Monday, August 24, 2009

Daily Harvest

I planted an incredible number of tomato plants this summer--a half-dozen cherry tomato plants that I bought, plus another eight or ten that came up on their own, and then three more plants that my housemates brought home. My hope was to grow more cherry tomatoes than I could use--pints every day! Well, we're not quite there yet, but I hope that the heaviest harvests are yet to come. For now we're getting a good handful or two every day.

I wanted to be able to make those pretty salads from the food magazines with many colors and shapes of tomato, so I'm growing red, orange, yellow, green, white, and black tomatoes in round, plum, grape, and pear shapes. Mexico Midget is the one with the least appropriate name, but it is great. I planted it last year and this year several babies came up on their own. They are very early, prolific producers of tiny round red tomatoes. Then there's Sungold, a hybrid orange cherry tomato of incredible, tropical tasting sweetness. Snow White is another hybrid, with pale peachy-yellow, mild flavored tomatoes. Then we have a couple of yellow currants, or at least that's what I think they are--neither of them came with a tag. Green Grape is kind of a disappointment, with only a few fruits, but they're pleasantly yellow-green, crisp, and tangy when ripe. Black Plum is having a little trouble with blossom-end rot but is still making tons of two-inch long, dark-colored and deep-flavored tomatoes. Sugar Snack is another red cherry, which makes 18-inch long trellises of the glossiest plump red tomatoes, like a perfect garden magazine photo. And then we have a yellow pear and a few unknown varieties of full sized tomatoes.

This is the first year that I've ever harvested more than one squash from my garden. Our yard is shady and so squash plants succumb to powdery mildew really quickly and get sick and die usually after producing one single squash. I credit Theresa because she planted the squash this year. These two crooknecks were picked on the same day--my largest ever squash harvest! That plus the many squash I've been getting in my farm share has pushed me to try new squash preparations...after I went through all my favorites. The best new recipe I've come up with is yellow squash pickles, which I like to call...


Enough yellow squash to fill a quart jar, about 2-3 medium crooknecks or small zucchini
1/2 medium sweet onion, white or red (red will make the pickles pinkish)
1 garlic clove, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon pure salt (not iodized), such as pickling salt
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon each of yellow mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and celery seeds
a few whole peppercorns
a shake of red pepper flakes or a few rings of fresh hot pepper, optional

Special equipment:
A tempered glass quart jar with a lid (a canning jar)

Thinly slice the squash, about 1/8 inch thick. Leave the necks in rounds, but if the squash bodies are very fat, halve or quarter them before slicing. Thinly slice the onion as well. Toss the squash and onion together and pack the mixture into the quart jar, tucking the garlic in too.

Then, combine all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil in a saucepan or microwave, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Taste and add more salt or sugar if desired. Pour hot vinegar syrup over the squash in the jar, put the lid on, and press the squash down, making sure it's completely covered with the liquid. (If it isn't, let it sit and check again in an hour; the squash will release a lot of water. Just make sure the squash is covered in pickling liquid after the first hour, or any exposed parts will spoil.) Put the jar in the fridge for at least two hours or up to a month. The sweet, salty, sour, and spice-infused pickles are delicious on a veggie burger, with hot rice, or as a snack. These pickles keep decently in the fridge for quite a while, but do try to eat them all within a month, and if you ever see mold growing in the jar, throw the rest of the pickles away.

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