Sunday, 18 February 2018

Tomatoes - lots of tomatoes

Its that time of year again. Late summer and the tomatoes are ripening fast.
There's only so many tomato sandwiches you can eat and a few more get used in summer salads so what can you do with the rest?
Here are some ideas so your surplus tomatoes don't go to waste.

Preserved tomatoes: Tomatoes are relatively easy to preserve. I mostly use the Fowlers preserving system as you can see in the photo but I have also tried hot packs in normal screw top jars which works just as well. I bottle whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and tomatoes packed in tomato puree.

Yackandandah Community Garden has several fowlers outfits available for community use. They can be booked at Yackandandah Community Centre.

Passata: The Yackandandah Community Garden has run a couple of passata days to show how this traditional Italian tomato pure is preserved. There are many ways to get passata but basically you just need to puree the tomatoes, bottle the sauce then heat treat the jars to preserve the contents. You can puree your tomatoes either before or after cooking them with a food processor, blender or sieve. A passata machine takes a lot of the work out of pulping the tomatoes and removes all the seeds and skins.
There is a Community Garden passata machine available for community use from the Yackandandah Community Centre.

Sun Dried tomatoes: Great for party nibbles or for added flavour in salads and very simple to do. Simply cut tomatoes into 1-2cm thick slices and place them on a tray in the sun for a few days (bring them inside at night or if rain threatens) until they reach your desired consistency. If you let them dry right out they will store in a sealed container in the pantry for use in winter soups and stews. We prefer them semi dried so the partly dry tomatoes are packed into jars, covered with olive oil and sealed then kept in the fridge. You can add garlic or other flavours to the jar if you like. I prefer Roma tomatoes for drying. They are just the right size when cut in half and are not as juicy as some varieties so the don't take too long to dry. Cherry tomatoes are just a bit too small and dry out to ultra thin tomato chips.
If drying food in the sun worries you dry them inside in a dehydrator. Your community Garden group also has a dehydrator available from the Community Centre.

Tomato paste: I cut up the tomatoes then cook them gently until soft then run the mixture through my Mouli mill. A blender or food processor should achieve the same outcome. The puree then goes back on the stove with any flavours and is cooked gently again to infuse the flavours and reduce the sauce some more. Remember to stir regularly or it can burn on the bottom of the pan. You could reduce it to the final paste consistency on the stove but I usually pour the mixture into my drying trays and sit it in the sun until it reaches final paste stage. That may take a couple of days. As for dried tomatoes, bring the trays inside or under cover at night or if it rains. The photo shows a tray of pizza sauce drying. I've added onion, herbs and garlic to the basic tomato puree for extra flavour.

Pasta Sauce: Cook up tomatoes, celery, capsicum, onion or whatever combination you like. When it has reached the desired consistency pour into warmed jars, seal and process in the oven, microwave or water bath to sterilise and vacuum seal the jars. This is great for a quick, easy winter meal - just cook some pasta and open a jar of your very own sauce. There's a bottle of pasta sauce on the right of the photo at the top of this post.

If you've got any good ideas for surplus tomatoes let us know so we can share them with others.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Folk Festival Compost

Last year the Community Garden offered to help the Yack Folk festival 'Green Team' manage the folk festival waste.
The green Team have put a lot of work, over several years, into reducing the Folk Festival environmental footprint. They've installed solar electricity to offset the power used during the festival, encouraged food vendors to use compostable or reusable containers and arranged for waste to be sorted so less ends up in landfill. Small amounts of organic waste have been collected for composting.

For the March 2017 Festival the team wanted to take the waste one step further and compost as much of the organic waste as possible right here in Yackandandah. That's where the Community Garden got involved.
The organic waste was put through a power shredder - food waste, including one wheelie bin nearly full of bones, cups, paper plates and cardboard boxes. We ended up with a trailer full of shredded raw material which then went into the Community Garden compost tumbler with some cow manure and enough water to help the bugs start the composting process.

 All winter Doug W. has been carefully tending to the compost, turning the tumbler regularly and adding water when it looked dry. All that waste paper and food scraps has matured into lovely rich looking black compost and is ready to feed the gardens.
I knew that compost reduced in volume as it went through the process but we were amazed to find that an entire trailer load of material has reduced down to just 2 wheel barrows of finished compost.

Here you can see how good this compost looks.

The cricket club assure us the cups they used are supplied as biodegradable but there's still quite a lot of pieces that have not broken down yet. We'll need to talk to the supplier and check what those cups are made from.

Some of our Folk Festival compost has been spread around the new summer plantings at the Community Garden.

Folk Festival compost feeding the new tomatoes (left), eggplants and cucumbers (below) at the Community Garden.

We've also kept some of this great compost to see how it grows seedlings and some to show off at the festival of Dangerous Ideas in Yackandandah on Friday December 1st. Look for the Green Team/Community Garden site while you're there and see how good Folk Festival Organic waste can look when we make an effort.

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