In our last episode, the goal was to save tomato seeds for next year.
To review: one can cut tomatoes lengthwise, and then squeeze or scrape the tomato seeds and their juice and gel into a glass jar, top up with filtered (not chlorinated) water, cover with a paper towel and Mason jar ring, and store in a dark place for 3-4 days until a mold forms on top and eats up the gel coat covering the seeds. (That gel coat is a sprouting inhibitor. It protects the seeds from sprouting until next spring.) Ideally, once the mold munches away the gel coat, the naturally cleaned seeds can then be rinsed, dried, labeled, and stored. (The whole venture was a source of good humor for Captain Wing. “You could just dig a hole next year, and drop in some tomato slices,” he pointed out.) He’s right. But at least this way I could preserve two desirable control groups: one batch of especially tasty Sungold cherry tomatoes from some dear co-workers, and one batch from truly beautiful heirloom tomatoes donated by Neighbor Bill.
Results are in. The first batch of dried seeds below is the Sungold cherry tomatoes; the second is Mr. Bill’s heirlooms. The heirloom seeds appear larger and more robust, but to be fair they are also just bigger tomatoes. A good safe place to dry these was a plastic bakery cookie container from church. It has a protective lid to keep the seeds from blowing around, but enough ventilation so they can dry out.
My own Roman tomatoes are still growing outdoors. But saving the Roman seeds doesn’t seem worthwhile. Romans are compact and narrow like plum tomatoes, but with a more blocky high-shouldered shape. My guess is that they were bred for shipment and display. They are excellent producers, with big clusters growing and ripening every day. Their color and gloss are attractive. They keep for a long time, hold their shape, and are durable for transport, with thick skins and plenty of that frosty/sparkly mealy outer layer that doesn’t have much taste. They would travel well and display well in a store, but don’t pack a lot of flavor. Of course, that might be all my fault; perhaps they didn’t get the nutrients that they needed.
In any case, the Roman tomatoes weren’t very good for eating out of hand. So I tried the fermented probiotic raw-sauce recipe from Off Grid with Doug and Stacy, the episode called “You Have Never Seen Tomato Sauce Made Like This!” I hope it is okay to give away the plot here. Stacy puts 4 tsp. of Redmond salt in a quart jar, adds some garlic and basil sprigs, then chops in some super ripe tomatoes with the top core cut out. She gives the jar a hard vigorous shaking, then stores it away from the sun. At least once a day, one has to gently loosen the lid (don’t remove it) just enough to release any fermentation bubbles, then shake the jar a bit more.
The Roman tomatoes did not yield much juice. In fact, the skin shell and bland meaty part made up a good 60%, with only 40% juice and gel and seeds that had to be scraped out with a spoon. (In contrast, the Sungolds needed only a gentle squeeze to burst into the jar, leaving only empty skin.) I blended the 60% to make a blandish puree for raw soup. The 40% went in the Mason jar with garlic and salt for a good shaking, then went under the sink for 4 days before going in the fridge. My mistake was adding the full 4 tsp. of salt, then discovering that the jar filled up only 40%. That made a heavily salty solution. Still, the sauce had good flavor. I’ll add a dash of Bragg’s cider vinegar, and keep it in the fridge as brine for the pickle crock for amateur kimchi.
For most of the year, instead of buying store tomatoes it makes more sense to buy tomato puree in glass jars in bulk. But for a few short summer weeks, home grown tomatoes are good to grow and to share. If these cherry and heirloom seeds store and then sprout indoors next spring, that could give a real head start to the season. The best outcome would be early seedlings to give away as gifts.
Women at Supper
In other news, Angelina and I planned a potluck, and let the other womenfolk know. One invited us to use her gorgeous garden and patio furniture; she joined us outdoors, bringing comfy flower pillows and a lovely platter of fruit and fancy cheeses. Angelina made delicious dip and raw vegetables and supplied all the serving utensils and place settings, and brought Super Pup and Bingo. I brought my latest pickle crock of amateur kimchi with daikon, cabbage, and apples. To go with that, there was a batch of brown jasmine rice and wild rice tossed with a little coconut oil and anchovy sauce.
I also baked a protein casserole:
Glass pan, greased with coconut oil. I mashed a leftover russet potato with a little plain almond milk to make a patted crust to line the bottom.
Celery and cabbage, ground up in the Cuisinart.
Mushrooms, stewed in a little water with lentils defrosted from the freezer; when they’re done, add the celery and cabbage and cook them lightly.
Cottage cheese, beaten with eggs and some almond flour.
Strain and keep the tasty broth out of the vegetables and lentils. Drain and press the vegetables, and beat in the cottage cheese and eggs and the almond flour. Pour into the potato-lined pan and bake until the eggs are set.
This was tasty and filling. It could use some rubbed sage, salt, black pepper, and some minced onion and garlic. For somebody like me who still misses Thanksgiving stuffing, this would make a good low-carb substitute.
On to the women’s supper. The garden spot faces a garbage dumpster cage, so as other women took out their trash they kept saying hello to us and we kept calling them over to share, and the food kept expanding to fit and feed more people. As it got dark, the sun-powered lanterns and candles in the garden switched on and the dogs frisked around mooching for pets and bites and the conversations were soulful and profound. Kip from next door ran outside to feed us sugar-free lollipops from Mexico, and her mom came out too and ate with us and we talked about Korean movies.
The especially interesting part was the dynamic. In the dark by glass candlelight, the women exchanged deeper accounts about their ancestors and family origins. These were profound stories of interest to everyone. What puzzled me at first was this: every time a new woman came along with a bag of trash, the ladies would stop the story cold right in mid-sentence. They would holler a whole big hello and ask the new arrival about her life and family and how-all she was doing. Each time, my linear mind thought Wait wait, what about your grandfather traveling to America in steerage all alone at age 12? Then what? This was interesting!
Finally, it dawned on me. This was not a logical progression of facts or feelings to be remembered word for word. Instead, the women fostered a living expanding molecule of connections. Then like a blob of happy protoplasm the whole molecule kept engulfing the energy of each new member, taking in her mood and the colors of her day. Then the molecule would select and generate a whole new origin story to fit the new expanded consciousness of the larger group. Once I caught on to that, I just sat back and took it all in.
Finally we untangled the leashes and sorted out our dishes, and dispersed for home. I hope we have another women’s supper very soon.
Thank you, Dear Hostess; your gardenette is gorgeous. Got your serving spoon, Angelina. I’ll put it in the shoe basket outside your door. Night night.