tomato and veggie garden explosion!

August 19, 2023

Oh. My. The tomatoes! This has been a great tomato year!

I picked 5 buckets of tomatoes a few days ago and filled 4 roasters to the brim, including my enormous turkey roaster, and made 12 quarts of tomato sauce. It was really too much work to process that much in one day and I vowed to never get so behind in my sauce making again. I set aside the most beautiful tomatoes, below, for slicing and sharing.

Most of our meals are centered around tomatoes. We have BLTs at least once a week and we also love my version of stuffed tomatoes: thick sliced tomatoes topped with scoops of chicken or tuna salad. I'm still making weekly pickles, but we eat them up almost as fast as I can make them. We've been loving cold green beans in our salads and the red and yellow peppers will be harvested this week. I think I will stuff them all, eat what we can and put the rest in the freezer. Also soon I'll be harvesting the beets. We love fresh beets but with a big harvest I'll likely make borscht for the freezer. The summer squashes are coming in fast and with them I make a sort of pancake with grated squash, corn, grated cheese, a bit of onion, beaten egg and corn flour. After frying I flash freeze them then stack them in plastic bags. They are good in the freezer for about 4 months, but they are always gone before that. They have been a summer treat for decades and one of my mother's favorites. I'd call her and tell her I was making squash pancakes and she'd come and spend the day with me, both of us eating them hot off the skillet. I've made enough pesto for the year and froze them in tiny containers so I can take out just a little at a time. A little bit of pesto goes a long way. There's still dill, basil, parsley, green onions and strawberries and I use them all on a daily basis. Summer has been busy. 

Our biggest tomatoes this year have been from our Big Rainbow plants. 

I picked these yesterday for our lunch. We don't seem to have a problem eating a whole plate of tomatoes! These represent our favorite heirloom varieties that we never fail to plant. Today's harvest was top left, Black Krim, but we also love Cherokee Purple, similar in color and flavor. Top right is Brandywine, large and dark rosy pink. Bottom left is Kellogg's Breakfast, a firm, solid yellow with good gel pockets. Big Rainbow on the bottom right, gorgeous with neon red streaking through the glossy yellow fruit. The flavor on all these is fabulous. Other varieties we grow yearly are Mortgage Lifter, Big Belgium, Big German, Mr. Stripy, and Pineapple. Our cherries this year are the golden Sunsugar and Black Cherry. We grew 30 tomato plants this year. We dedicate two of our seven raised beds, the two largest, to tomatoes; the end of one bed has bell peppers.  Another bed is summer squash, mostly white, green and yellow pattypan, but we do have two zucchini plants. In the fourth bed we have onions and dill and the fifth bed has green beans and beets. The sixth bed has cucumbers and sunflowers and the last bed has strawberries. I grow most of the herbs in the brick planters that border our family room patio that is a quick hop from our kitchen door. The garden also is just steps away from our kitchen, so if I need something like dill or an onion, it's easy to run out and pick it while I'm cooking. Since the vegetable garden is a prominent feature in our back yard and you cannot miss it when sitting on our patio, I feel compelled to keep it neat and tidy, and most times it is. I do daily maintenance on it but if I have let it go and need to whip it into shape it usually takes no more than an hour. Right now it's the harvesting and managing all the produce that's so time consuming. But all this is a labor of love for the both of us and we love summer because of it.

Squash pancakes ready for the freezer.

Our biggest tomatoes this year are the Big Rainbows. This one was 1.5 pounds.

Big rainbow is a yellow heirloom that is streaked with neon red. Gorgeous and delicious. It takes only one slice for a sandwich.

Lunch is ready! My brother was here for a two week visit and we spent a lot of time eating tomatoes (lots of BLTs) and reminiscing. I know I've told you our grandfather was a small commercial tomato grower in Ventura County in Southern California. While he was here we visited our mother's childhood hometown to finally lay her cremains to rest in our family burial plots. We previously had a big memorial service for her but this was just for the four of us. It was very touching for my brother and me to visit her hometown, grandfather's home and the homes of friends, mom's school and the church around that corner where she was baptized and married, and of course the little downtown, all places so very familiar and dear to us. 

Aren't these pretty? This year I grew sunflowers that DO have pollen. Last year I grew pollenless sunflowers and then there's nothing for the bees and pollinators. Never again will I grow pollenless.

cosmos, dahlias and zinnias

The ovens were groaning with all the tomatoes.

I freeze my tomato sauce in regular mouth and wide mouth glass quart and pint jars. I have these plastic lids in both sizes, standard size and wide mouth. They are perfect for freezer storage, never rust and are dishwasher safe. I leave a little head space for expansion, but sauce freezes beautifully and will last a year. 

I'm not even halfway through the summer sauce making and I've got the freezer door filled, (but I see some of it is some chicken stock). I was anticipating all the summer bounty that goes into the freezer at this time of year so we ate up most of the freezer food so we could fit in all the summer produce. I will probably have 40 quarts before the summer is over. You probably wonder what I do with all the tomato sauce. It makes perfect marinara sauce, bolognese sauce and tomato soup. I use it in stews, casseroles, pasta bakes and so many chicken dishes sometimes I think we're going to start clucking.



The Shasta Daisies are gone, but the zinnias have completely taken over.

the olive tree


If there is an interest I'll write down my recipe for the squash pancakes, but in the meantime, here are some summer recipes that showcase the summer garden's bounty.

Dan Kochansky's Pickles 
Ina Garten's Vegetable Tian

I hope your last weeks of summer are grand. I've got an FO to share soon and a giveaway planned for the very near future. I'd love to get it out next week, but summer so often get's in the way of my plans, but I'll really try because I'm thinking it's going to be pretty dang cute. Good bye and God bless! Kristen

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  1. Kristen,Are all these plants in your back yard? Or do you have a community plot somewhere? Loved seeing all the beautiful varieties of tomatoes! And amazed at your productivity! I get it about the bottle led. I bought a cheap but cute bottle recently with an already rusting metal lid (it had the word Cider stencilled on it which tickled me but which I use for iced tea). One day I was about to throw a condiment bottle when it occurred to me that the lid might work for Mr. Cider. It was a perfect fit. Not metal. A good quality plastic and it’s black color gave the whole ensemble a snappy look. I really enjoy pouring from it now. So now I think of bottle caps like buttons. They can make or break a look. (it’s the little things. )Chloe

    1. Yes! We dedicate two of our seven beds to tomatoes only. I edited my post above to share what's in each of the beds. Love your bottle cap story. Your scored! I have a favorite large jar in my laundry room that stores my laundry soap. The lid rusted because I did something dumb, so I had to throw it out. Now I'm on the hunt for a lid that fits, and every time I have a largish lid that is headed for recyling, I give it a try. So far nothing has fit. I know I can get the same jar and lid at Target for $10, but there's something about salvaging one from the trash. You're right, it's the little things. Lol.

  2. I’m interested in the squash pancakes recipe!

    1. Thank you to you and to Adrienne. I'm going to make them today so I'll write down my ingredient amounts. Expect the post in a day or two!

  3. Yes please for the squash pancake recipe! Adrienne

  4. Please give us the squash recipe!

  5. Fabulous Knitionary post today. I’d love to have the squash pancakes recipes. Brilliant idea to freeze them. Xx

    1. Thank you! I don't care to make too many things "for the freezer", but when you are bombarded with squash, this is my favorite use!

  6. Beautiful tomato and veggie garden! Yummy BLT’s.

    1. Thank you! BLT=our favorite way to eat tomatoes!

  7. Kristen, those tomatoes were gorgeous and made my mouth water just to seem them! Wonderful varieties! Your garden is stunningly beautiful!

  8. It's all very amazing and lovely. Do you use plants from a nursery or do you plant from seed. I know you plant the flowers from seed, but the veggies? And if so, do you keep the extra seeds for next year?
    I've tried growing tomatoes but the squirrels manage to take a bite from each and everone.😟

    1. Thank you Brenda. Last year we noticed that the garden center had all our favorite heirloom varieties, so this year I decided to let the nursery grow our tomato seedlings. Bad idea. We had to go back several times to get what we wanted and they were very expensive. I will go back to starting them in the greenhouse. If you have a sunny, out of the way corner in the house, that will work just as well. Yes, I do save my seed from year to year, but no fancy storage. I fold up the packet and put a paper clip on it and keep them in a drawer in the kitchen. I have found that seed saved this way keeps for years. The germination will be less each year, that's the only thing.

  9. Your garden is amazing and beautiful. You may be named Santa Clara Farmer of the Year. There is nothing like a homegrown tomato.


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