This summer, I harvested so many tomatoes! More than I could keep up with, really. I was overzealous during the spring and planted 15 tomato plants, before reality hit me, and I understood how much work it would take to maintain these tomato plants. From removing the suckers, to pruning the stems below the first fruit and monitoring for disease, caring for tomato plants takes a lot of intention and effort, even if they are pretty hardy and resilient plants. Never again!
I did my best, but I also realized that the plants began to produce more tomatoes than my family could eat. We definitely gave a lot away, but I also decided to try my skills at canning the tomatoes.
I’d never done this before, so on my first try, once I had disinfected the mason jars and lids, I filled the mason jars with tomatoes and preservatives such as citric acid and salt. I had the water boiling in a big pot, and when I lowered the jars into the pot, two of the jars cracked. None of the videos I watched warned about this, and since the jars were still hot from when I had disinfected them, I did not think they would crack.
After cleaning up the mess, I dusted myself off and moved on to the second batch. This time, I put the mason jars in the pot while the water was warm, and gradually allowed the water to come to a boil and continue to boil for the recommended time, which was different depending on the article I read or video I watched, but through some trial and error I decided on 40 minutes.
Another aspect of this process that was a bit challenging was figuring out how much to tighten the lid. Too tight, and the lid wouldn’t seal. Too loose, and the lid wouldn’t seal either! LOL! But Finally, I was able to successfully can several jars, and look forward to coming up with some yummy ways of incorporating the tomatoes in my cooking this fall and winter.
There were several lessons I learned through this process of cultivating tomatoes. The first lesson was that I have to work within my capacity. So if that means I can only tend to one tomato plant, then that is all I will commit to in order to do it thoughtfully and intentionally. The second lesson I learned is that one does not need a huge plot of land to grow an abundant amount of food. I was amazed at how much food I was able to grow in my front yard – zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, bush beans, crowder peas, and lettuce. I also learned how much work a small plot of land requires, which leads me to the next lesson. I cannot rush this process. I have to build capacity with other folks to create the farm I envision. The amount of land and farming correlates directly to the amount of people that are willing to commit to this process. And this is certainly not a dream I want to fulfill on my own. The whole purpose of this work is to build community and heal our relationship with the land.
For this fall, I’m going to attempt my next round of planting, but this time I am going to scale down, and only do what I can do well, so I can slow down and be present enough to learn from each plant. Hasta Pronto!