Gypsy's Travels

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Using the Bounty

I am beginning to reap the bounty of my garden plot. Some would not call 3 small tomatoes and a handful of okra a bounty, but it is all relative.

The tomatoes taste wonderful! Those that are ripened in your own garden and picked at the peak of perfection, which is just before the bugs get too interested, have a flavor unmatched by any that can be bought in the store. Even the ones with the green vines attached can't compare with homegrown. Next year I might just start out with plants from Wal-Mart rather than wasting so much time.
Cultivated by Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D., the tomato is native to the Americas. American colonists considered the tomato poisonous because of its resemblance to the deadly wild plant called nightshade which had toxic berries. In 1820, Robert Gibbon Johnson amazed the whole town when he stood on the New Jersey courthouse steps and ate a tomato, with no adverse effects, thus saving the vegetable's reputation. Scientifically tomatoes are a fruit but were legally declared a vegetable in 1893 by the Supreme Court. Botanically, it is a fruit, but vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, so it was necessary to define it as one or the other. Thus, tomatoes were declared to be a vegetable since they were commonly eaten as one. (Source: The Packer, 6/9/90)
Good-tasting tomatoes have an earthy taste, but they are also easy to digest and beneficial to our health. A medium tomato is 94% water, contains 1 gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 1/2 gram unsaturated fat, some sugar and acid, about 25 calories, but no cholesterol. They also contain vitamins A & C, magnesium, niacin, iron, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, sodium, thiamine, and are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene (blocks cellular damage). Lycopene is not destroyed by heat, so its benefits are also found in cooked products such as tomato sauce, tomato juice and pizza. Since tomatoes are mostly water which is released as steam during the cooking process, cooked tomatoes are more concentrated in the amount of lycopene. At least one study reports that consuming seven or more servings of tomatoes each week reduces the risk of developing colon and stomach cancer by 60%.
A tomato is ripe when it is firm, not hard, and fully colored. Vine-ripened tomatoes are wonderful, but if you must pick them early they will continue to ripen, just keep at room temperature away from direct heat and light. Once ripe, use tomatoes within three days. Refrigeration decreases their flavor. Dehydration is the best way to preserve tomatoes, but they can be quartered and frozen in plastic bags to be used for cooking.

The squash and cucumbers are just lazing away, but I think I see some small blossoms forming. There is at least the promise of a future yield. The okra has such thick stalks they are almost small trees. The yield from yesterday, cut and covered with cornmeal, almost filled a gallon-size bag which I put in the freezer to share with family.

A follow-up on the grape harvest....
DD Kr headed the jelly making crew, producing 15 pints of grape jelly. Some was made with Splenda, which produced a tarter jelly. By the time we split it up among the jelly-eating masses of our family, 15 pints won't seem like much.
Sgt S-I-L, watched closely and is now producing his own kitchen full of jelly (see ABW's blog). He found gobs of grapes on post and gathered as many as he could carry. When an officer strolled by and asked what in the world Sgt was doing. Sgt resisted the urge to reply "SIR, I am doing whatever I can to supply food for my family, SIR!"
We are hoping to gather some more today for DS to make wine.

I wonder why they talk like that?


  1. Whew, you are saving some okra for me...

  2. I don't know if "saving" is the right word. Hopefully, you will be here when I am moved to cook it.

  3. Instead of Walmart, you might want to go here or to another company that sells heirloom plants. They sound like something you would enjoy growing (and I'm sure abw would help you with any "extras").


  4. Thanks for the link, Peggy. Sounds promising.


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