by Colleen Smith
Canning tomatoes is something that my family just does. My dad started using an outdoor propane cooker to heat the hot water bath. This keeps the house a bit cooler in the heat of the summer. This year I blanched them out doors and brought the operation inside. It was easier to keep track of my sweet one year old, Leonora. Every year I think to myself, “Is this really worth it?” In January I always answer back, “yes it is.” Opening up a can of tomatoes in the middle winter can ward off the winter blues while feeding the family. I canned a hot and mild salsa this year. I also canned a tomato sauce.
I always enjoy talking to my dad this time of year to see what he has canned and what heirlooms are ripe in his garden. After all, he is “The Tomato King.” Mike Rabbitt has been working his soil for over thirty years. His tomatoes really are the best. Organic doesn’t seem to justify the quality and taste of his tomatoes. Mike says, the key to a good tomato is micro-nutrients in the soil.
Mike uses fish emulsion and seaweed. He also goes out into the forest and harvests composted leaves and soil. He mulches with straw before the summer heat and plants winter wheat every fall. His mother always told him to put different soil into the hole during plantings. This has proven to work for Mike.
When a tomato is cooked and boiled down the carotene called lycopenes enrich and concentrates into a real super food. Lycopene is especially good for protecting our bodies against cancer. Tomatoes can relieve dryness and thirst, tone the stomach and aid in the healing of an over heated liver. Tomatoes can also aid in digestion and lower high blood pressure.
Even though tomatoes are acidic, after digestion, it is alkalizing to the blood stream. Folks with arthritis have a negative effect from tomatoes ( if eaten in large quantities) because tomatoes upset the calcium metabolism in the body. Eating tomatoes with greens can balance this effect.
Green tomatoes that are picked and sprayed, shipped and ripened can weaken kidney adrenal functions and do not have the same taste or nutrient value as homegrown. Slow food takes all year to grow, tend, harvest and process. These foods are the true healers to our growing health problems. John Held of Spring Brook Farm has a new high tunnel green house. He will be extending our local tomato season. Go and visit him!
The frost has hit and we are left with the memory of the growing season and the dream of next. Opening up a jar of summer in the form of tomatoes is one of life’s sweet pleasures.
I am thankful for this family tradition.