Canning tomato season is upon us! We're not quite ready to start taking orders yet but, if you're thinking about canning or freezing some sauce, whole tomatoes or what-have-you, now is the time to begin considering things like jars/bags, quantities and types of tomatoes you'd like.
Our season may not be as plentiful as previous years but, we're still pretty confident we can fill all orders.
Around the Farm
Tomatoes are finally coming in! They won't be perfect at first, but, we hope they'll taste divine.
We grow quite a few different kinds of tomatoes. Here's a little help with what you might find at CSA:
Titus Tomatoes: Storage
Cherry, Regular, Roma and Heirlooms
Previously, we'd recommended that they not be stored in the fridge... then we saw this primer from Cook's Illustrated come across our email account. Apparently, in their testing, refrigerating a whole tomato did not affect their flavor. However, it does seem to be crucial they are stored in an air-tight container to avoid off-flavors (especially if they're already cut).
This small change could extend the tomato's life by up to 5 days! (Again, all according to Cook's Illustrated).
If you're not sure about Cook's Illustrated's methods, do store them on the counter.
Heirloom and cherry ripen more quickly so, use them first. Roma and regular are the work-horses of the tomato world and can last 5-7 days just sitting out.
Titus Tomatoes: Use
Cherry, Regular, Roma and Heirlooms
All are great for cooking and fresh eating but, each has a specific use or intent.
Roma are excellent for sauces since they tend to be drier.
Heirloom are great for raw use, since their delicate flavor can be lost when cooking.
Regular Red are nice for canning whole, eating raw or cutting up for almost any recipe.
Cherry tomatoes are excellent lunchbox fare! Also lovely roasted or sauteed until they burst.
'Juliet' are a cross between a cherry and roma, great for salads or roasting.
How to tell if they're ripe?
All tomatoes are usually pretty ripe when distributed at CSA... Feel them for a slight squishiness that indicates they're ready to be sure. But, don't squeeze our tomatoes hard or we get cranky. Feel is really the best way to know if what you've received is ripe.
Titus Tomatoes: Preserving the Harvest
Rinse and freeze them whole or in pieces, peeled or unpeeled. No blanching necessary. Just be sure to label them.
Consider canning them as sauce, salsa or whole tomatoes, but, be sure to do your research. The Ball Blue Book shall become your bible.
Often, we freeze our tomatoes to can later, when the season has finally calmed down.
Heirlooms are selections of tomatoes from long ago, who's seeds are then saved and replanted by farmers generations thereafter, virtually unchanged from the original. They are selected for flavor, not for appearance or their ability (or lack thereof) to be shipped across the country. So, use them quickly and expect them to be softer and meatier or juicier or more acidic than the average hybrid tomato.
Heirloom Varieties by Color:
These varieties stay green, with green flesh and green seed cavities. They're not used for frying but instead, all have a highly acidic, beautiful sweet flavor.
Green Zebra: the standard for green tomatoes. The 3 oz. fruit is sweet, with a sharp bite and beautiful chartreuse color when ripe.
Cherokee Green: a larger green tomato, with a yellow tint and thicker, firmer flesh.
Evergreen: a tricky tomato. It is truly evergreen as it maintains a more subtle dark green color when ripe. A richly flavored heirloom to say the least.
All a rosy pink color with a balanced sweet/acidic flavor.
Brandywine Red: The standard for heirlooms. Larger fruit that are fleshy and sweet.
Omar's Lebanese: Huge pinkish fruit with a good flavor. A rare heirloom from Lebanon.
Pruden's Purple: A little deeper pink color, very similar in taste to Brandywine, but bearing fruit a little earlier.
These are often more of a deep purple to brick red sort of shade. All are a little more mellow in flavor, sweet with less acid. They're sometimes described as "smoky" in flavor too.
Cherokee Purple: A pre-1890 heirloom variety and a favorite among purple tomato lovers.
Paul Robeson: A tomato with a history, whose sweet, smoky flavor is highly sought after. Named in honor of the famous African-American opera singer.
Black from Tula: A rare Russian heirloom with a deep purplish-brown color. Very rich, old-fashioned flavor, sweet and spicy.
Great varieties if you like low-acid tomatoes.
Garden Peach: A fuzzy little tomato that, when ripe, has a little red blush resembling a peach.
Persimmon Orange: A medium-sized orange tomato that is a little more firm than others.
Amana Orange: A big, glowing beefsteak. Named after the Amana Colonies in Amana, Iowa.
Manyel: A lemony-yellow variety that's a little juicier than others.
Great White: Larger fruit with a creamy white flesh. Described as having a fruity flavor reminiscent of a mixture of pineapple, melon and guava.
Big Rainbow: A huge beefsteak type that's best known for its size and meaty flesh, turning from yellow to red at the base.
Elberta Peach: Also called Tigerella, it is a smaller fruit that is bright red with orange stripes.
Striped German: A larger tomato with a sweeter flavor and insanely dense flesh. Similar in color to Big Rainbow or Pineapple.
Berkeley Tie-Die: medium fruit with a very sweet, rich, dark tomato flavor. Port wine colored beefsteak with metallic green stripes. It becomes very soft very quickly though.
Please Choose 7
Cherry and/or regular red plus a few heirloom.
We're not sure how varieties will shake out... we're just glad things are finally ripening!
Summer Squash/Zucchini/Golden Zucchini/Patti Pans
probably for the last time until the fall planting comes in.
Sweet 'Sierra Blanca' Onions
Personal Size 'Sugar Cube' Muskmelons
We've grown this delightful variety for many years. 'Sugar Cube' is consistently sweet and delicious and can often be eaten in one sitting, as it only gets 2-4 pounds at maturity.
Piel de Sapo Melons
Lovely, tropical melons that are green on the inside. Also referred to as a Christmas melon.
Jalapeños, Serranos, Thai, Anaheim, Habaneros, Cayenne and more!
Sweet Peppers (Bell and Carmen)
It's really going now! The big ones are still slow but, we should have plenty of mini eggplants.
They need a little break to recover from an army-worm infestation.
Recipe Ideas: Fennel
The most intense anise-flavored veggie around! If you love (or even tolerate) black licorice, fennel is something you should seek out!
Fennel can be used raw or cooked. Raw, it is crunchy and celery-like with a nice distinct anise flavor. Cooked (especially roasted) it sweetens but, loses some intensity and gains a lovely, silky texture.
If you want a little help figuring out how to cut the dang thing, I recommend this slideshow from the Kitchn.
Once you have it all figured out... thinly slice it using a mandolin or a sharp knife (which we prefer for raw salads) or, slice/chop it into bigger chunks for grilling or roasting.
For whatever reason, my taste buds like the combo of citrus and fennel. Try thinly sliced fennel with your favorite orange vinaigrette or, something like this Orange and Fennel Salad from Robin Miller.
Or, from a favorite food-blog, smitten kitchen, her Shaved Fennel and Blood Orange Salad.
I've tried to grow artichokes so. many. times.
Anyway, roasted together... they are spectacular. Go for a high heat to get the nice caramelization. Try this Roasted Fennel and Artichoke Hearts recipe from Martha Stewart.