Tales From A Hungry Life

June 15, 2016

Feeling Saucy

by Maria Schulz

The warmer weather is here at last, and it’s inspired me to get saucy…with spaghetti sauce made from tomatoes and herbs plucked straight from my garden.no-cream pasta primavera

I am a city girl at heart, born and bred. I never had a backyard garden until a few years ago when I planted all sorts of delicious things, including tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, and cucumbers. I watered, I pruned, I fed my plants, and gazed out my window with pride when they started to grow. Then, I walked outside one morning to find that the squirrels, bunnies, and assorted other animals ate all of my vegetables.

When I think of my feeble attempts to grow stuff, I feel like Ava Gabor on Green Acres. Remember that show? The lines from the opening credits make me think of myself in the early days of living out in the boonies: “New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view. Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”

Green Acres, we are here

Green Acres, we are here

I’ve since moved out of that house and into a new one. I don’t have a “proper” garden, but for the past two years, I have had container pots on my deck. Since I have no idea what I’m doing, there have been some bumps along the way. Let’s just say that if I was trying to grow plants to feed myself and others and hold us over in the event of an apocalypse, we would all be in big trouble.

When I mentioned that I wanted to try growing tomatoes last year, my florist gave me a tiny cherry tomato plant and told me that maybe I’d get one or two tomatoes from it. I ended up with over three dozen tomatoes, and I found lots of ways to get those tomatoes into my diet. Sauces, sandwiches, omelettes, tomato caprese…you name it, I probably ate it. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn red.

IMG_1044

The little plant that could

I loved that little plant. It required very little of me, beyond water and a makeshift stake or two, and it just kept pumping out those little tomatoes. They were very flavorful and I enjoyed sharing them with my family…even though I’m pretty sure that they had sworn off tomatoes by the Fall.

Little beauties

Little beauties

My wild success last year led me to this year. I bought what I thought was another cherry tomato plant and put it in a small pot in the same sun-drenched location. But suddenly, it started to grow like crazy. I thought I had bought the same plant that Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, had gotten. To honor Jack, I named my plant Jackie. Also for Jackie O, who turned heads and was a real looker.

I quickly learned that what I bought was something else entirely. A beefsteak tomato plant was my new “baby,” and within a week or two, it had grown beyond anything I originally imagined.

You go, girl

You go, girl

A quick chat with friends who actually know what they’re doing enlightened me to what I was in for. Tomato cages and stakes became part of my little vegetable grower’s world, even though last week I might have said: “Nobody puts Jackie in a cage!” You know, like Patrick Swayze said about putting Baby in the corner…. Anyway, before a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea you needed to put your tomatoes in a cage (or a corner).

We picked up a giant pot, some special soil, the all-important stake, and suddenly, we were in business. Jackie, my tomato plant, is doing very well and will soon be a few feet taller than me, which figures. Everyone who comes into this house ends up taller than me.

Grow, baby, grow

Grow, baby, grow

While I was out buying my tomato plant, I picked up this herb garden too. It’s also growing so fast that I don’t know what to do with all of it. It’s going into my sauces, sandwiches, salads, omelettes…you get the picture. Soon it will be going into small baggies and left in unsuspecting friends’ mailboxes.

Italian herbs

Italian herbs

Sage, oregano, thyme, Italian parsley, and basil round out this little basket of herbs that have been the stars in my most recent batches of spaghetti sauce. My husband and kids thought it tasted pretty awesome, and I’m really glad about that…because they will be eating lots more where that came from.

Be like a Mike.

Hey…it’s Uncle Mike

If you couldn’t tell, I now enjoy living out here in Green Acres. I haven’t met Arnold the Pig yet, but I’m pretty sure we will cross paths soon enough.

Arnold and friend

Arnold and friend

Recipe: Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

This sauce recipe calls for fresh tomatoes or canned, and it seems pretty easy to follow. I am no stranger to jar sauce (especially on a weeknight), but is there anything better than fresh, homemade tomato sauce? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Try this recipe and enjoy!

tomato-stack-salad

Also an excellent way to use your tomatoes

So, Hungry Lifers…have you ever grown anything? What are your best tips? Do you have a good tomato sauce recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

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6 Comments »

  1. This Blog brought me back to my childhood in Queensborough Hill, Flushing when that place was actually the country. We lived next door to Frankie Saviola and his Grandmother (didn’t everybody live with their Grandmother?) had cleared the empty lot next to their house and had a garden of Eden. She grew everything naturally, she was Italian wasn’t she? We had grapes galore and didn’t make wine although my father could and did when he was young. We made jelly and the house had the aroma of sweet smelling grapes. My Mom knew how to bottle it with paraffin tops so that we didn’t die of botulism. The Melanzane was delicious cooked just right. And the Apples made great Apple Pie. My mom”s crust ( she was a crusty old bird) lol was the best. During WW II we had victory gardens, everybody had victory gardens. Food was rationed so we grew our own me too but not so good. But everyone pitched in the way we could so we could keep our troops fed without complaining. We brought seeds at school and had our plots in local empty lots. It was a little like you see the Koreans do with their community vegetable gardening. I guess in a way now you are reaching the status of Frankie’s Grandmother. We thought she was older than God but I bet she was about 55. Nice Blog! Good memories!

    Comment by bglou — June 15, 2016 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

    • I doubt I will ever have a garden like Frankie’s grandmother. Didn’t she have a name? I’m enjoying watching everything grow. Next step: a fig tree!!! 😂

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 15, 2016 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  2. Maria, may I private message you my address and apartment number, for a special delivery of fresh herbs?! 🙂 I just don’t get enough sun. My husband is the gardener in this family: perennials, and he is very talented. I don’t like to invade his turf. Tonight, I’m planning to make my own pesto to spice up a pizza topped with mozz’ and ricotta. Luckily, the farmer’s market’s just down 1st Avenue a coupla blocks.

    Comment by Beth Goehring — June 18, 2016 @ 8:09 am | Reply

    • Hi Beth! I get tons of sun here. Mmmm, pesto is great (one of my daughter’s favorites). Checkout FB for a message from me. I’m happy to share.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 18, 2016 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  3. Maria, mom always made tomato sauce by scratch so when I was first married and my lovely bride showed me tomato sauce in a jar I though it was the best idea ever, until I tasted it. Mom’s was far superior, but both Kathie and I worked and time was very important, even if making tomato sauce didn’t take that long (opening a jar of sauce and heating it for five minutes beat it out). Thirty three years later My taste buds are not that picky any more, but when I go out to a good Italian restaurant, those same taste buds weep at a good sauce. I will call you, since I have some more time on my hands, and you can run me through on how to make your sauce.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — July 4, 2016 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

    • You got it! It’s really not hard at all and it will be an excuse to spend time with you. Win/win!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — July 8, 2016 @ 9:52 am | Reply


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