Ten pounds of tomatoes produced 20 pints of sauce. (Mary Lowther photo)

Ten pounds of tomatoes produced 20 pints of sauce. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Getting the best tomatoes and potatoes

I cover my tomato crop and grow early potatoes

By Mary Lowther

Are tomatoes glutting your kitchen? Or, like mine, are they taking their own sweet time developing into ripe, red orbs? Perhaps it was the long cool and damp spring, the fact that my tomato plants are from last year’s sprouts, or that they’ve felt neglected this year because my attention has been diverted to developing the huge amount of land that David bought across the street.

But I digress. The plants are beginning to bear decent sized tomatoes and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for enough sunlight and warmth to justify their existence. Nevertheless, David found a farmer on Craigslist who sells tomatoes near Duncan, so we bought 10 pounds from her for David’s favourite tomato sauce from Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook.

I haven’t seen evidence of late blight here in Mesachie Lake, but one never knows when it will hit, so I always cover my tomatoes with some sort of shelter, especially late in the season. The spores survive on the ground and adhere to leaves when they get wet. Victoria was spared the blight until about 20 years ago when it marched through everyone’s garden over a matter of days. We pulled out our potatoes too and tried to save our tomatoes by rinsing them in a mild bleach solution, but nothing worked. We lost all our tomato crops but the potatoes were fine.

After that, we learned to keep the plants dry with covers and grow early season potatoes that would be out of the ground before late rains began. So even though I haven’t heard of the blight hitting our neck of the woods here, I cover my tomato crop and grow early potatoes because one never knows when the blight will reach us.

Soaker hoses are de rigueur to keep water off the leaves, so once I’ve planted the seedlings, I lay the soaker hoses and set the timer for half an hour, twice a week. I scratch in a quarter cupful of organic fertilizer around each plant after one month and pour one litre of diluted compost tea over the root area every two weeks. I’ve tried letting them sprawl on the ground just to see how they fared but slugs got to them before me so I always tie them up now. Some authors suggest nipping off the first set of flowers but I’m so eager to get a tomato that I’ve let them all set fruit. This year because they’re so late, I’m not topping them because I see larger fruit coming on at the tops of the plants. Even though the stalks are falling back down, I’m going to see what happens.

Here’s my adaptation of Laurel’s recipe for awesome tomato sauce that I can every year.

10 pounds tomatoes

4 onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic

4 medium carrots, grated

1 cup chopped sweet peppers

8 bay leaves

4 tsp. oregano

4 tsp. thyme

2 ½ T. basil

1 cup chopped parsley

8 six-ounce cans tomato paste

2 ½ T. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. honey

½ cup oil

Saute onions and garlic in oil until onion is soft. Crush garlic, add everything else and bring to a boil, stirring all the time (I use two pots). Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove bay leaf. I can them at this point in pints, for 20 minutes in a hot water bath.

I feel very smug come winter when I haven’t got anything prepared for dinner and I can pull out a jar of this sauce, add another one of water and there’s soup. A few gratings of cheese and a side of salad and I call it dinner.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2 a.m. Sunday when it’s time to turn the clocks back one hour.
Time for a change

Put your clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night

Cowichan’s Nicole Pugh collects the ball deep in the Gorge end during her team’s season opener at the Sherman Road turf last Friday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan United runs with the big guns

Women’s soccer team holds its own against defending Div. 1 champs

Tim Gosley will be passing on some of his puppetry wisdom with a talk and workshop in Duncan in November. (Submitted)
CVAC ready to play next month in Duncan

Puppetry, Lego, basketry and more

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Matt Arnett of the Cowichan 49ers gets his head on the ball during his team’s recent meeting with the Cowichan Steelheads. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen0
Cowichan 49ers make improvements against UVic

Steelheads still looking for first goal of season

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read