The concept is so simple I wish I had thought of it: take the throw-away tomato skins that are left-over in the preserving process and make them into something useful. Something other than compost.
With over 80 lbs of tomatoes (and counting) harvested from my garden this year, it is safe to say that I have been knee deep in canning these last weeks. While I am experienced and adept at canning tomatoes in many forms, I had never heard of drying the skins into a powder until I came upon it a few weeks back in Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.
Drying the skins is easy. Simply lay the wet skins out onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and slow dry in the oven at the lowest temperature setting until they are crisp. I recently ran out of parchment (and my Silpat is too big for our tiny oven. Long story) and used a paper bag cut open. That works in a pinch, too. You can do this in a dehydrator as well, but I put mine away recently and have been too lazy to lug it back out to test.
Once the skins are dry, grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. I have one exactly like this that is reserved for grinding herbs and spices only. A food processor will work, but it will turn out something more like tomato flakes than powder.
The result is a colourful and tangy flavouring that you can sprinkle on top of your meals. So far I’ve used it on breakfast eggs and in ricotta cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms. I’m sure I’ll discover more applications in the coming weeks as the possibilities seem nearly endless.
Having a new garden to work with has driven my flowering bulb frenzy to a whole new level. At last count I have purchased 17 packages of bulbs and the planting season has only begun. There are lots of tantalizing bulb sales to happen upon yet, and plenty of time left in which to find space (somewhere) for “just one more.”
When we moved here late last fall, we made a last-minute $88 impulse bulb purchase even though we did not yet have a dug up patch of earth, or an inkling as to what we would be doing with the yard come spring. Propelled by the anticipation of springtime blooms, we haphazardly dug up some grass close to the house (where we would see them from the back window) and managed to get them into the soil the day before it snowed.
Despite their rocky start, the bulbs did bloom, and while we enjoyed seeing them, the overall look of a bunch of random bulbs coming up willy-nilly in an empty plot of earth was, for lack of a better term, some cheap-ass Gong Show shit.
Now, as we head into our first full fall with this garden, I can’t say that next spring is going to be much better. The garden looks lush and full and has grown into something more than I expected it to in five short months, but the entire east side is just one, long, slightly chaotic, landing strip. You know, the cottage garden look.
While strolling through my neighbourhood, I recently came upon two rogue edibles, a basil plant and an amaranth that had escaped from front yard gardens nearby only to make a go at life in soiless conditions.
I found the basil growing in a crack between the curb and the road. An attempt to rescue it failed. That plant was rooted in there solidly! Basil are not the most forgiving herbs and can be a bit finicky about soil nutrition and water, so this find was a surprise.
I spotted the amaranth a few streets over growing out of the space between sidewalk blocks. This find comes as no surprise as amaranth can withstand a lot and their seeds (which are many) have the ability to scatter far and wide.
I had a much larger post in mind for today, but we have to take our aging cat in for an emergency vet visit in a few minutes so I’ll have to pull it back slightly. It’s scary, facing the fact that this little animal whose life is so intertwined with mine and whose care I’ve been in charge of for so many years doesn’t have much time left. The house cat’s life expectancy is only so long, and given the health problems she has had in the past, I worry everyday that there is not much time left. She’s a royal pain in the ass, but I love her so much, probably even for it.
But I digress. Hot peppers. Most people know by now that while I love to grow hot peppers, I do not eat them. As a garden writer whose focus is primarily on food, it is important that I taste everything I write about in order to provide a personal account, but the reality is that I’ve long since lost the ability to digest hot peppers well. The gastrointestinal tract does not approve.
But there is something about hot peppers that keeps me excited about growing them, and each year I spend hours searching for new varieties to try. Even though I don’t eat them, I am always thrilled when the first fruits appear and later ripen. Hot peppers are beautiful plants, and with thousands of varieties available world wide, there is a lot to get excited about.
No doubt if you are growing even one sage plant this year, chances are great that you have enough of this strong herb to flavour a Thanksgiving stuffing so enormous that the Guinness People wouldn’t even bother showing up to authenticate its title. It would win a placement in the book and keep placing now and through eternity by default.
There are not enough people in the world to eat that side dish.
Recently I’ve been on a break of sorts. Naturally, the first thing I did to prepare for the break is stock up on books. I may have gone overboard. One of the books I purchased was “My Tuscan Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from the Castello di Vicarello,” a collection of Italian home cooking recipes by Aurora Baccheschi Berti. This is a beautiful book, full of warm and tempting photographs of sumptuous Italian treats. The focus is on simple, seasonal foods that will inspire you to use up the gleanings from your garden. I want to cook it all (although the truth is that I never will), but so far one recipe has stood out, and it isn’t even a recipe at all. It was simply instruction to take two sage leaves, sandwich a thin layer of anchovy paste in between, batter and fry. Apparently this is called, uccellini scappati or “birds that have flown away.
Are you intrigued? I sure was. I have fried sage leaves in butter. I have battered sage leaves in oil. I have even sandwiched sage leaves around cheese and fried that, but this is something different. Sage is a strong flavour, but so are anchovies. The two didn’t seem to cancel each other out, or create something too overwhelming to enjoy. They were delicious. Strongly flavoured, but harmonious.
They flew away, alright. Right into my mouth.