Tomatoes…Yum! Doesn’t matter if they are a fruit or a vegetable

Remember that old argument…is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?  Here’s the answer.  BOTH.  Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit.  A “fruit” is any fleshy material covering a seed or seeds.  Horticulturally speaking, the tomato is a vegetable plant.  The plant is an annual and non-woody.  (Source: Produce Marketing Association and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.)

Whatever, our garden and my patio plants are loaded with tomatoes that are almost ripe.  I have my fingers crossed that we don’t get hail, insects or disease in the next few weeks.  If not, there should be some extras to make salsa, or preserve for future meals. 

If you have access to extra tomatoes or other fruits and vegetables, Extension has an excellent source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation and processing information.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides information about canning, freezing, drying, curing, pickling, making jams and jellies, as well as storing foods.

If you have questions,  you may call Families Extension Answer Line (800-262-3804).  Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

– pointers from Peggy

Winter squash or pumpkins in abundance?

My sisters, dad and I share a garden spot. We try to coordinate so that we all work in the garden at the same time because it is more fun that way, but with our schedules that doesn’t happen very often. This spring when we were planting, a couple of times someone planted over the top of something that was already in the ground (this is why we had peppers growing in the bean rows). I was determined to have some winter squash, so I planted a whole row of seeds about 3” apart and put milk cartons filled with water every foot to mark the row. To make a long story short, I didn’t thin the plants, so the squash took over a corner of the garden and now we have lots of acorn squash. If you have an abundance of winter squash or pumpkins, here are some helps:

-pointers by Peggy

 

Grandma might not know best…about canning

Is your garden overflowing? I don’t have many tomatoes yet, but lots of everything else! I know some of my neighbors have been busy canning and freezing beans and other garden goodies. Canning and freezing may or may not save money (depending on how many supplies you have to purchase), but the end result definitely tastes good. Although home food preservation has been done for years, we learn more all the time about how to do it more safely and with better quality results. The ‘way Grandma did it’ may not follow current recommendations. For example,

Did you know you are supposed to add acid (lemon juice or citric acid) to every jar of canned tomatoes to keep them safe?

Did you know you are supposed to follow a tested recipe (not just one you got from a from a friend’s friend) for things like salsa, relish, andin factall home canned items?

Did you know that ‘steam canners’  are not safe, even though you still see them sold in stores?

Did you know there is a new recommendation to leave jars in a pressure canner for 10 minutes after processing and leave jars in a water bath for 5 minutes after processing?

For all the latest info on home food preservation, including delicious tested recipes, check out Food Preservation Resources.

-pointers by Renee

Blueberries – I love ‘em!

Early in July I head to my favorite ‘you-pick’ blueberry farm and enjoy those delicious fresh berries! I don’t have the time or space to grow my own berries, so I’m happy others grow them for us to pick. Grocery stores are running specials of under $2.00 a pint; but, at one pick-your-own operation in SE Iowa, they were $2 a quart if you did the picking or $4 a quart if you bought them in the box. I get satisfaction from picking them myself, and knowing they were produced locally is well worth the price I pay. 

Blueberries are one of the top fruits nutritionally and are great to eat fresh, or they can be frozen. You do need to rinse them off, but experts disagree whether that needs to be done before or after you freeze them. Frozen berries are great in muffins, salads, smoothies, on cereal, etc. The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. web site has directions for freezing fruits and vegetables.

Look for other pick-your-own opportunities. If you participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, you may have the option of picking your own as well. 

-pointers from Patty

The Sandwich—Suitable for Royalty

Apparently, sandwiches were invented in the 18th century when the Earl of Sandwich asked for his meat to be served between slices of bread, to avoid interrupting a gambling game or getting his cards greasy. If the Earl were alive today he probably would have invented sandwiches so he could eat while driving, or to avoid getting his cell phone dirty!

I love sandwiches because they are so versatile and convenient. Sometimes I make sandwiches ahead and freeze them. It saves time and is a great way to use those bits of leftovers. 

Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great snack for me. When I have a couple of slices of whole wheat bread at the end of the loaf, I spread a little peanut butter on both sides of the bread and put the jelly in the middle. This assembly method will help reduce sogginess.

Summer is coming! Consider adding frozen sandwiches to a cooler to keep everything colder longer.

University of Nebraska has a useful tip sheet for Freezing Sandwiches.

-pointers by Peggy

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