Spring Tomatoes and Growing Where You're Planted

Spring is usually a busy time of year for me in the garden. This year it's busy for a whole bunch of different reasons.

Without a garden I'm in a real season of "blooming where I'm planted" and being creative with what this looks like. Our housing situation is not exactly permanent right now, not even temporary permanent.

Our current rental arrangement expires the end of this month. We’re renting an apartment in Montréal for the month of June, and then “settling” into our next home the beginning of July. This is not my year to garden.

But I can’t keep my hands out of growing things, nurturing. Tending a little plot of dirt, even if it’s just a bucket of dirt. Or a dozen buckets of dirt.

I’m not the only one in the family like this. I’ve passed the gardening gene onto the kids. The gardening gene skipped Damien altogether, so it’s the kids and I who garden, even if it’s just buckets that take up precious real estate in our tiny cabin.

I have a thing for summer tomatoes (a love affair truth be told) so early this spring we started seeds for a container-friendly variety of cherry tomatoes. The kids and I also have a thing for blossoms. To meet that need we planted pansies.

Pansies and tomatoes, the sum total of our garden this summer.

I bought the seeds on an impulse on a cold day in February. The first week the gardening stuff was on display in the grocery store. I couldn’t help myself! Even though I had no idea where we’d be this summer - traveling or living locally - I wanted to plant something. 

My gardening, local-farm-loving soul has had an interesting time (read: sometimes difficult journey) since moving to the Gaspé. I miss Maine's longer growing season. Oh yes, the United States most north eastern state has a longer growing season than our peninsula. I miss the farm where we had a share for years. I miss our farmer.  

But we're making connections here. Finding the farms and tapping into the local resources, of which there are many.

Our friends (also our telemark instructors) work at the tomato greenhouse in town. It’s actually quite the production. Local, organic, soil grown tomatoes (not hydroponic) available almost year round in the Gaspésie, and beyond. I’m pretty sure they truck these babies around the province.

We live in winter wonderland here and tomatoes don’t have a long growing season in climates like these so a greenhouse like this is ingenious. And we happen to be friends with one of the genius’ who got it going.

Recently we’ve been given tomato “cast-offs”. The most recent pick up was 30 lbs. I’m in tomato heaven. We’re eating tomato soup, stocking the freezer and dehydrating them. Handy, as the dehyrator has been running all week for our backpacking trip this weekend.

There are two local csa farms to choose from for our summer vegetable share. They call them “baskets” around here. We chose the one closest to us, with a weekly pick-up location on the beach. The kids are going to love this. The first baskets will ready the week we get back from Montréal. That’s when the berries will be ready for picking also. I need to get a freezer.

During these winter months we belonged to a group that connects local producers and growers with consumers. We were able to buy frozen blueberries, homemade bagels and pitas, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, herbs, and (if we were into that) raw cheeses.

For the size of the population that lives here there’s a lot going on in the local food movement. (I’m wracking my brain to remember if there’s a traffic light in town, or the next town for that matter. Ah yes, there's one. Where a main highway intersects another main highway. We currently live on one of those main “highways”.)

Québec in general has a strong organic (biologique) movement and strong farm culture. I’ve very grateful for that. Even if I find the growing season to be frustratingly short. I want green leaves on the trees - now!

Speaking of local food, I’m a founding member of a food buying club in our community also. We place our first order this week. I’ve got to get on that.

If we stay at the next chalet for a couple years (that’s our desire) I may plant a small garden next summer. But there’s deer to contend with. Lots of deer. We’d have to build a 7 foot fence or something like that to keep those hungry ruminants out of our lettuce. We may just decide to let the farmers grow it for us and let them deal with the deer.

Farms, food clubs, tomatoes - these are a part of my food culture and I’m finding those pieces here in the Gaspé.

Now I just need to find some tomato-sitters for the month of June. 

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  • Misti

    Misti on May 3, 2012, 1:30 p.m.

    Last fall we were finally able to start digging in the ground after an almost two year hiatus. I grew so many tomatoes in the winter in Florida (which makes me miss winter there so much more now that we are in Texas) but finally after returning from the Florida Trail last spring I started digging around in my mom's plot and garden in her backyard.

    Our tomatoes are just starting to roll in red this week. I'd been telling them to turn red for weeks.

    Happy gardening...and if I were in Canada I would definitely tomato-sit.


  • Kristi

    Kristi on May 3, 2012, 3:14 p.m.

    I can't wait for tomato season! How do you use the dehydrated tomatoes?


    • renee

      renee on May 4, 2012, 2:39 a.m.

      I use dehydrated tomatoes as a substitute for fresh or canned tomatoes in recipes. Though to substitute for canned you have to reconstitute in quite a bit of water and the consistency will be different than canned. For tonight supper, a cauiflower, chickpea stirfry with rice, I added a bunch of chopped dried tomatoes (I have oodles right now). They added a lot of zing and flavor to the meal. I like to add them to grain & bean salads and pasta dishes also. I also like to eat them just as is, like chips. They are so incredibly flavorful. See Spring's comment below also on how she uses them. 


  • Natalia

    Natalia on May 3, 2012, 4:15 p.m.

    As a family that moves every two years I totally get the gardening frustrations. At least here in the UK we can usually take our potted plants with us - not really an option when we lived in Australia and it was such a long time moving from one place to another.

    Our current way of dealing with pests (snails and rabbits) was to build an upright garden out of piping on huge posts. Jagged copper tape keeps the slugs and snails off, and it's too high for the rabbits. Doesn't quite deal with the ridiculous high winds though ...


  • Shanda

    Shanda on May 3, 2012, 5:06 p.m.

    Yes, as one of the previous readers asked, how do you use dehydrated tomatoes? Do they have a strong tomato flavor? They look delicious! Also, I love the french word for organic, biologique, I like that better than organic. Thanks for sharing.


  • Lydia

    Lydia on May 3, 2012, 6:13 p.m.

    Yes, can you tell us more about the dehydrator? How much room does it take up? How often do you use it? What do you pack the dehydrated food in, ziplocs or reusable containers? I would love to dehydrate fresh summer fruit for granola year round. Thanks! Can't wait to see Montreal...


    • renee

      renee on May 3, 2012, 10:12 p.m.

      I wrote about our dehydrator in this post. I store dehydrated stuff in both ziplocs and jars. We mostly use it for trail food and to use up extra produce in summer. You can read about all that in the post I wrote.  Drying the tomatoes and preparing backpacking food for this weekend is the first time we've used the dehydrator for at least 6 months. 


  • Kyce

    Kyce on May 3, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

    I'm so happy to hear about this thriving food culture up there. I wonder if the answer to your winter food blah's is to put up serious homesteader quantities of certain things you can't get year round... Do you have any recommended resources on starting a food buying club?


    • renee

      renee on May 3, 2012, 9:47 p.m.

      Funny you should you ask Kyce. I've written a lengthy article on how to start a food buying club. I did it as a paid piece for someone else with the understanding that I would be releasing it myself also. All that to say...I will be releasing that tutorial - how to start a buying club hopefully in the next couple months. So stay tuned!


  • Spring

    Spring on May 4, 2012, 1:26 a.m.

    Our trees are still lacking green, even "way down here." Sigh... the grass is green though, and the forsythia are just starting to fall off as the leaves take over. I've been dehydrating tomatoes fairly often (to get away from canned), and I am still tweaking my sauce recipe from it... hope to have a bloggable one soon! I keep mine in jars, too. I wondered if the air in them might shorten their shelf-life? But mine haven't been lasting that long, for me to find out yet!


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on May 4, 2012, 1:39 a.m.

    Renee, I actually have those tomatoes from Gaspé in my kitchen right now!! And I soo hear you about not being able not to garden a bit... I did the same thing last year! And we love our dehydrated tomato slices too! What a treat!


    • renee

      renee on May 4, 2012, 2:40 a.m.

      That's too cool! The tomatoes from our "backyard", that our friends have grown, in your kitchen. I love it!


  • Mama

    Mama on May 4, 2012, 10:53 p.m.

    Totally looking forward to planting this year! We've been anxious to get started, but unfortunately Papa has had to work overtime every Saturday for the past few weeks, and we've had tons of rain every weekend. Not that we can plant outdoors yet anyway. And this year I plan to add flowers! I can't wait. I especially want to add vining flowers to our fenced areas. I think that would be very pretty. So glad you decided to plant tomatoes and pansies. Everyone should have something pretty and something yummy to grow!


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