Bountiful Potatoes, Rotten Beans, and Birthday Canning


Up this morning early to work on final grading for my summer classes.  I’d like to be done with that before my birthday tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem likely with all the other projects pressing me for time.

After a bit of online time, I headed out to the farm with potato-digging in mind.  Donning my headnet, I stepped out of the truck and into the heat, humidity, and stink.

The latest flood

I took this image a few days ago, when the Vermillion River breached its banks in our valley for the second time this season.  The water has since subsided, and the bean field you can’t see in this image because it was underwater is now uncovered, but completely dead, covered with muck, and rotting.

Sodden bales

Ditto for the alfalfa field on the other side of the road, and also for the cornfield on the south side of the river.  River muck, rot, and stink.  Yum, yum, yummy.

However!  The gardens are mostly OK, and the beds of Russian Banana and Red French fingerling potatoes were ready to dig.  Well, they were ready to dig after I took the big string trimmer through those areas of the gardens and made it a little easier to get in and get the tubers out.

It’s amazing how much you can get out of a pound of seed potatoes.  This is an eleven gallon tub, and my best guess is that it has about forty to fifty pounds of potatoes in it.  The bed they came out of is about 3′ x 10′ or maybe 12′.  Not too shabby.

I did not get the Red French fingerlings dug, though, because it was just too darn hot.  We finally got a little window air conditioner unit out there in the trailer, and I had to go in a couple times this morning and just sit in front of it and chug water until I could bear to go back out.

In addition to the potatoes, there was also tomato, summer squash, and cuke harvesting to do.  I always plan to can some sort of tomato project on my birthday, and every year I think maybe they won’t quite be ready.

There weren’t a ton of them today (maybe about twenty or thirty pounds), and a lot of the fruits have damage from caterpillars (need to dust with DE again) or sitting on the constantly wet ground.  A shameful lot of tomatoes are “flying” this year–over the garden fence and into the field beyond.

I guess letting the plants sprawl during the wettest year ever recorded wasn’t the best bet.  Not that I knew it was going to be like this.

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After putting about ten pounds of tomatoes aside (and there will be more coming in a day or two) for deliveries, I decided to sauce the rest of the dead-ripe and somewhat damaged ones as a base for salsa that I can finish and can tomorrow (which is my birthday).

Sauce-making

It will end up being about eight quarts of sauce when I am done cooking it down to a nice, thick consistency.  You have to make salsa base thick (if you do a sauce base) because the added acid thins it out so much.

I use lemon juice for the added acid in my salsa because it doesn’t mess with the flavor so much as vinegar.  It does tend to mold quicker after the jar is opened, but if you eat it up quickly (and don’t put a dirty utensil in the jar!), then that’s not a problem.  And, of course, my salsa is so delicious, it doesn’t usually sit around long! 😉

So, the spices and herbs (secret!) will go in the base tonight, then I’ll chop the peppers, onions, and garlic tomorrow, add the acid, heat it through, and boiling water bath can it.

Looking at the amount of sauce I have, maybe I will get a couple canner-loads of pints of salsa–I’d like to at least get a case (12 jars) out of the project.  Eighteen to twenty pints would rock my world–I could call that particular project done for the season instead of having to do another batch later.

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About the best-looking tomatoes I found today were in the home garden–off the one tomato plant I have growing here–Santorini.  I wrote earlier in the season about how it was going to over-run its support, and it has.  I haven’t really done anything about it, either.  So far, it hasn’t fallen over.

Santorinis

They’re pretty, aren’t they?  I like the pleated varieties.  But I’m not that impressed with their flavor.  OK–nothing too special.

The new tomato I am happiest with so far this season is Cherry Roma.  I don’t have an image right now, but they’re basically like the little red grape tomatoes you can buy in the grocery store.  Except they actually taste like something–and that something is really good!

They also look like great drying tomatoes–nice, thick flesh.  Slightly spicy flavor that I really like.  I don’t like tomatoes that are just plain sweet and nothing else.  I want tangy or smoky or spicy or even tropical–like a Sun Gold.

And speaking of tropical…

Spaghetti squash bonanza

OK–maybe spaghetti squash aren’t “tropical”–but the foliage is a little, isn’t it?  The patch is going wild this year–and there are literally dozens of fruits on the vines.  I know they tend to be pretty productive, but this year is a bonanza.

So, this coming week’s CSA deliveries are going to contain a squash (you can start harvesting them at any time–but I will “cure” some for storage) and probably some eggplant, too–they’re finally starting to produce.  I saw the first okra blossom today as well.

Now that the tomatoes are all through the strainer, I’m going to have to run the compost out to the bin before it starts raining–I hear thunder rumbling below the cicadas’ constant whirring.  These two or three dry days were just too good to be true!

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