It’s canning time! I love this time of year—when most people are just getting sick of tomatoes, I try to turn every last one into a salsa, sauce, ketchup, or chutney.
Last week, I taught a class at the Rodale Test Kitchen to help spread the tomato insanity (which I am calling the great Tomatozilla of 2012) and we had so much fun canning up a storm! Our class made quick work of more than 100 pounds organic, heirloom paste tomatoes and Patrick Montero, the photo editor at Organic Gardening, was on hand to document the whole scene.
We kept things simple, and started by blanching and skinning all of the tomatoes before adding half of them whole into jars, with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. The other half we whipped up into a tasty salsa using local organic garlic, jalapenos, onions, and cilantro. Both recipes were from this great USDA guide for putting up tomatoes, and in just a little over two hours, we had canned more than 30 jars!
Now is a great time to have a canning party with friends and stock up for the year. In just an afternoon, you can can a huge amount of tomatoes, enjoy homegrown tomatoes all winter and have plenty to give away as gifts—if they last that long!
Homesweet Homegrown Tour continues…
We trekked down to City Farm, a new urban nursery in the St. John’s part of town. Owner Nik Hahn opened City Farm last February and is already off to an amazing start—this little shop is packed with everything urban homesteaders need to get their garden on, including a full line of canning supplies, organic mulches, soils and amendments, composters, bins of cover crops available by the pound, ducks, chicks, coops, bees, beneficial bugs, and a beautiful selection of books to get you started on basically any food/farm project you can think of. Oh, and the seeds!
As a self-described “plant nerd,” Hahn has a fantastic variety of rare medicinal seeds, annuals and perennials, eclectic heirlooms, fruit trees, flowering plants, and more—all with a focus on hyperlocal, sustainable, and organic growing. City Farm even has a whole wall dedicated just to local seeds, featuring seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery and Wild Garden Seeds, two Oregon-based companies.
When Hahn had the chance to move into the house next to City Farm last April, the first thing she did was rip up every last bit of lawn and start growing food.
“It was all sod as far as the eye could see,” says Hahn.
Well, not anymore. In its place, she planted a massive front-yard garden featuring potatoes, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, kale, herbs, edible flowers, and raspberry bushes. Melons now grow in the big, cooked-down pile of sod, and tomatoes climb bamboo trellises along the sidewalk out front.
It’s this vision that Nikki used to helped transform this little industrial corner of Portland into a thriving urban nursery store. Today in true Portland style, the store even has its own food truck parked out front—The Garden Well—which serves up local brew from St. John’s Coffee Roaster and Free Salad Fridays, featuring greens and edible flowers grown in the City Farm garden.
“The building itself used to be a muffler shop, and before that it was a Harley shop, so it’s been a lot of fun to take a space that was so machine-based and so mechanical and turn it into something green and repurpose it,” says Hahn.
This is definitely a running theme in the city, and it’s so refreshing to see people turning vacant spaces into something beautiful (and tasty). As we walked around Portland, I was amazed at all of the ways Portlanders were fitting in food—nasturtiums along the side of storefronts, trellised cucumbers along the front sidewalk, and raised beds built up around curbs.
Thanks to a new program we saw in Portland called Farm My Yard, there will be even more gardens popping up in Portland (and hopefully across the country). This genius program pairs urban farmers with vacant lawns and unused spaces throughout the city. It’s pretty simple, actually: If you have a patch of lawn that you’d like to offer up, you just put a Farm My Yard sign out, and an interested gardener can claim your space. Both parties sign an agreement, and the homeowner gets a share of all food grown—it’s a total win-win. Spread the word, and you can help bring a little bit of Portland’s front-yard garden charm to your neck of the woods.
Next Stop: Portland, Part II: Heirloom cocktails and restaurant farming at Besaw’s.
All Photos by Paul David, except the Farm My Yard, courtesy of FarmMyYard.org