Learning to preserve the harvest from your summer garden can yield numerous benefits. This recipe can provide a delicious taste of summer all through the winter months. It’s also an excellent way to enrich your diet with nutrient dense, local foods!
We love eating our garden produce into the next year, as it always reminds us of the excitement of the summer gardening season. The recipe below is a fantastic way to preserve your tomato harvests, but there are many ways of preserving all types of garden crops, like pickling, fermenting, drying, freezing and more!
If you love this recipe and want to try more, keep an eye out for our fall fundraiser! We will have a set of 6 recipe cards as well as a handy dandy conversion chart available as part of the fundraiser. These cards have been decorated by our youth participants and the recipes have been created by Trellis staff. We love these recipes, and we would love to help you make the most of your garden produce. All proceeds from this donation will go directly to our efforts to make meaningful change in our food system, and to help our communities grow in new ways. Below you will find an example of the recipe cards.
NOTE: this recipe was carefully crafted by a skilled gardener and chef. It is one of the only tomato sauce recipes we have ever seen that has been approved for home canning, which is often discouraged due to risks associated with botulism. This recipe has been tested and approved, and we can vouch for its excellence. However, we would encourage you to follow the steps and the ratios detailed as closely as possible to ensure a quality product.
12 pounds tomatoes, a variety of paste, heirloom, etc.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups diced onion
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon canning salt
½ tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried basil
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes-optional, but we love it
Citric acid or bottled lemon juice amounts per specific jar size below.
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees
2. Divide ingredients in half to work in two batches. Divide olive oil, balsamic, onions, garlic, and dry seasonings between 2 or 3 roasting pans (what you have that will fit in your oven).
3. Wash tomatoes, remove cores and blossom ends, cut in half and squeeze gently to remove some of the seeds.
4. Place tomatoes cut side down, on top of ingredients in prepared pans. Roast for about 40 minutes, turning once, until most of the tomato skins are puffed and browned. Remove from oven and pluck the skins off with tongs (It’s okay not to get ever little bit)
5. Scrape roasted tomatoes and roasting liquid into a large stock pot, set aside and repeat the prep and roasting with any remaining ingredients. When all tomatoes are roasted and in the stock pot, proceed to the next step.
6. Using an immersion or regular blender, blend roasted ingredients until smooth.
7. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat and simmer until it reaches desired consistency and flavor, 45 min-1hr.
8. Prepare a water-bath canner, jars and lids.
9. Adding ¼ teaspoon citric acid to pint jars, (½ teaspoon to quart jars) OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice to pint jars (2 tablespoons for quart jars)
10. Ladle the hot tomato sauce into warmed jars, one at a time with 1/2inch of head space in the jar. Wipe rims, attach lids, and place in a canner rack. Process in the water bath canner at 35 minutes for pint jars, and 40 minutes for quarts. (if processing both together, use the longer process time)
Note: Start the processing time after canner comes to a full boil and then adjust heat to keep a low boil for the timed amount. Turn off the burner, remove lid of canner and set timer for 5 minutes to let jars rest in the water bath. Transfer jars from a canner to a towel lined surface and let cool 24 hours. Check the seals, label and store cans for up to a year.
Looking ahead to the winter—how to preserve your summer goodness in the colder months.
The end of the summer season can be bittersweet as your start to say goodbye to your garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers as we look forward to cooler temps. Luckily there are many ways to preserve these summer veggies at peak freshness to enjoy throughout the winter months. Here are some of our go-to garden hacks for holding on to those summer flavors long after the summer months have faded away:
For those tomatoes that are so delicious right off the vine, preserving them by making and canning tomato sauce is a wonderful way to enjoy that summer taste through the winter months. Check out our post here for a recipe that we love!
Tomatoes can also be canned whole, or you can make incredible oven-dried tomatoes (very similar to sun-dried, but DIY and in your own kitchen!). Recipes are abundant online.
Did you know you can use the leftover ends of veggies such as carrots, celery and onions (even the skins!) to make a delicious vegetable broth? It’s true! Rather than tossing those valuable bits, store them together in a Ziploc bag in the freezer until you have enough to make a delicious veggie broth that can be used in all sorts of soup and stew recipes.
Pickling is another fantastic way to preserve those veggies that we all love. Think outside of the cucumber box—pickled red onions, cauliflower, jalapenos, carrots, and radishes are all delicious options to spice up your meals.
Plant now for cool season harvests!
Through the end of September is a great time to plant some additional fall crops as your summer harvests fade. You can direct sow many plants around this time, including radishes, beets, arugula, mustard, and many more greens. These plants will have just enough time to get established in the mild weather of the fall, preparing to live into the colder months. With the proper planning and maintenance, you can enjoy nourishing garden harvests all the way through the winter.
When direct sowing in late summer, be sure to carefully prepare your seed bed. This means removing any weeds, plant debris or other materials, and carefully cultivating the top couple inches of the soil. A loose, fluffy soil will help your seeds properly germinate. It’s especially important to keep the soil moist until your seeds begin to germinate. In some weather, this can mean lightly watering every day (preferably in the morning). As the weather gets cooler and generally wetter during the fall, the plants will require less watering when they become well established.
Fall greens can be great when you plant a salad mix, combining multiple types of seed together. Mixing spicy greens like mustard and arugula, with a sweet combo of kale, bekana, mizuna can make a delicious and easy salad mix. Spinach can be planted now and over wintered completely, giving you an early spring bounty! Radishes are also wonderful to grow because they can be fully mature in 30 days, and with colder, wet weather they are sweet, crunchy and delectable.
Covering your young seedlings with row cover can do them a great service in keeping your plants protected until they’re grown up. Using row cover can actually keep moisture in your beds as well, leading to faster germination. When the weather really gets cold in October and beyond, row cover over your plants will provide them with added warmth, extending your growing season even further!
September is a great time of year to increase your perennial plant stock. If you have perennials that you’ve been caring for this season, or much longer this is a great time of year to divide them. Dividing them will allow you an affordable way to fill more space, but it can also encourage the health of your plants by stimulating new growth, and also to control the size and shape of the existing plant.
Perennial plants that bloom in spring and summer like grasses, Beebalm, Black Eyed Susan’s and Echinacea, and hundreds of other garden staples can be carefully reproduced in great numbers. If your desired perennial is a fall blooming plant like a mum, or an aster, you should divide them in spring.
Carefully dig around several inches from the base of your perennial, and then using a sharp spade or potentially a knife, you can slice the root crown into multiple pieces. Do your best to leave the roots intact. Be sure you only take so much that you don’t diminish the plant size in its original space. It’s always best to have a place to replant them quickly when you divide your plant pieces, but you can also pass some out to friends and neighbors to spread the love.
For as many pounds of fresh produce that Trellis For Tomorrow grows and donates on a yearly basis throughout Chester County – in 2019, the number totaled more than 30,000 — there seems to be an equal amount of pathways that have led its staff to the organization, in order to help solve what has become a major health crisis.
For Jennifer Anderson, who has been the executive director of Trellis since 2019, her professional career has included financial services, receiving a Master’s degree in public health, non-profit management consulting, and being the founder of an organization that worked with businesses to address how they can strategically function on a more sustainable level.
For Senior Programming Director David Ryle, it was a dovetail of experiences in the ministry, social justice and organic agriculture that led him to begin a job at the Triskeles Foundation (later named Trellis For Tomorrow) as a farm educator for at-risk youth, when he began to introduce young people to the cycle of food production that plants, grows and harvests food, gets its to food agencies around the county, and ultimately onto the tables of those who need it most.
Anderson and Ryle are not alone. They form a contingent of the seven-member Trellis For Tomorrow staff, a board of directors, volunteer participants and young people who find themselves as empowered warriors in the middle of another kind of pandemic – one that has led to the widespread shortage of food to Pennsylvanians from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and in all of the small communities in between.
A June study by the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network revealed that as of May, 2020, 1.9 million state residents struggled with food insecurity, with very limited access to food markets where healthy food like fruits and vegetables are in plentiful supply. Consequently, these individuals suffer from a lack of proper nutrition and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The rate of food insecurity in American households is on a steady climb, and COVID-19 has only added to the surge. A study done by the Brookings Institute found that food insecurity in the U.S. has “effectively doubled” due to economic disruptions caused by coronavirus.
“The biggest issue is that our food system is not only non sustainable, it’s not equitable, and it’s not addressing our basic needs to feed ourselves as a community, and that goes not only for our surrounding counties, but our nation and our world,” Ryle said. “We need to rethink the way that our food system is built, and we’re doing that with our gardens.
“Addressing how we society care for our land, care for our animals and ourselves through the food that we’re growing and getting to where it needs to be could not be any more urgent. By raising these questions and giving people some on-the ground training, it solves exactly what’s needed now, in order to safeguard the future of our communities.”
Food for All & Youth Seed Enterprise
Begun in 2002, Trellis For Tomorrow primarily focuses the bulk of its energies on two food producing and distribution initiatives:
Its Food for All program is a regional effort that creates organic gardens established for and in partnership with businesses, corporations, housing communities, faith-based groups, and municipal organizations. Currently, Trellis partners with nearly 20 entities throughout Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties, and since 2012, has planted and cultivated over 300 garden beds and donated over 200,000 pounds of food to 41 agencies in the region.
Its Youth Seed Enterprise establishes organic gardens in food deserts through the ingenuity and hands-on work of teenagers ages 13 through 18, who not only help construct the gardens, but learn valuable skills in organic gardening, operating a small business, creating a platform for youth entrepreneurship, and creatively problem-solving.
The program also enhances their understanding about the cycle of food from cultivation to distribution, and develops a strong link of meaningful community involvement.
In 2020, the number of participants in the Youth Seed Enterprise expanded to 38 young people, and so did the fruits of their labor. In communities throughout the region where food insecurity is at high levels, the students grew and donated 8,622 pounds of organic produce – representing a 246 percent increase from 2019 – that were all grown at the program’s four gardens in Montgomery County.
“It is immensely rewarding to see these kids’ faces light up when a squash seed that they planted two weeks before is now a seedling growing out of the ground, and three weeks later, they’re pruning it back and a week later, they are harvesting that squash,” Ryle said. “They begin to learn that they have the power to grow something, and the power to change their community.
“That is an unbelievable thing to see, and the ramifications of that dynamic continue to spread in the communities we’re getting to.”
The benefit of each program is that once the produce is grown, it makes it way to area food agencies and is sold at very affordable costs to those who desperately need access to nutritional food.
Whether the work of the Trellis For Tomorrow is seen through its Food For All program or in its Youth Seed Enterprise, the organization’s mission is both holistic and integrative. It provides each volunteer with an experiential education that establishes them as a conduit for change; integrates their work as part of a “real-world” solution and provides long-term exposure to the values of sustainability, self-reliance and collaboration.
Getting the right food to the right people is the equivalent to solving a complex equation, Anderson said.
“There are multiple layers to improving our food system. There is the first layer, which is getting people food. The second layer is making sure people have food that is nutritious enough to keep them healthy. The third layer is continuing to address the negative impact of our food system — environmentally and otherwise — on people’s lives.
“In these programs, the solutions come down to creating a model of distribution of growing and getting food to people and also developing a toxin-free, nutrient-focused model,” she added. “We’re addressing all of those issues at once. We are establishing gardens where people live, work and worship, and in the process are bringing in a network of people who are turning these gardens into a community asset.”
Flipping the narrative back
In a world where the growing, cultivation, distribution and availability of food has changed dramatically, Ryle said that the role of organizations like Trellis For Tomorrow is far greater than simply dropping seeds in to the ground – but to essentially return our society’s fundamental food-growing system back to the garden.
“One hundred years ago, everyone ate organic and local, and processed foods and exotic foods were reserved for the privileged,” Ryle said. “A few generations later, that entire narrative has been flipped on its head. The bulk of the food that we’re eating is coming from a great distance, and organic and local food options are now reserved for people who can afford it, and it’s out of reach for the people who desperately need it.
“As a result, people living in areas where they are unfamiliar with growing. We’re now seeing the last generation who grew up with local food. There are intrinsic abuses of the land, our animals and of ourselves that have resulted from a society that no longer asks, ‘Is this good for us?’
“We’re inserting ourselves into this dialogue,” he added. “Maybe one small non-profit in Chester County is not going to change the whole system, but we can work to establish a localized food system that gets young people to begin talking to older people. There is really magic in that. If you can change a small amount of peoples’ understandings about their relationship with food, you can change anything.”
Anderson said that much of the “big picture” crystal ball of Trellis for Tomorrow is currently wrapped up the organization’s strategic three-year plan, which further imagines a growing diagram of partnerships, access, education, inspiration, leadership and networking, all working in conjunction with each other.
Part of that long-term plan includes expanding Trellis For Tomorrow to southern Chester County, which will be realized in the establishment of garden beds in towns like Avondale, West Grove, Kennett Square and Oxford. Anderson and Ryle said that the organization will begin establishing new partnerships beginning in 2021, with a three-year plan to firmly establish Trellis for Tomorrow gardens locally.
“Some of this expansion will hinge on opportunities and potential partnerships, so we will look for communities, businesses, and faith-based groups that have the right amount of interest, the right amount of space and the right amount of youth population,” Ryle said. “When things align, that can better tip the scales to tell us that we need to take a step in those directions.”
“We have a new mission statement that talks about inspiring, resilience and compassion — to inspire individuals to build sustainability in their communities and themselves,” Anderson said. “That’s the foundation we’re building on. With 2021 soon upon us, we are going to use it as a year to define our outcomes and our measures, and doubling our efforts in future years.
“The wonderful thing about a garden is that it can be utilized for food, as well as environmental and economic social and race systems, in terms of food and agriculture. There are so many layers of a garden that benefit our communities and us as individuals. It is the gardens that we have grown where we see those who are in our programs develop not just as volunteers and students, but as agents of change.”
A battered window air-conditioner labors noisily to pump cool air into Bob Steininger’s office, a small room in a brick building that was once a Catholic elementary school in Phoenixville. It’s been a hot, sticky summer so far.
But Bob uses even the weather as a teachable moment. “I tell these kids, ‘If you can handle working outside in 95-degree heat and 100% humidity and stay focused on your project, you can do anything.’”
Bob is the director of Chester County Youth Programs with Trellis for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that creates transformative, real-world opportunities for youth who have faced social and economic disadvantages. Through the lens of sustainability, young people learn to make choices that foster health and well-being for themselves, their communities and the environment.
Since 2009, 4,500 kids have been part of Trellis’ programs—one of which is still in its infancy but is off to a great start. The Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) program focuses on creating the next generation of land stewards.*
Supported in part by funds raised through Natural Lands’ Campaign for Humans and Nature, a small group of 13- to 17-year-olds work on conservation projects at two of Natural Lands preserves: Binky Lee and Bryn Coed.
Projects in the YES program include planting trees, trail maintenance and construction, invasive species removal, and beautification projects. The program emphasizes conservation and allows participants to explore possible career opportunities in the field.
Connecting people—especially young people—to the outdoors has become an increasingly essential part of Natural Lands’ work. “Studies have shown that spending time outdoors increases a child’s interest in and care for the environment,” says Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Part of our job is to cultivate the next generation of conservationists. Getting them outside for hands-on experiences has a far greater impact than simply teaching them about the importance of the natural world in a classroom.”
Every weekday morning during the six-week program, Bob drives his van around northern Chester County to pick up a dozen youth from Spring City and Phoenixville, then drives them to meet with Natural Lands Preserve Manager Darin Groff. They work for four hours on whatever tasks Bob and Darin have selected.
While the students benefit from real-world work experience, Natural Lands’ preserves feel the love as well. “Help from the YES kids means my staff can focus on other projects we might not get to otherwise. Our staff is working on a lean budget to manage over 600 acres on these two preserves alone—every bit of help counts,” says Gary Gimbert, regional director of preserve stewardship.
Participants must apply to the program, which offers a carrot of a $7.50-an-hour paycheck. But Bob says the kids also join YES to try something new, to have something to do for the summer, to meet people, or—and this really excites him—to learn more about environmental stewardship.
At face value, the YES program looks like many others that offer kids from underserved communities career training and hands-on work experience. But Bob makes each experience on the preserves a metaphor for the real world.
“At the heart of this program, we want to provide young people with a safe place to make mistakes. We provide tools and skills—accountability, time management, problem solving, punctuality, perseverance—that will translate to job success later on.”
Bob adds, “It changes the trajectory of their lives.”
When you think of a trellis, you may conjure up pastoral visions of fragrant wisteria or climbing roses in full summer bloom.
Back in 2003 the founders of a growing nonprofit also had a vision inspired by the homespun symbolism of the popular garden framework when they christened their organization Trellis for Tomorrow.
“We work at the intersection of food insecurity, organic gardening and youth development, and when you think about both of those things they’re really about letting living things grow, and grow more successfully,” said Executive Director Jennifer Anderson. “So we’re trying to grow food in a better, more sustainable way and we’re also trying to help youth grow in a more self-empowered, inspired way. And those things are supported by a trellis that we create for them … the trellis concept for a garden but applied to life and growing food.”
Based in Phoenixville, the focus of the nonprofit’s mission surrounds its youth partnerships in the Pottstown and Pottsgrove areas, Anderson said.
“All told, we have about 20 gardens across Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties, and two in Philadelphia,” she noted. “Last year we grew and donated about 32,000 pounds of organic produce to food pantries, food banks and individuals.”
This food is grown partially by teens ages 13 through 18 in communities in the area, and at the gardens of Trellis partners at corporations, such as Vanguard, at universities, faith groups and other entities.
“This unique model aims to change communities from within — providing opportunities for teens and business leaders alike to come together to solve food injustice,” added board member Lia LoBello Reynolds. “At the same time, teens learn skills in entrepreneurship and how to make an impact. The Food for All garden at the Flourtown Summer Day Camp works directly with over 100 youth each summer to give them healthy food options as well as produce for neighbors in need.”
Pantries receiving the Trellis bounty at no cost include Martha’s Choice Marketplace in Norristown and Manna on Main in Lansdale.
“They do a terrific job of growing the food and they even reach out about which things are most helpful to us and how would we like it packaged,” noted Patrick Walsh of Martha’s Choice Marketplace. “I couldn’t say anything better about them. For an organization trying to help out food pantries they’re really open to understanding how they can best provide that help.”
This year, in spite of the pandemic, Trellis has provided more than 25,000 pounds of produce to local food banks and communities.
Currently in the midst of its Season of Solidarity campaign, which, due to the pandemic, replaces the annual Farm to Table event, Trellis is about halfway to its $25,000 goal.
“In a typical year, we’d fundraise between $35,000-$45,000 for our programming, driven through in-person events,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately we cannot hold those this year for obvious reasons. Therefore, our individual donations need to increase and that’s why we launched the three-month Season of Solidarity campaign.”
Donation levels run the gamut from $100 (receive a set of six Recipe for Life Cards decorated by teens and featuring garden-based recipes with inspirational quotes), to $2,500 for a Stimulate Your Senses Garden Tour that includes a private, in-person, garden tour in June 2021 for up to 10 people at a time and location of your choice. The tour includes drinks and light snacks made from garden items, expert garden and sustainable landscaping tips and advice from staff and youth, and even some opportunities to get your hands in the soil if you choose.