Got too many tomatoes? Cucumbers piling up? Overloaded with peaches? It’s time to can it – and we know some folks willing to help.
Today is International Can-It-Forward Day, a celebration of harvest preservation. This self-proclaimed holiday is the brain child of Jarden Home Brands, the makers of Ball brand home canning products. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT, tune in for a live webcast at www.freshpreserving.com, packed with demonstrations of canning, cooking and drink mixing. Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson, author of “Pick a Pickle” and a judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” will serve as host for the live webcast, which will originate in New York at a Brooklyn farmers market.
“Canning allows people to easily create healthy, delicious dishes with regionally grown foods year round,” Acheson said, “and I love showing people how easy it is to make pickles, chutneys, sauces and more each summer with the best, fresh produce.”
With the rediscovery of food gardening and our current love affair with locally grown produce, consumer interest in keeping that crop for later use is also trending upward. One metric of note: Ball made enough canning jars in 2013 that, if placed side by side, would nearly encircle the globe.
But younger generations may not be familiar with the skills to fill those jars. That’s the inspiration behind Can-It-Forward. It not only preserves food for the future, but passes along that culinary knowledge for all to share.
Closer to home, the UC Cooperative Extension master food preservers have been kept busy with consumer questions, especially from newbie canners. These trained experts offer monthly demonstrations on canning techniques at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento. Next up at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday: “Pick a Peck of Perky Pickles – Cucumbers, Peppers and Other Vegetables.” Admission is $5 and includes materials; no reservation necessary.
Like their master gardener counterparts, the master food preservers have distilled answers for the most common questions into handy tipsheets, available online. They cover such canning challenges as tomatoes, olives, melon, peppers and apples. Find them at cesacramento.ucanr.edu
All things considered, I want to enjoy every tomato I can from this year’s harvest, even if it means boiling jars. Those tomatoes are like little miracles on the vine.
While the drought sucked much of the joy out of summer gardening for Sacramentans, many of us discovered that tomatoes (as well as other berries, fruit and vegetables) can still produce in relatively dry times.
See for yourself this weekend at the 23rd annual Fairfield Tomato Festival. Celebrating all things tomatoes (including tasting), the fest takes over downtown Fairfield, centered on Texas Street from Jefferson Street west, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more details, click on www.fairfieldmainstreet.com.
In my own garden, I’ve been particularly impressed with the performance of some yellow tomatoes I tried for the first time: Azoychka and Yellow Canary. Azoychka, a woman’s name in this tomato’s native Russia, is a big golden heirloom with a wonderful citrus-spiked flavor.
Perfect for a container garden, Yellow Canary is a 1-inch yellow cherry that grows on a sturdy upright bush that barely tops 15 inches tall. Besides producing tasty tomatoes, Yellow Canary proved eye-catching on the patio. In early August, the handsome little plant was loaded with dozens of perfect yellow balls.
For shear volume, Super Marzano and Juliet can’t be beat. They’ve produced hundreds of sauce-ready Roma-style tomatoes; the Super Marzanos are twice the size of most Roma varieties while the Juliets are like mini-Romas.
Speaking of minis, brightening my summer garden are new dwarf gladiola. Dubbed “Glaminis,” these compact bloomers produce big florets on shorter stems – a great size for pots or smaller gardens and good for bouquets, too. I tested two varieties from Longfield Gardens: the pure red Tom and orchid pink bi-color Nel. Half the size of conventional big glads, these minis grew to about 2 feet tall with strong stems that didn’t need staking. They bloomed like crazy on only weekly water, and the bees loved them.
What’s happening in your summer garden? We’d love to know. We’re putting together a photo gallery of reader summer gardens for an upcoming Home & Garden section along with a snapshot of how you’ll remember the Summer of 2014 – from a gardener’s perspective. Email your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org (put “Summer of 2014” in the subject line). Make sure to include your hometown.
Now in supermarkets is the hybrid white corn Amaize that many corn experts proclaim as the best sweet corn ever. While distribution of this wonder corn is limited (Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill markets have exclusive rights in our area), home gardeners can grow their own. In another exclusive deal, Burpee sells Amaize corn seed ($6.95 for a packet of 100 seeds).
How good is Amaize? Reader Tony Rohl of Auburn offered this appraisal – and cooking instructions. “I was a produce department manager from 1951 to 1987 and I concur that Amaize is the best ever,” Rohl said. “When it comes to cooking corn, I dampen the ear, still in the husk, and microwave it for 4 minutes. The flavor is preserved, perhaps enhanced, using this method. It comes out very hot, so I recommend cutting the ear at the stalk end up to where the kernels start to make it easier to remove the husk and silk.”
Rohl then picks up the cooked ear by the silk end and shakes it. “The corn will slide out, leaving behind the husk and the silk,” he said.
Fresh corn can be frozen in the husk for later use. It’s another tip for gardening cooks or cooking gardeners; in August, we’re both one and the same.