harvest bounty: to stash, or savor?

soup-stuff‘YOU’RE LIKE A CHIPMUNK,’ my friend Anna said the other day as I stirred my second big pot of tomato sauce to stash in freezer containers (no, not my cheeks) for the winter. While more in-the-moment types are enjoying just-picked slices of tomato and basil, I’m putting my fresh ones by, stocking up, loading the larder.  Up today on the chopping block: the ingredients of more sauce, and soup.  Welcome to Food Fest 6, a collaboration with the Dinner Tonight blog…now time to stir the pot:

I’m making soup this week because the hodgepodge lodge of produce on hand (above) says “soup” to me.  I’ve got a mammoth onion donated to the cause by regular visitor and commenter Blue Arrow, and a pile of summer squash that another “regular” here, Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening, left behind when she visited in person last week (and wrote a very nice story, thank you).

From my own jungle I plucked beans and kale and parsley and garlic, and a few tomatoes.

I’d need some corn, too, if I were going to make the exceptionally quick and easy Late Summer Vegetable Soup from Everyday Food and Dinner Tonight, but I’m saving that for next time.

My first batch of soup to freeze this year will be from Sara Kate at Apartment Therapy’s thekitchn.com, who with her blogger husband, Maxwell, welcomed me to the blogosphere at my debut in spring. (They also became quick devotees of my favorite Texas Tomato Cages; that’s Maxwell all the way at the bottom of this post, presumably photographed by Sara Kate, admiring the newly installed arrivals in their Long Island vegetable garden in May.)

Sara Kate’s recipe is Zucchini Garlic Soup, for which I’ll also need some powdered ginger and butter and vegetable broth.  It’s pureed, which makes it look exceptionally comforting, and it will make a perfect  textural counterpoint to this chunky next one: my own “recipe,” the one I lovingly call Tomato Junk.

Tomato Junk (or, Waste Not, Want Not)


1 teaspoon to 1 ton anything edible left in your garden, including herbs
Tomatoes (hopefully part of the above)
Garlic and onion (hopefully part of above)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Sautee garlic (lots) and onion (ditto) in olive oil. When they are soft, dump in cut-up tomatoes, either halved (for average plum types) or in wedges.

Start chopping again. When you have cut everything else into bite-sized pieces, and the tomatoes have begun to go moist and bubbly, start adding the veggies in the order of their cooking requirements. Add water if it seems like the thing to do (yes, I cook like I garden, mea culpa, on sheer gut instinct). Cook, covered, until you are completely bored, 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Cool and freeze.

Note: As with wine, each vintage is a little different. :)

I use a block of Tomato Junk as the base for minestrone later on (adding beans) or eat it just as is with perhaps a bit of parmesan, or even use it when I make vegetarian chili as part of the changeable brew. Like I said, it’s also known as Waste Not Want Not (and could likewise be named Better Than Nothing).

Get thee to the back yard, or a farmstand…and then to a soup pot. Happy harvest, and happy Labor Day weekend.



Now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip to share in the comments below? Then be sure to go visit Deb Puchalla (co-conspirator on all the Food Fests) and the Dinner Tonight folks and do the same. The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or tip and favorite links (whether to your own blog or another’s) at both host blogs, mine and Deb’s. Thanks for attending our sixth weekly Food Fest…see you next Thursday for a festival of fruits.

By the way, the whole Food Fest thing got started in a series of one-liners between me and Deb and some other friends on Twitter. Want to know about Twitter, or what we’re doing when we’re not blogging? Follow me there. Or find Deb, or Anna, or Kathy (who each helped in their way with the soup).


  1. margaret says:

    Welcome, Ali. Just made a modified version this morning (no corn) and am going to do the literal one shortly. Come back soon.

    @Sun Moon Lake: Your vote (which conveniently echoes mine) is duly noted!

  2. margaret says:

    @NapaFarmhouse: it will be YOUR Tomato Junk if you follow the recipe carefully (tee hee). Anything goes, and no matter what I’ve put in over the years (usually with little indelible magic-marker descriptors on the lids of each batch, like ‘minest base’ for something fit for minestrone or ‘lotsa grn beans’ for just that) I have made use of it. Stews, soups, chilis, whatever. Happy cooking free-for-all.

  3. o.k., i now have two must try recipes for this weekend..your tomato junk and sandy glick’s(everyday food) tomato jam…thanks. and please check out my relish recipes posted on my blog..i am “relishing relish” this labor day weekend!

  4. David Brogren says:

    well I think soup is great, but I tend to go for it more on a cold winter day. Lately my wife and I have done the refrigerator pickles shown here (9 qts), then I canned 9 more qts of garlic dills and stashed em. Last weekend we did a bunch of canned sweet pickles and 20 qts of roma tomatoes. It is a bit early on the romas and they looked like they had been picked green. My better half warned against them, but I prevailed. Hoping they are tasty all the same.

    Just for a change of pace we are splitting wood for the stove this weekend. Luckily we have access to a good sized gas splitter. To date we have 8 face cords split up, and we hope to double that in the coming weeks.

  5. margaret says:

    Well, David, I think you have officially won the prize, putting my own personal mania lately and everyone else’s to shame! 18 qts pickles, 20 qts tomatoes, firewood enough to heat for a very long, cold winter in a very big house. Wow. Keep us posted (and enjoy the pickles).

  6. leslie land says:

    First, a general ! Thank you Margaret !

    for all the terrific recipe fests

    then another very personal thank you because I’ve been promising more or less forever to post the recipe for Intensely Delicious Roast Tomatoes and not doing it and not doing it – but now in my zeal to contribute I’ve done it, at http://leslieland.com/blog/intensely-delicious-roast-tomatoes-for-now-and-for-winter.

    May you have many great huge juicy tomatoes — and the time to put them up, which always seems to be more elusive than the vegetables themselves.

  7. margaret says:

    A good one, Leslie, thank you; my next batch of tomatoes will be roasted as instructed. And Tammy, I am fascinated by the red-and-green combo cubes. Hmmmm…I may have to experiment.

  8. Tammy says:

    Well, my harvest bounty is basil. I have made pesto out the wazoo. Enjoyed it, gave it away, and even froze some in ice cube trays. However, pesto can become a little expensive and so can olive oil. So I came across a “recipe” in which you puree 4 cups of basil and one 8 oz can of tomato sauce or if you have a bounty of tomatoes you could use your own. Then I put it into ice cube trays to freeze and then popped into freezer bags for soup, sauces etc. for cooler weather, if it ever gets here. 94 today.

  9. margaret says:

    I hear you, Melinda; I’ve had just three (yes, three) ripe tomatoes so far myself. Ridiculous. No exploding melons here, but hey, you never know what nature will dish up next. Pumpkins and squash mostly lost to vine borers, blah blah blah.

  10. Melinda says:

    I’m still weeping that we don’t have tomatoes. According to my local garden center professional, many north Texans are seeing NO tomatoes…a suspected lack of pollinators is the cause. Which is crazy, because the bees are thick on my Charentais melons that keep exploding before they’re ripe…but that’s another issue. So, I may have to boycott EDF and ATG until talk of tomatoes ceases. Or until some kind souls sends some to me on dry ice.

  11. SandDuneDigger says:

    Still waiting on ripe tomatoes here, too. When (if?) they finally redden up, I am going to my friend’s house this year for a canning bee …. it’s old hat to her and I need some hands-on instruction.

    Barbara Kingsolver’s book has a great section on tomato season, including a week’s worth of tomato recipes.

    My all-time tomato-season fave (even though I neglected to grow eggplant, squash, and zucchini … oops!) is the ratatouille w/cheesy polenta recipe from the Moosewood cookbook … although oddly enough it calls for canned tomatoes.

  12. andrea says:

    Savour as I stash! Back from Martha’s Vineyard and Autumn happened.

    I roast tomatoes as Leslieland does, but just a bit differently.
    Oven to 300 degrees
    I take a large roasting pan. Core top of tomatoes ( the hard part ). Cut in half. Don’t crowd them. Add whole peeled garlic cloves. Slightly crush clove with side of knife or can. Paper will slip right off. Drizzle with a good olive oil. Kosher salt and pepper it and slow roast till the scent
    of it drives you mad with desire! Or about 2 to 3 hours.
    Skins slip right off. Use it all, including tomato garlic olive oil. I saute onions, fennel, carrots and celery adding thyme, salt and pepper toward the end. Once a bit caramelized I add to tomato garlic oil mixture and purée with chicken stock till almost smooth. Taste, adjust to taste. I add 1/4 cup cream and grated Romano cheese. Or add yoghurt. Or scallops. Creativity rules!
    I shall be stashing the roasted tomato garlic oil base for the next 2 weeks. And tasting it all the while!

  13. kate swift says:

    Oddly enough, my tomatoes started producing fast and strong in early July here, just north of Hudson, NY. I have no idea why, much better than in years past. Maybe it was the Sweet Peat I mulched with? Anyway, I wanted to share my recipe for basil oil. I’m not a fan of pine nuts, so pesto sauce is out for me but basil oil can be drizzled over almost everything all winter long. Yum
    Wash and dry as much basil as you can get, 10 to 20 cups.
    Put in a cuisinart with enough good olive oil to make a thin paste and pulse until it’s chopped fine. Depending on how much basil you have, you may need to do this in batches.
    Pour the whole mess into a large jar and top with more oil
    Cover and let sit for a few days in a warm area.
    Then start straining – I use a fine sieve first then re strain through coffee filters, changing them often. A Chemex glass coffee pot works great for this.
    Eventually you will end up with clear green oil that smells and tastes exactly like fresh basil.
    I pour the finished oil back into the original olive oil container and keep it in the cupboard. The flavor will strengthen over time.
    It’s a messy job and your kitchen will reek of basil, but in January, drizzled over fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers on toasted french bread, you’ll think it’s August again.

  14. margaret says:

    Welcome, Kate, and how serendipitous: I was served a corn chowder at a dinner the other night, drizzled with…yes!…basil oil. And I thought, wow, I need some of this. A great suggestion, an I hope just the first of many you will share with us now that you have joined in the ongoing conversation here.

  15. diana says:

    SOS? I say SAS, savor and stash!

    Between my various gardens and the Farmer’s markets I’m up to my eyeballs in fruits and veggies. Today’s chore include freezing and drying a huge box of lovely organic peaches, picking my red currents, and trying to figure out what to do with 30+ heads of garlic that were left in the ground so long they lost all their skin– any ideas?

    Here’s a recipe we enjoyed the other night:

    Stuffed Green Chilies
    *Roast 10-12 chilies, I used Big Jim’s. Rub skins off peppers, slit open and scrap out the seeds.
    *Pour boiling water over 1 cup of bulgar and set aside.
    *Saute finely chopped garden veggies- I had 1 onions, sm. yellow squash, sm. zucchini, corn scraped of the cob and a few cherry tomatoes.
    *Mix veggies with about half the bulgar(save the rest for tabbouleh.)
    *Stir in some of you favorite salsa to taste, I used Roberto’s.
    *Stuff peppers with a generous amount of bulgar and veggies, set into baking dish and top with a little grated cheese- I used Irish cheddar. Bake in 350 oven for ~20 minutes. Enjoy!

  16. David Brogren says:

    just an update on old folks insanity. this weekend we borrowed a gas powered log splitter. I had always sorta looked down my nose at them. Felt it was better to hand split and suffer for my art. Thought it separated the workers from the faux cheaters who used a powered splitter.

    Well I was absolutely wrong.

    The splitter was old, but really well maintained lubed and greased. with help from my wife, my friend and my son over the weekend, we split up 6 cords. Now by no means was it an all day affair. It was actually very hard work humping those pieces of wood around. Mainly maple (fantastic to split)with beech, elm and some other unnamed species too. We are up to 13 face cords split and stacked. I am thinking it’ll take 18, but don’t wish to bum out my wife with that lil detail for a few weeks. It was a good layup, so to speak. Today I sneaked out for an hour and sawed up this 26 inch ole dead elm tree we had taken down. The new saw blade made my Jonsered cut like butter… yeah…. probably close to a cord…

    So my wife laid up 21 pints of roma’s this weekend. We are not pioneers, but those tomatoes sure taste good when the snow is flying.

    Today I cooked a beef tongue. Sorta gross to me. Boiled it in herbs for 4 hours. Peeled it, and am giving as a gift to my Swiss pal, Fritz, who swears he will turn it into a wonderful delight….

    We shall see…

  17. Sara Kate says:

    Hi Margaret!

    Well, I thought of four books for you and pulled them off the shelf and three of them had a Pappa Al Pomodoro recipe, a sort of bread-y tomato-y soup.

    Evan Kleiman’s Cucina Fresca (one of my favorite cookbooks) has an easy Pappa Al Pomodoro. YUM. OR Do you have potatoes? I also love her Potato-Tomato Soup with Sage.

    Speaking of great bay-area chefs, Judy Rodgers’s Zuni Cafe Cookbook has a Pappa al Pomodoro, slightly different from Kleiman’s, but not by much.

    Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy has a Pappa, too.

    Another thought: Chez Panisse Cooking has a Ministrone of Shell Beans, String Beans, Tomatoes and Pesto that you could adapt. She gets all Alice Waters on us having you use a “piece of prosciutto bone with rind” (oh please) but you could work around the meaty bits.

    A final thought: depending on what else you have there to use up, but I always go for succotash this time of year. Use tomatoes instead of corn, if you don’t have any or there isn’t any for sale out on the road. Not sure how that would freeze, though.

    Do you have any of those enormous zucchinis? You know, in England I learned how to make Demerara Rum out of those suckers (well, Marrow to them, but I guess it would work with a zucchini) and would be happy to send you the process. I’ve always been curious…

  18. margaret says:

    Welcome, Sara Kate, and thanks for the suggestions (and for “loaning” us the link to the zucchini soup). I don’t have the cookbook collection that you do but reading your comment I think I now know some that I will be asking for at Christmas (or just buying right now). I hope that you and Maxwell are well, and that the garden is still producing. Mine is finally yielding red tomatoes, after a very long wait. No zukes, big or small. Don’t get me started on my squash-vine issues…

  19. gail nash says:

    Hi, Margaret, just discovered your site. Very nice. In my fav’s now. I’m distressed to hear that the lack of tomatoes runs to Texas, too. I’m in western NC and talked to the Master Gardeners here and their hunch is also lack of pollenators. I was looking for info on how to prune a ‘golden string’ evergreen. but got sidetracked. So i’ll share a site i found with a recipe for green tomato mincemeat: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1639/
    I’d love to hear, also, why, oh, why, we (as novice gardeners – 5 years) have bought what was supposed to be ordinary tomatoes and gotten cherry tomatoes instead. one was a golden cherry that was exceptional, but it sure wasn’t a Best Boy or Early Girl. This is not down to one store either. Any thoughts on that?
    I’ll be back, Thanks, Gail

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Gail. Mismarked plants or stressed-out conditions causing fruit to form only to partial size? I had some plants in the heat and drought produce half-size fruit here, I know. but cherries from what was meant to be full-size? Sounds extreme.

  20. patricia says:

    I like to make a broth first (you can call stock, if you wish). That is where I use up the carrot tops, the leek tops, onion skins and other stuff I have been stashing in the freezer from the beginning of summer. When I get enough vegetable matter and maybe a bone or so saved from a dinner, I toss it all in a pot and add the herbs appropriate and there it is, a nice broth to put all those vegetables one scrounges from the last of the summer supply.

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