Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

Picking and Pinching August 14, 2011


Tomatoes Ripening

Tomatoes Ripening

It’s the time of year when a lot of the work in the garden is either pinching or picking.  To increase production, plants need to be pinched. To maintain continuous production, other plants need to picked regularly. The practice of pinching sends the energy to the fruit, increasing the likelyhood of nice, big, ripe fruit and vegetables. Our tomatoes have been especially needy in the pinching department as they struggle to produce ripe fruit amidst a short growing season and the constant threat of blight.


Tomatoes  – Tomatoes can be pinched in a couple of ways. (1) Once flowering starts, pinch the tops to stunt growth and send energy to fruit production. (2) Especially in wet climates, pinch the lower leaves to prevent the onset of blight. (3) Once fruit production begins in earnest, thin out leaves to send energy to the fruit and to allow the sun to reach and ripen the fruit.

Squash & Pumpkins – If size matters, pinch all but a few flowers to get big, lovely pumpkins and other squashes. If space matters, trim back the vines, unless you’ve trained them up.  Squash flowers are edible and make a nice colourful addition to salad.

Strawberry – Trim back those runners! Strawberry plants should be replaced about every four years. Unless it’s replacement time, trim back the runners to direct the energy to the plant, and to allow enough space for the existing plants to produce well.


Peas – Peas require continual picking to keep up their production. In August, the novelty of the peas can wear off as other vegetables come into season. Don’t let the peas become the neglected plant in the corner. Continued love will be rewarded with long lasting production and fresh peas for salad, stews and pesto well into the summer.

Brocoli – Quick, before it flowers! Any remaining brocoli needs to be picked now before it flowers. Leave the plants for a second set of heads ready for harvest later in the fall.

Leafy Greens – Picking a few leaves from each head of lettuce and from the kale, chard, and spinach is key to preventing to bolting and to enjoying fresh sweet salads all summer long.


Hang Your…Tomatoes October 4, 2009

the last harvest of tomatoes

the last harvest of tomatoes

Everything has a season.  And the season for tomatoes is, sadly, over.

As the summer draws to an end I take a certain comfort in the familiarity of the rain and the fog.  They return as surely, as consistently, as rythmically as the birds migrate as the bears hybernate as the sun rises and sets. Our family settles into the food and routine of fall, substituting fresh salsas and salads with soups and stews, splashing in puddles instead of sprinklers, dawning the first tuques and tucking away sun hats. Bare feet are clothed. Apples finish their glorious display and fields of green turn to the most magnificent orange as the pumpkins ripen. There is plenty to look forward to, but as the nights erode into more and more of my daylight hours, there is also a sense of loss.  I will miss puttering in the garden with a glass of wine once the days work is done and the little ones are tucked in bed.

There is also a growing list of fall tasks that demand attention during those increasingly precious daylight hours.  At the top of my list are the tomatoes. So this weekend, I am hanging the last of the green Roma and Big Ben tomatoes to ripen on the vine. There are also plenty of ways to enjoy the fruit that just didn’t quite get there, and I’m experimenting with green tomato salsa by using unripened the cherry tomatoes (yellow and red) to make a salsa.

hanging green tomatoes to ripen

hanging green tomatoes to ripen

To preserve tomatoes for use later in the year we simultaneously freeze the ripe tomatoes, which are available in abundance squared at present, and hang or box unripe (green) tomatoes in a dark place to allow the fruit to ripen. To encourage your green tomatoes to ripen (and not rot) you have two choices.

1) store them in a cardboard box in a cool (but not cold) place. layer the fruit no higher than two rows high to avoid squishing.

2) hang the fruit on the vine upside down.  trim most of the leaves off the vine and hang the vine somewhere cool (but not cold) and dark.

Either way, avoid direct sunlight and check the fruit regularly.  In the picture above, the fruit is hanging on our gazebo – I transfered it to the garage, but since it’s not pretty, I’m not sharing pics!

green cherry tomatoes

green cherry tomatoes

Green tomato salsa can be made fresh and is a delicious treat to serve with nachos at bbqs, potlucks or other gatherings or as a garnish for a variety of meats or meat substitutes.  Experiment with the recipe below to add your favorite flavours (cilantro, bell peppers, you name it) and to work with what is available locally in your area:


6 green tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, large, seeded and finely chopped (or substitute chilies if you are growing them)
1 garlic clove , minced
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher or Maldon salt
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped

For A Chunky  Blended Salsa
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until coarse chopped and blended.

Salsa Fresca
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.  Allow the salsa to sit at least 1 -2 hours to allow the flavors to blend

If you’ve got plenty of green tomatoes (and you likely do – tomato plants continue to produce new fruit even when it’s much to late in the season for the fruit to have any chance of ripening), you can also can this garnish to use all year.  I’m new to canning, but plan to try the canning recipe at the following:, by Stephen Allan Christensen.

Then of course, there are fried green tomatoes.  I’ve never been a fan – but if you’ve got the recipe that will convert me – please, do share!


Freezing Cold September 30, 2009

I am going to start canning.  But not this year.  This year I’m working, and my husband’s working, and our kids are little and we live in the city, and despite the fact that I have a fabulous urban garden that has produced in abundance, I can get away with not canning and not wasting.  I’m going to start canning. I meant to do that this year, but I’m not going to get there.

I am, however, freezing. You probably know that frozen produce has the same nutritional goodness as fresh produce.  It follows that “fresh-from-the-garden” frozen produce is packed full of “fresh-from-the-garden” goodness, in December.

Cherries from public picking

Cherries from public picking

BERRIES are an obvious, enjoyable and easy choice for freezing. We have the absolute joy on the West Coast of having an abundance of berries growing wild in the urban landscape, ready for the picking.  If you’ve followed my past posts, you know that I have a condition that makes it impossible for me to ignore delicious offerings that might otherwise go to waste.   As such, we have a freezer full of wildberries. A few favorites from this year:

  • Blueberries.  We picked up two large cases from an organic grower early it the season.  If you are just thinking about this now, think about it for next year!
  • Strawberries.  From the garden. So easy to grow. They like acidic, well drained soil . At this time of year, cut the runners so that each plant is permitted to grow one new plant.
  • Blackberries. In every alley, ditch and parking lot all over this glorious city.  These are the berry that is most abundant and most easily available free. Please pick it! Our favorite spot this year was near the airport in Richmond.  The kids could watch planes when they tired of picking.
  • Huckelberries. Growing wild in the forests all over the West Coast. Not enough to freeze this year.  Though I did manage to freeze a few dozen huckelberry & blueberry muffins.
  • Cherries.  Technically not a berry. But, at least in Vancouver, available to pick on public land here, there and everywhere, so they qualify in my book.  We did a lot of picking on Translink property this year.  Who knew the train had beautiful well established cherry trees all along it’s path, that hang into many a parking lot and go un-picked? Delicious.

Freezing berries is easy. Wash well. Then lay the berries on a flat surface (cookie tray) that has been covered with wax paper and freeze. This ensures that the berries don’t stick together when they freeze. Once the berries are frozen, transfer to whatever reusable container you’ve selected and repeat with the next batch of berries and the same piece of wax paper.  Obviously cherries need to be pitted first. And actually, I like cherries better stewed. But that’s another post…

Kale frozen in ice cube trays

Kale frozen in ice cube trays

KALE is pretty much the most versatile and persistent leafy green you can grow. It also happens to be the nutritional superhero of vegetables.  Long after my varieties of lettuce have gone to flower, after the spinach has all been eaten, after the second harvest of chard has been sautéed, or devoured by the slugs, the Kale is still going strong.  And by strong, I mean we cut it and cut it and eat it and eat it, and it’s still waist height, and lush. So we freeze it to enjoy year round.

There are two ways to freeze Kale:

  • Blanch it. Slice the Kale into large pieces, removing thick stems but including smaller stems. Boil a large pot of water and fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes.  Plunge the Kale into the boiling water for one minute, then transfer to the ice water.  Dry Kale. Freeze in airtight bag.
  • Mince it.  By far my preferred method. Remove the stems. No need to blanch. Throw leaves in the food processor and chop as finely as possible. Press minced Kale into ice cube trays.  Once frozen, transfer cubes to your container of choice.  Admittedly, the cubes can be tricky to pop out of the trays. Nonetheless, I find this to be more convenient than freezing the minced kale on parchment and keeping it loose in a bag. Throughtout the winter, add a couple cubes to soups, sauces, and everything else.  This is the sneakiest and most effective way to get my kids to consume leafy greens regularly.

TOMATOES only last so long. This is where the canning really comes into play.  I had the best of canning intentions, but said adventures will have to wait until next year. Freezing tomatoes is however, at least as simple, completely hassle free and almost as convenient on the other end. I’m also consoling myself after foiling the canning plans with the fact that frozen tomatoes are nutritionally better than canned tomatoes. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m going with it.

To freeze tomatoes:

  • Boil a pot of water
  • Submerge tomatoes for a maximum of one minute
  • Transfer immediately to icy cold water
  • Pull the skins off (after this boiling process, they practically fall off)
  • Squeeze to drain seeds and water (this isn’t an art)
  • Freeze in an airtight bag

Tomatoes are now ready for use in sauces, chilies and other recipes all winter long.

In case this little intro has you all excited about the preserving potential in your garden, check out I’ve found loads of useful information about freezing, canning and otherwise preserving on their site.


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