Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gardening tips and Tomato Jam recipe

Is it just me or things from the past are simply the best. This summer I got reintroduced to my mom's favorite hobby; gardening. Don't get me wrong, I've always thought that gardening was reserved for old people and killers that need places to hide dead bodies but I actually really enjoyed it. It also goes along with my resolution from earlier in the year to eat better and to watch out for processed food so when my boyfriend proposed to me that we make our own garden I was ecstatic. Only problem was, we both had little experience in gardening except watching our mothers do it. We remembered the basics but we needed back-up. Thankfully, his mother came to the rescue and helped us after the beginning of the process. We had gone to our local garden center and bought plants of tomatoes of different variety, peppers, hot peppers,cucumbers, herbs and plenty of seeds of different kinds (carrots, onions, corn, etc).

We carefully planted the different plants and seeds in rows as orderly as we could and watered. She was pleased with what we'd done so far but gave us great advice on regular maintenance, to help us get the max from our little haven. And that we did, all summer we had, tomatoes and cucumbers galore and were able to make great salads throughout.

A few pointers though if you're going to try the organic garden experience yourself:
1- Make sure to read up on the subject, our placement of the different plants was not optimal. We put the tomato plants in the front end but after only a couple of weeks not only were they very tall and blocking sunlight for the plants behind them but it also got very large; getting tangled in the other plants through the leaves. There are great garden starter apps on Iphone like Mon Potager and the likes but a good book probably would have been the more complete and best option.
2- Have a specific maintenance regimen that you can stick to; having a garden can be demanding in the sense that different veggies grow in different paces and you might have to replant during the summer for some species. You also need to take out the weeds that grow around because they suck out water that the plants should be getting. You should do this at least once a week. Last but not least you need to water at least once a day, before or after sunlight in order to not steam/fry your garden. Investing in some sprinklers and timers can be a good idea. That's what we did.
3- Enjoy, the time spent seeing the progress in your garden, spending time with your significant other, doing a free workout and reaping your crop.

Talking about the crop, when we dismantled the garden for the winter, there were many carrots as they're ready at the end of the summer, which is great cause we like to eat salads in the summer but soups in the fall/winter. Also, a lot of tomatoes were left but most of them still green from not getting enough sunlight and warmth. A great trick to get them mature indoors that my boyfriend learned from his granny is to put them in newspapers and in turn in a paper-bag, in a cool, dark place. A few days later they are ready for consumption.

That being said, we were left with a LOT of tomatoes and there's only so many salads you can eat so I remembered what my mom used to do in those situations; TOMATO JAM!!! :D
By now, you're probably thinking WTH??? But ear me out. You firstly have to remember that tomatoes are fruit, not vegetables. This jam is actually as sugary and tasty as any other and it was one of my favorite things growing up. As my family wasn't rich, my mom always had all these simple tricks to turn a nickel into a dime so here's how the recipe goes:

Tomato jam
3 cups of tomatoes (cut in quarters)
1 cup of sugar ( I mix it half brown- half white)
3/4 cup of water

In a pot put the water and sugar. You boil the sugar in order to dissolve it. Once the sugary water is boiling add the tomatoes and stir. Let it simmer on medium for 45 minutes and stir every once in a a while. You can strain to remove the skin and seeds. I blended it but didn't like the results as it made the jam turn orange instead of red. Next time I won't. Place the jam in sterilized jars. So there you have it!

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