Saturday, November 1, 2008

Local Foods and Heirloom Tomato Tasting

Here is a good memory, already nearly two months old! Ann Arbor's Project Grow, a non-profit organization that promotes organic community gardens in Ann Arbor, MI, has a tasting of a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes grown by gardeners in the area. More than 120 varieties were grown with nearly 60 varieties available to taste at the event, which was held in conjunction with Ann Arbor's HomeGrown Food Festival, our first annual celebration of locally-grown foods.

My husband and I were helping with the tasting, which was VERY popular. After nearly two months with very little rain, the skies opened up that day with heavy rain. Thus we were very very glad to have the tent protecting us, the tomatoes, and the steady stream of tasters, who showed up completely undeterred in their full rain gear.

Everyone had a chance to vote for their favorites. My husband and I grew 20 varieties with our 61 plants (we were the slackers! some people grew more than 60 varieties in their garden!) Our tomatoes are now all eaten, canned, or dried. We made a ton of salsa this year thanks to a recipe from good friends in Madison, WI. We also made our own "Zesty Italian Sauce" using a recipe from our neighbor in Illinois, "Bruschetta in a Jar", using a recipe I found on the blog of my friend who writes the Mother's Kitchen blog, dried more cherry tomatoes than I can probably eat in a year (but will enjoy trying!), tomato-vegetable paste which I both froze and dried, our version of a tomato-vegetable juice that is to die for!, I have probably forgotten something plus jars and jars of canned tomatoes. We are set for the winter!

Lastly, we are drying and saving seeds from these heirloom plants, thus already thinking about spring planting and starting the season all over again. The tomato plants are out of the garden, composted, the beds turned over, cleaned up, and garlic planted for next year. So far my husband has planted about 200 cloves of 4 varieties, both stiff-neck and soft-neck, with space for about 80 more cloves. And we have more garlic to eat than even we can do. In fact, I finally remembered a recipe for garlic soup broth from my very very old Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks that I have pulled out to make for the first time (for some reason I never had the courage to try that recipe in the 70's).

I just found out about a friend recently diagnosed with cancer, which brought back so many memories of the deep fears and hopes with my own diagnoses. I do believe that one can only understand hope after really experiencing deep, deep fear, pain, or loss. Our garden is our sanctuary, a place to dig deep in the earth and also to dig deep working through those fears, at least temporarily set them aside and maybe eventually be able to let them go, being replaced with the hopes for tomorrow and beyond. I hope my friend finds his sanctuary (it may be his music) as he goes through his treatments, the waiting, the worrying, and all the many tomorrows still ahead for him. I send all my best wishes for health, healing, hope to him and his family.

I'll end with this beautiful Gaelic blessing of peace for the spirit of all cancer survivors plus all those facing fear, loss, or pain for any reason. I understand, and my heart reaches out to you.

Deep peace
of the running wave to you,
Deep peace
of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace
of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace
of the shining star to you.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Cynthia said...

Thaks for the blog shout out AND a picture of me tasting a tomato at the Homegrown Fest!

lookinout said...

I remember that blessing, framed, in my parents' house. It's years since I last saw it.

Kateri said...

Those plates of tomatoes are beautiful. That is one of the things I love about heirloom tomatoes---so many different colors!

Maggie said...

61 plants! I'm sorry I couldn't get out to be there. It looks like a great event.

Kim said...

What a great day and a great tomato tasting. You and Dick both looked so happy! You could tell that Dick was totally in his element. :) What a wonderful thing that Project Grow does for our community!