Harvest Time

One of my favorite lines in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge, confiding his avaricious glee to his clerk, Bob Cratchit:

Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. ‘Harvest time’ for the money-lenders.

(I’m not sure if that quote appears in the original — it appears in one version of the movie, among at least five that I own. I’m too lazy to check the book.)

Michael Caine as Scrooge
Michael Caine makes a very believable Scrooge.

The way Scrooge rubs his hands together as he rolls the R’s in the word ‘Harvest’, sends a chill down my spine, as I contemplate the harvest he is about to reap at the hands of the three spirits.

Today I had to admit that the tomato growing season is pretty much over. We’ve had a couple of gentle frosts, and the tomatoes are rotting on the vine. When it rains, the tomatoes split and get moldy, and even the ones that don’t spoil have lost that sweet, sun-warmed flavor of August.

Now what do we do with all these tomatoes?” I asked Kathy, rather petulantly. Even though many of the vines are yellowed and have dropped most of their fruit, there still remain hundreds of tomatoes on the 50-odd plants I tended so happily through the summer months.

Tomato Warrior
The kids were having a war in the backyard with various friends, so I drafted some of ‘em as migrant workers.

I paused a moment to reflect on the change in my attitude about these little red globes. I remember when each of them was like a precious child, long awaited and enjoyed with great glee. Now, when half the crop falls neglected to the ground, I’m tired of tomatoes, and haven’t been out to pick any for a week. It has been several days since I even ate a tomato.

Maybe next Spring I’ll exercise some moderation in my planting?

Tomato Cannery
Either that, or get one of these bad boys to help me process my crop …

Kathy Googled™ for the answer, and found that we could save tomatoes for use in winter stews. “You”ll freeze ‘em,” she assured me, rather breezily.

“Sounds good,” I agreed. “What do we do, chop ‘em in half and toss ‘em in a freezer bag?”

Kathy read further down the page and laughed. “No, they all say you have to skin the tomatoes, first.”

I blanched. Literally.

(OK, that was a dumb cooking pun. Blanching is apparently what happens when you expose a fruit or vegetable to boiling water for a short time. Not, in this context, what happens when all the blood runs out of your face in terror.)

Excess tomatoes
Fifteen minutes’ harvest.

I checked it out — sure enough, every source we could find agreed that you had to remove the skins. So I got out a big pot and boiled some water. Beside it, I prepared a bowl of ice water. Then I put a dozen tomatoes in the boiling water for 45 seconds or so, and then plopped ‘em into the ice water. As advertised, the skins came right off, along with a fair bit of the tomato.

Kathy nearly suffered an infarction. “I can’t believe you’re actually doing some of the work,” she chortled.

It was a gooey job, and I quit after bagging only two quart bags of tomatoes. At this rate, I’ll have all the tomatoes ready for freezing by the time next year’s crop is on the vine.

“I’m leaving the rest of the tomato processing as an exercise for the student,” I told Kathy, waving my hand grandly at the remaining trays of tomatoes, as I scampered out of the kitchen.

Now we just need to find a tomato student. Any takers?

Project 366, Day 299

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11 thoughts on “Harvest Time”

  1. No need to peel. I’ve done it both ways. Blanch, put in freezer bags, and they’ll peel just great after you get them out of the freezer. No need to thaw before using; run hot water over the frozen tomatoes, and the skin comes right off. I do this every year. EASY!

    Joyce the gardener

  2. Hi, your tomatoes sound wonderful. But I’ve never done all that work to freeze mine. I cut the bad spots out and cut the peelings off for the most part- and then cut and freeze. I guess the blanching is easier in many ways- as I’ve heard the skin really does come off easily.

    But please don’t NOT freeze the tomatoes due to the thought of the hard work. When you get tired, just cut the bad spots off and freeze. They are wonderful in soups and spag sauce, etc.

    Uncle Jerry always PLANS to plant fewer tomato plants, and he has cut down some over the years. Gardening is SUCH fun.

    I love you Edgrens. Aunt Kate

  3. NOW they tell you, eh, Tim? We’d love to help you eat some, but won’t be available for any blanching or bagging or actual work.

  4. Here’s another idea for preparing extra tomatoes:

    Using 2 parts stretchy medical tubing and 1 part leather straps, create a giant sling shot to be held by two people while a third one cradles a tomato in the strappy part and launches it over the house.

    This is a great way to share extra tomatoes with anyone within range of your sling shot.

    (I believe that bell peppers or zucchini halves can be substituted for tomatoes without affecting the overall flavor and texture on impact.)

  5. LOL! The first time we ever planted a garden, I bought 24 tomato plants. they were SO SMALL. I had no idea how many to plant since I’d never had a garden before. My dh about died laughing when I brought home all those plants. BOY did we have a lot to give away that year….. Just think of how good they’ll taste this winter!

  6. I think we had one of those strainers growing up. They were pretty snazzy. My mom (and the forced migrant workers) used to make tomato juice–loads and loads of tomato juice–from which we had tomato soup all winter. It was delicioso! Unfortunately, I have yet to turn into my mom and venture into such productive territory myself–maybe when I’m as old as you, I will. :-)

  7. I wish I were having your tomato problem! We moved in the middle of the summer, so I didn’t get much in the way of a tomato harvest this year :-(

  8. I am the only tomato eater in my house. I used to plant 6 tomatoes plants every spring and could not keep up with eating them all. Now I plant 1 plant. Somehow it felt so wasteful to let one homegrown tomato not get eaten.

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