of tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.  The cherry tomato plants are still producing, and I expect they’ll continue to do so until it freezes or we pull them out.

I feel like we made some good improvements to our tomato support system this season.  We used a combination of the “Florida weave” and bamboo stakes to support the super-tall cherry tomato plants.  IMG_2405We also had a pretty good harvest of grapes from our porch grapevine, which got turned into grape jelly.


Cosmos continue to be our favorite flower – and the bees’ favorite, too!  They’re easy to grow, beautiful, and very prolific.  I plan to grow more varieties next year.  They are still blooming, which is good for the bees because there aren’t a lot of sources of pollen for them this time of year.


We were lucky to be able to harvest a lot of honey from one of our bee hives.  When people find out we have bees, they always ask us about honey.  Mike’s philosophy of beekeeping is that the bees make honey for themselves, and we only take if there is clearly going to be enough left for them if we do.  So, we don’t harvest honey every year.


Our apples and pears have also been prolific this year.  We’ve picked so many for ourselves, invited friends to pick, given them away, and there is still so much fruit left on the trees.  As with the prunes, conditions for pollination this year must have been right on.


Now, onwards towards fall and winter.  The leaves are changing colors and the days are growing short.  The sun has moved over towards the place on our horizon where it sets in the winter months.  I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m complaining about having to go outside in the rain to collect firewood.  But, for now, I’m looking forward to the quiet of the cooler months.

Tomato Preservation for Tired (or lazy) People

For us, peak tomato season hits at the exact wrong time in late summer.  Peak tomato is usually some point in early-to-mid September, by which point we are tired.  Not to mention it’s usually too hot to have a huge pot of hot water boiling all day in the house to process them for storage.

This year, we had a very manageable harvest of tomatoes from our 5 plants – just enough for us to have as many as we wanted to eat fresh, and some to give away to friends.  Last year, our paste tomatoes were by far the least successful of the plants we grew, so we didn’t grow a paste tomato again this year.  So, what to do about processing tomatoes for winter?  Not having tomatoes in storage is no longer an option for me now that I’ve seen the light.  So, here’s what we did.

Strategy 1: We are so fortunate to have a wonderful organic farm down the hill from us in Soquel – Everett Family Farm.   So, I bought a flat of canning tomatoes from them and spent an easy morning making tomato puree to freeze.  One of our best purchases this year was a chest freezer, as it has increased our capacity to store food without having to process jars in hot water.

Making tomato puree is super easy.  First, cut the tomatoes into chunks and cook them down until the skins separate easily.  Then, pass the cooked tomatoes through the food mill.  Fill the jars and put in the freezer for future use.  Easy!


Strategy 2: I bought a flat of San Marzano tomatoes from our CSA, Spade & Plow.  Since we got out the dehydrator this year to dry our prunes, I decided to try drying tomatoes to see if they would come out similar to sun-dried tomatoes.  It worked really well!  We now have a quart jar of dehydrated tomatoes in the fridge, waiting to add umami goodness to our food for however long they last.

It might be too easy to declare this, but I may never preserve tomatoes any other way!