As you might have read from an earlier blog post I pick my tomatoes, remove the stalks and freeze so that when I am ready I can make one big batch of tomato sauce which I will can and use throughout the winter.
We have had our first rain of the autumn here in Seattle and the temperature outside is a cool 55 degrees F so it is time to make the sauce!
This years tomato crop was not as good as in previous years so I suspect I will not get more than a few liters of sauce, darn!
Here is my process for making tomato sauce:
Canned Tomato Sauce
First I start by dumping all the frozen tomatoes in the pot, just to defrost them and getting them cooking takes 3 - 4 hours so make sure you are ready for almost a full 8 - 10 hours of cooking.
You need to reduce the total volume by 60%, crazy I know but tomatoes have so much water and you need to cook this off so you are left with tomato goodness.
Once you have cooked down the tomatoes to a thick mixture it is time for you put them through a food mill. My food mill has three options from the biggest holes to the smallest, I use the middle option. Once I am through with this process I always find that I need to cook down the mixture a little bit more. You know it is ready to can when you don't see a separation of water at the top and tomato sauce. I have included a lot of pictures to help you with this process.
When it comes to canning you need to boil a pot of water, make sure your jar are sterilized. I use quart size jars and before adding the sauce you need 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Fill the jars with the sauce leaving about ½ at the top. Put on the seal and lid and then process in the boiling water for about 45 minutes, leave them for an additional 5 minutes with the heat turned off before you remove them.
You should have a winter's supply of tomato sauce!
It is tomato glut season and I am lucky to love tomatoes! The weather is getting colder here in Seattle and we have had rain for the last 3 days. This weather makes me think about the cold rainy winter to come and that in turn makes me think about soups and stews, YUM!
With that in mind here is my recipe for an autumn treat:
Roasted Tomato Soup
Put about 2.5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 roughly chopped onions and about 6 - 8 garlic cloves (peeled) in a large bowl
Add about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and make sure that everything has a good coating. Once coated dump out the contents onto a baking tray. Cook in the oven on 450 degrees F for about 20 - 30 minutes, they are finished when the look nice and caramelized!
Once they are done in the oven dump them into a pot add about 32 ounces of stock, 2 - 3 bay leads and about 3 - 4 tablespoons of butter
Cook for 20 - 40 minutes or until the contents has reduced by ⅓, you want a thick mixture.
Remove bay leaves and then use an emersion blender to create a consistent mixture. Add cream to taste (I added about ¼ cup), salt and pepper….Enjoy!
I have been growing orchids for a good 4 years and it is such a rewarding activity. The excitement I feel when I see an orchid about to bloom after waiting sometimes up to a year is pretty awesome. I have added to the collection a lot over the years and have about 40 orchids now. I heat my greenhouse to about 55 degrees F in the winter which does restrict the varieties which I can grow. I don’t grow Phalaenopsis orchids as they cannot handle as they cannot handle temperatures this low.
I have a lot of success with oncidium orchids and grow may different types. When they bloom WOW do they bloom with sometimes 3 - 5 flower stalks covered in bloom.
Oddly enough I do not use any fertilizers at all. I use a timed irrigation on them in my greenhouse which sprays the entire plant, leaves and all. My goal is to create as natural of an environment as possible for them and the greenhouse gives them the level of humidity that they need.
Here are some pictures of my favorites!
After waiting about 3 years I was finally able to get this stunning Cypripedioideae orchid (Slipper Orchid) to bloom and then it bloomed for a second time in less than a few months, lucky me :)
As my tomatoes have now reached the top of the greenhouse (16 feet) I think it is a good time to review varieties I selected and how they have done. Here are the varieties I have grown and my comments on how they have done!
I ate my first tomato of 2017 today and WOW was it good, you cannot go wrong with a Gardeners Delight tomato! I think that this is a little later than my normal first tasting which I always remember being in June. I believe that in years past I ate my first tomato in June because we had some warm weather in April or May, not this year! The weather only really started getting nicer at the end of May. Regardless I now have tomatoes going crazy and this gets me thinking of the obvious question, ‘What am I going to do with all of these tomatoes?’.
I asked myself this question for the first few years after building the greenhouse and having literally baskets full of ripe tomatoes. I tried to start canning various things in batches when I had tomatoes and made things like salsa and tomato sauce. I found myself doing this once-twice a week from the months of July - October, it was very time consuming! A few years ago I was about to go on vacation and had so many tomatoes so I just stuck them in a bag in the freezer. When I was home from vacation, and was making my next batch of tomato sauce, I dumped them in. I use a food mill before canning my tomato sauce so these frozen tomatoes with skins did not matter.
From that day on I put tomatoes in the freezer when they are ripe and then make a couple of massive batches of tomato sauce each year. It is the same amount of effort but much less frequently. I just used my second to last jar of tomato sauce from last year so fingers crossed this will be a good summer for tomatoes!
Every summer one of the favorite plants I like to watch grow are the tomatoes in my greenhouse. Everytime I walk through the greenhouse door I feel very lucky to have a greenhouse at all. It is only because of my greenhouse that I am able to grow amazing tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest. I go inside the greenhouse house every day, when possible, to give the tomatoes a little shake. This helps ensure that the tomatoes are pollinated and the fruit sets. If the tomatoes were outside a bee or even the breeze would do this but in a greenhouse they need a little help.
In the last month the tomatoes have grown several feet and have added 2 - 3 new flower clusters. In another month these tomatoes will likely be close to hitting the 14 foot roof of the greenhouse - really! Before getting the greenhouse I had no idea that tomatoes would get this big if grown in optimal conditions.
This year I decided to mostly try new varieties of indeterminate tomatoes. I am growing the following:
All of my tomatoes are doing really well aside from one of the Gardeners Delight, it seems to have had an issue which, based on my research, is from an herbicide. I grow 100% organically but I suspect something might have been blown through a roof vent on a windy day. I believe that my neighbors treated their roof with a moss control which could be the likely cause, what a shame! The rest of the plants are doing well but it is the growth at the top of the Gardeners Delight which is suffering.
I am also growing the amazing Red Robin small bush tomato. This is an amazingly prolific plant which can be grown in small pots and even hanging baskets. I cannot go a summer without this tomato, some nights I pick and pick for close to an hour from just 4 plants!
The techniques used at Monestevole are interesting and also a great use of space. This video talks about the way they grow vegetables in the polytunnel as well as how they grow vegetables in their Madala Garden. Thanks for watching!
I decided to upgrade my drip irrigation in the greenhouse this year. The main reason for this is that I installed it shortly after the greenhouse was built and at that time I did not really know what I was doing...that is the honest answer. I now might not fully know what I am doing but I am in a position to make some changes based on my experiences over the past 5 years. I grow tomatoes in the greenhouse in the summer and year round I grow orchids. I initially only installed the irrigation for the tomatoes as 5 years ago I did not yet have my 30+ orchids.
I have a timer which has 2 lines so that makes it perfect for creating 1 zone for the tomatoes and the other for the orchids. I am off to Italy in the morning so I figured I better hop to it! There is nothing like doing something last minute! I ordered all my supplies from Drip Depot, they are great and have everything you need at reasonable prices (no I am not getting anything for saying I buy from them aside from the free tootsie pops they send with every order!).
I put this video together to walk you through my setup, let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for watching!
This is the first time I am trying to grow cucumbers in my greenhouse. I have grown them for the last few years in my cold frames but the last 2 years something would go in and eat them. I suspect it was a rat or squirrel. This year I am going to try winter squash in the cold frames as their tougher skins might not be as appealing to these elusive creatures, fingers crossed.
I grow all of my plants in Smart Pots in the greenhouse as the greenhouse floor is gravel and growing things in pots gives me more options. I love Smart Pots and the ones I am currently using are 6 years old and still working perfectly! I plan to grow the cucumbers up some sort of trellis that I will build this once they are larger. I selected 2 special greenhouse varieties from Territorial Seeds, specifically Excelsior and Picolino and I look forward to seeing how they perform. I am already impressed with Excelsior, as you can see from the picture there are 3 cucumbers in a very small space in the stem. I love Lemon cucumbers and although they are not a ‘greenhouse’ cucumber I am going to give them a try. I would welcome any advice on pollination of non-greenhouse cucumbers but I suspect I will need to hand pollinate the female cucumbers with the pollen from the male cucumbers much like you need to do in order to pollinate eggplant/aubergines.
I am so lucky to have this greenhouse which brings me so much joy year round. Clearly the Spring and Summer months are the most exciting though. Spring is so fun as I get to start so many different types of seeds and each evening I pop out to the greenhouse to see what seeds have germinated, every day there is something to see!
May is the time that I plant my tomatoes and by June I should have my first tomatoes ready to eat and they keep cropping until October/November. I have been growing them in the greenhouse for 6 years so I have a great system that works for me and I wanted to share my approach with you! I hope you find my tips useful to you!