Tomato Blight – It’s My Garden I’ll Cry If I Want To

Garden

I grew tomatoes from seed this year (left side of photo and upper top of photo), nurtured them and watched them grow from seedlings into 7-8 foot tall strong and sturdy plants bearing lots of tomatoes, most of which still had to ripen. I look forward to tomatoes more than anything in the garden and my first taste of Caprese salad once again this summer was earth altering. There is nothing quite like the taste of your own home-grown tomatoes picked just that day. I made one batch of fresh salsa and reveled in the favors of fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro. I made a couple of sandwiches with a thick slice of red ripe tomato from the garden.

THEN … without much of a warning my tomatoes came to an abrupt halt within a matter of days!! My beautiful, healthy tomato plants were dying a quick death!!!Late tomato blite Late tomato blight hit and hit hard. I’ve grown tomatoes for 10 years and have always been blessed by healthy vigorous plants. … Until this year. Wow … It is quite a shock to see such healthy plants die and whither a quick death.Late tomato blight As I looked at my plants for some silly reason an old song came into my head “It’s My Party” and the chorus goes “it’s my party, I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, you would cry too if it happened to you.”  Do you know the song I mean? Well, always trying to look at something positive I turned it into “it’s my garden and I’ll cry if I want to” and put a funny spin on it. That worked for all of a few moments. Sigh ….

I got to work and pulled my plants out, stuffing them into black garbage bags. I filled up 2 55 gallon bags with my beloved tomato plants and then sat down and looked at the empty earth. I must confess that sitting there, at that moment, I did feel tears falling down my cheeks. If you’re a gardener … You get it. 

On the positive side, I did end up with 4 grocery bags full of green tomatoes.  I plan to make some salsa verde for canning and I’m hoping the others will ripen and I can still make tomato sauce and red tomato salsa.

What I Learned:

I read a lot and learned way more than I ever wanted to know about late tomato blight!  I learned that late tomato blight is transmitted through the air and can travel miles and cross state lines.  It was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the 1800s.  I learned that the weather Ohio had this summer played a huge part in late tomato blight with a lot of rain and except for one week of exceptionally hot weather, for the most part it was a cooler summer.  I learned that late blight also affects the tomato itself and not just the stalk and the leaves.  I learned that once your plants have blight it is next to impossible to save them, blight spreads FAST!!  I garden organically so I am torn as to whether I would use preventative measures next year if we had the same kind of weather, but leaning to taking a chance and not using chemicals.  Following are some photos to help identify late tomato blight:

Late Blight on Tomatoes

Late blight first appearing on leaves

late blight on tomatoes

and progresses to the bottom photo quickly!Late blight on tomato plant

Affected tomatoes look like this:

Tomato affected with late blight

One basket of 4 containers of green tomatoes:

photo (5)

I also learned that I never want to experience late tomato blight again!

It was a very, very sad evening in the garden.  But … there is always next summer and I plan on growing tomatoes again … after all, you can’t have a garden without tomatoes and I’m optimistic that next summer will be blight free!

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Chocolate Raspberry Sauce – How Sweet It Is

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce
Do you love chocolate?  (silly question)  Do you love raspberries?  You will love this sauce!  I have enjoyed loved this sauce on my chocolate ravioli, ice cream, and frozen yogurt.  Enjoy!
Makes about 6 (8 oz) half pints.  “This incredible sauce has limitless potential! It is decadent, rich and fantastically versatile. Serve over ice cream, cheesecake or fruit. It makes a sure-to-be-appreciated hostess gift.”

You will need:

1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 package regular powdered fruit pectin
4-1/2 cups crushed red raspberries
6-3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE cocoa powder and pectin in a medium glass bowl, stirring until evenly blended. Set aside.
3.) COMBINE crushed raspberries and lemon juice in a large stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in pectin mixture until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
4.) LADLE hot sundae topper into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Chocolate Ravioli

You Can CAN it – Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Balsamic Jam

Strawberries

I went strawberry picking and picked 8 quarts of strawberries.  Oh My were they good!!  I can’t even compare fresh picked strawberries to what they call “strawberries” in the grocery store.  Simply delicious!!

I went from Pasta Princess to Canning Queen in one day and canned 8 jars of Strawberry Salsa, 8 jars of Strawberry Jam and 8 jars of Strawberry Balsamic Jam.  I wasn’t sure how I would like the Strawberry Balsamic Jam, but after a taste test it was hands down the winner!  Give canning a try – it really isn’t hard and so delicious!

The recipe for Strawberry Jam that I used is on page 8 of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and below.

Strawberry Jam

Here’s what you need:

  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 cups whole strawberries
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice*
  • 1 pkg (1.75 oz. to 57 grams) regular powdered fruit pectin

To can, you also need:

  • One large stock pot
  • One rack, to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot
  • jar lifters
  • jar funnel
  • empty jars with band lids

Instructions (Abridged)

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids. If you’ve never canned, you’ll want to buy the book or look up instructions online. You cannot skip these prep steps; doing so could result in food spoilage or serious health risks.

2. Premeasure sugar and berries.

3. In a glass pie plate or bowl, place a single layer of strawberries. Crush berries and transfer to heavy saucepan. If you use 8 cups of whole strawberries, you’ll end up with 5 cups of smashed strawberries.

4. Add lemon juice to crushed strawberries in pan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and, stirring constantly, and return to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and, using a large spoon, skim off foam.

5. Fill one jar at a time. Remove jar from canner and empty hot water back into canner. Place jar on towel-covered counter and put in your canning funnel. Ladle hot jam in, leaving 1/4 in. headspace. Slide a non-metallic utensil around the jam to get out air bubbles. Add more jam to adjust headspace. Clean rim with damp cloth. Center the hot lid onto the jar, and tighten with band.

6. When all jars are filled, take the rack out of the canner and fill with jars. Lower rack back into canner and ensure jars are completely covered with at least 1 in. of water. Bring to a full rolling boil, and then set timer for 10 minutes. At the end of processing time turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove jars and, without tilting, put them on a towel in a draft free spot. Let them sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours.

7. Check lids for seal. If you can push down on the lid and hear it pop, it hasn’t sealed. These jars must be refrigerated and used immediately.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

Use the above recipe.  *In place of the lemon juice, use 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 tablespoons high quality Balsamic Vinegar.

Coming NextScone recipe for this delicious jam!

Strawberry Jam

Tilapia with Pear Salsa

Tilapia with Pear Salsa

This is one of my favorite after work dinners.  It is quick (once you have canned the salsa and have it on hand) and really, really good.  Canning is not difficult at all, give it a try, you’ll be glad you did!  Enjoy!

Peppery Pear Salsa (Canning Recipe)

Makes six 8-ounce jars

This recipe is from “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving” by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 8 cups coarsely chopped, cored, peeled pears
  • 3 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 green bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare canning pot, jars and lids.

In a large steel saucepan, combine vinegar and pears. Add red and green peppers, sugar, salt, mustard, turmeric, allspice and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar.

Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. Place jars in canning pot, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process 8-ounce and pint jars for 20 minutes. Remove canning pot lid. Wait 5 minutes to remove jars.

Cool and store the salsa.

Tilapia with Pear Salsa - Blog H

What to do with all those beets – try canning some Pickled Beets and make Your Own Beautiful Canning Labels!

Do you have a lot of beets in your garden or do you just love pickled beets?  Try canning them.  It’s super easy and you’ll have delicious pickled beets in the winter.  I love almost all vegetables, and although I like beets, I could take them or leave them.  But … pickled beets that is entirely another story!  I could eat them by the jar full.  I loved my mother’s pickled beets and it’s been years since I’ve tasted devoured them.  I don’t know why I never tried canning beets myself, but I am so glad I finally did.  I’ll have to save a jar for my mother …although, they won’t be quite as good as hers!

I’ve spoken before of my Dad having a huge garden and now that I have my own small garden, I appreciate so much more all the work my Dad put into the garden and all the work my mother did preparing, canning, and cooking the vegetables.  Considering the size of their garden I would find that quite overwhelming!  Isn’t it awesome the things our parents pass on to us, perhaps, without even realizing they are doing so and what a gift it is!

My Mother’s Pickled Beets

  • 3-4 pints beets
  • 1-1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 pint of water
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Cups of sugar

Prepare your beets by trimming all but 2 inches of the stem and leaving the root on and cover with water.  Boil approximately 40 minutes or until tender.  Cool, slip off skins and cut into chunks or slices.

Prepare canner, jars and lids (get easy to follow instructions here).

Combine vinegar, water, salt and sugar and bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes.

Add beets to mixture and return to a boil, simmer 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle beets into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover beets, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding more pickling liquid.  Wipe rim with a clean damp cloth.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight – do not overtighten.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 30 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Enjoy … and pass on the tradition!

After you’re done why not make some pretty labels?  I wasn’t loving the canning labels I saw to buy, so I created my own!  I designed the labels in Publisher and used Avery mailing labels – 6 per sheet. Get creative and show off your hard work!