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  • Writer's pictureMeg Grimm

Harvest to Table

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

Chronicles & Confessions of the Veggie Patch

An unfolding adventure tale of amateur vegetable gardening, peasant style.

-With detailed steps for establishing your own organic vegetable garden.

Series Post 11

Was it worth it?

I looked at the meal on my table knowing there wasn’t even enough for leftovers. Yes, popping open a can of spaghetti sauce would have been way faster than what I had just done, but nowhere near as cool, at least.

It was my first batch of homemade spaghetti sauce, and it had been so easy! I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Homemade tomato sauce is nothing, except messy. Oh, and it needs to simmer for like hours. But other than those things, it wasn’t rocket-science, unlike some other all-natural, home-made endeavors.

And we have carrots! It turns out, I had attempted to pull up a tiny one from the garden before, and that’s why I had thought the carrots didn’t grow. They did grow, and they’re beautiful, and did you know that purple carrots are orange under the skin??

Harvesting lettuce leaves for salads earlier in the summer had been nothing like this first harvest-to-table meal experience. Everything was our own, and it was basically because I didn’t feel like doing any more blanching and freezing. Without any meat thawed or a dinner plan, I looked to my garden to see if I could build a meal from its bounty alone.

Our last onion, Roma tomatoes and basil were used for the spaghetti sauce, carrots for a side dish, and cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and carrot leaves for the salad! (The salad was super weird and, according to Max, like eating ferns, but hey, I was being adventurous.)

Confession #20: Yes, I made a salad out of carrot greens because I didn’t want to go to the store and buy lettuce. Mom had said we could add carrot greens to our salads and that they taste like carrots. There are so many different kinds of edible greens, I didn't think it would matter if I used only carrot greens. I don’t recommend it!

Later, I made spaghetti sauce again, and fried green tomatoes. (Confession #21: When Max initially asked for fried green tomatoes, I feared eating anything unripe would make us sick, but Mom and I fried up the neon fruits for the first time in either of our lives. Everyone survived, and we were better for it...though I do hate frying, and using so much oil at once doesn’t feel frugal at all!)

All in all, our garden adventure has been a success to me, and eating the veggies now makes it all the more magical. Any previous disappointment is gone. Our tomatoes just keep ripening! And the peppers keep pepping. Baby cucumbers are even still showing up on the little vine that could.

Although we are currently surrounded by farmer’s markets and people sharing from harvests wildly more glorious than our own, I can't help reveling in what I’ve learned and how it has changed me. The knowledge demands that I appreciate what I’m looking at when I see vegetable stands on the side of the road. And just as the freezer prep and harvest-to-table food prep is easier each time I do it, I know next year’s garden will be better yet.

In the meantime, if you are like I was and think (Confession #22-) spaghetti sauce-making is a mysterious art that only old, Italian ladies know and have the time for, and (Confession #23-) fried green tomatoes are only in the movie - follow the steps below for revelations like mine...

(Confession #24: By the way, whenever a boyfriend or spouse of my best friend or I was not treating us well according to the other, we expressed our thoughts with the phrase, “It’s hog-boilin’ time!” – from Fried Green Tomatoes.)

How to Make Home-Made Spaghetti Sauce with Garden Tomatoes

You will need:

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1 Chopped Onion

1 tsp Minced Garlic Cloves or Garlic Powder

4 Cups peeled and chopped Tomatoes - see steps 1 & 2 (use more or less, whatever you have)

1 Tbsp Fresh or Dried Basil

1 Tbsp Fresh or Dried Parsley

1 tsp Salt

1-2 Tablespoons of Sugar (brown, white, whatever you have)

A Bowl of Ice Water

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pop in tomatoes a few at a time and remove with a slotted spoon after about 30 seconds. (You will see skin start to separate.)

  2. Immediately put tomatoes in an ice-water bath. Remove from bath and remove skins and stems. Chop tomatoes and set aside.

  3. Heat Olive Oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent.

  4. Add tomatoes, sugar, herbs and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) until sauce thickens (1-2 hours), stirring occasionally.

The key: The longer you allow the sauce to simmer, the thicker it becomes. Some people have let their sauce simmer for up to eight hours! I simmered my first batch about two hours. It wasn't thick, but it was chunky and super tasty.

Tips: 1) If sauce does not thicken to your liking, add tomato paste one tablespoon at a time until it reaches a better consistency. 2) For additional ingredients - At the same time as sauteing the onion and garlic, add bell pepper, carrots, etc. to cook down (chopped finely) and/or ground beef to brown. 3) If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you can substitute cans of crushed, diced or stewed tomatoes. 4) Spaghetti sauce is freezable and can be canned. 5) If you don't like chunky sauce, pulse tomatoes in a food processor before adding them. 6) I hope you can tell that spaghetti sauce, like chili, tolerates a handful of this, a pinch of that, whatever the chef sees fit!

How to Make Fried Green Tomatoes

Yes, it’s okay to use green tomatoes! In fact, red tomatoes can be too mushy and don’t hold up for frying.

You will need:

4 Green Tomatoes

2 Eggs

1/2 Cup Milk

1 Cup Flour

1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs

2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Pepper

Oil of choice for frying

Paper Towels

  1. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick, discard ends.

  2. Pour 1/2 inch of cooking oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat.

  3. In the meantime, whisk eggs and milk together in a bowl. Put flour on a plate or pie pan. Mix bread crumbs, salt and pepper on another plate or pie pan.

  4. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat and then into the milk and egg mixture. Then dip in breadcrumbs to coat completely.

  5. Transfer tomatoes to skillet un-touching. Do not overcrowd. When browned, flip and fry the other side.

  6. Drain on paper towels.

#gardening #harvest #cooking #spaghetti

Meg Grimm is a writer, dreamer, church secretary and member of her church council. She often spends her days uncovering secrets of the historic past and writing fairy tale fiction. Meg is committed to living a healthy lifestyle according to what she understands from God’s Word.

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