Late summer harvest in the community garden.
I grew tomatoes, collard and turnip greens in a community garden this summer. It has been an excellent hobby and provided me a place of peace. It was the first time I participated in a community garden and hopefully will not be my last! I’m already planning next years garden with the assistance of my sister Susan. Susan planted several plants and herbs from seed and has been coaching me to do the same next year.
There’s something special about growing food. The very process of nurturing a plant in the soil and gently coaxing it to life so it can grow and produce is somewhat of a little miracle. I grew up eating vine ripened tomatoes and there's really nothing like them.
Every day or so I went down to the garden which is about a half mile from my house and would walk excitedly to my plot. As I walked, I’d admire the other gardeners work. It’s not a competition, as I watched the other plants grow. Gave me inspiration and ideas for future gardening projects.
Tomatoes, eggplants, corn, herbs, peppers, zucchini and flowers. Lots of beautiful flowers.
Although it has been a rainy summer, the garden has produced fruit. I’m not disappointed as the vine ripened tomatoes are a joy to behold. We've eaten salads just about every day whenever there's a harvest, even one tomato!
I gather in my t-shirt whatever is ripe and resist picking fruits that aren’t completely vine ripened. This is the difficult part. I remember almost ripe tomatoes laying on the kitchen counter when I was a kid just waiting for all their deep red beauty to appear. Sprinkled with a little salt and maybe a few basil leaves, this is my favorite way to eat tomatoes.
Preparing homemade tomato sauce is another way we get to enjoy this lovely taste of summer over the cold winter months. Admittedly, I did go a little overboard in making sauce. My family always can taste the difference with a homemade sauce. That's motivation for me to keep making it. And, though I didn't have many tomatoes from my own crop, I was able to pick up locally grown tomatoes at the farmers markets and from The Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio.
Romas make wonderful sauce, however, I’ve used a variety of tomatoes, as long as they’re ripe. Baked in a 325 degree oven until the tomatoes collapse into a soft jammy consistency (2 hours). Season before baking with salt, pepper, oregano, pinch of sugar, drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil. After baking and cooled slightly, use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth. I leave some of it chunky as that’s the way my family likes it. I vacuum seal the sauce and lay the bags flat in the freezer so we can enjoy this taste of summer all winter.
Do you have a favorite food story and would like to be a guest columnist on this blog, please let me know.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and lifestyle company.
Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
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Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
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Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com
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