This year we decided to plant a garden for the first time. We have quite a bit of land in the back of our home but really haven't attempted truly having a vegetable garden until this year. My husband found himself with lots of extra time in the spring because his work was furloughing their employees during the slow periods.
Because of his lack of work and the reduced income, we felt like it would be an excellent year to attempt to garden. Hubby divided the garden plot into raised beds that were 4 ft by 6 ft. He made about 10 plots. The first of June we went to a local greenhouse and bought lots of starts and a few seeds. I thought that tomatoes would be great to grow -- and we ended up with 15 tomato plants! Silly me! We had also bought cucumbers, beets, lettuce, peas, radishes, cucumbers, different varieties of squash, watermelon, other melons, peppers, herbs, and green beans.
Of course, since it was our first time, we did our best, but had some crop failures and some lessons learned. The main vegetable that thrived was the tomatoes! 15 plants of lots of tomatoes. We started have tomato sandwiches, sliced tomatoes, tomato salads, etc. Which I adored! There is nothing better than a fresh vine ripened tomato! We didn't have any problems with pests or disease -- just a great crop! We gave away some to family and enjoyed a lot.
But, we found that we had too many! I wasn't getting to them fast enough -- so we started to process some into tomato sauce. I didn't really want the bother of canning this year -- so I decided to freeze the sauce.
We picked boxes and boxes of tomatoes --- washed the tomatoes --- blanched them for 30 seconds in boiling water and then set them in an ice bath for a few minutes --- then my dear 17 year old daughter peeled and cut up all of those tomatoes!! She is truly a gem!! She tried to get out most of the seeds and juice as she peeled them.
I cut out peppers (some fun red and purple ones from the garden and some green ones I bought), sweet onions and garlic. I cut everything up real fine. I sauteed the peppers, onions and garlic in butter until the onion was translucent and the peppers soft. Then I poured in the bowls of cut up tomatoes that my daughter had all cut up. I had a whole pan full. I brought everything to a boil and then turned it to medium and continued to cook it on a low boil for a few hours. I would keep stirring and checking to see if the liquid was boiling out and the tomatoes breaking up. I added a couple of tsp. of Italian Seasoning and salt and pepper. I also added a 1/4 cup of brown sugar. At the end I added 2 cans of tomato paste and simmered it another 30 minutes.
The sauce turned out delicious, chunky and great over some fresh pasta! We ate some of it fresh on the few nights that we were making the sauce. The rest we put into plastic freezer containers. I got 12 quarts of fresh tomato sauce in my freezer -- gave some away and we ate some. I figure that we had plenty to eat fresh tomato sauce once a week during the winter months!
Now the tomato plants have frozen. We picked a bunch that are still ripening on my counter right before the cold spell hit. We'll still have some until the end of the month.
We love the tomatoes -- but since I only have 2 kids left at home and my husband eats tomatoes cautiously because of acid reflex -- we had better only plant 4-6 plants next year! It was a great learning experience and one that we can build on for a better garden next year. Maybe we'll try for a bumper crop of green beans next year since our plants failed this year!