Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tomatoes and apples and pears, OH MY!

Well, we are back from Israel, and let's just say the jet lag has been killing us. We fall asleep usually between 4pm and 7pm, and are up anywhere from 2am to 3:30am. I decided this was a great time to use my early-bird-ness to my advantage, and jumped in the car at 5am yesterday for a little road trip. My agenda? Tomatoes, beans and fruits from Eastern Washington.

First stop: Central Bean Company, Inc, in Quincy, Washington. I had researched and found they sell "Food Alliance Certified" beans on the cheap. The Food Alliance Certification ensures that farm and ranch standards are met, including safe and fair working conditions, no use of antibiotics, no genetically modified crops, reduced pesticide use, protection and enhancement of wildlife, and planting appropriately to protect erosion. While this level of certification demands a higher price tag, we still made out ok...

$15 - 25lbs of Red Beans
$15 - 25lbs of Great Norther Beans
$20 - 25lbs of Garbanzo Beans

After a tractor pulled around to bring my beans to my car, I loaded them in and headed west in search of tomatoes. I had pre-arranged with a local farmer for some, but I knew going in the 25lbs he had for me wouldn't be enough for my next canning adventure. So after swinging by his farm, I drove through Cashmere, where I found the motherlode of tomatoes.

The first stand gave me 20lbs for $20, all gorgeous, deep red Roma's. From there, they directed me to another stand, where I found them even cheaper--$.50 a pound!--and I took all he had left, in total, 30 pounds. They also had a lovely selection of fruits--$14 for a box of red pears and $8 for a box of crisp, delicious Gala Apples.

Here's a word to the wise...if you are looking for freezing, canning or drying, always ask to see their "Number 2's". These are generally the odd sizes, slightly banged up or on the verge of being too ripe to sell. They are cheaper and are great for these projects!

After driving 150 miles back over Steven's Pass this time, I arrived in Granite Falls where my AMAZING mom helped me can another 35 jars of tomatoes. Between the two of us, 7 jars at a time, we finished in about 5 hours, completely covered in tomato pulp and juice and the kitchen a disaster zone.

It was an exhausting day, but completely gratifying when looking at the jars of gorgeous red tomatoes lined up in a row. Today I've finally made it through the rest of the pears and apples, which I've frozen for pies and muffins in the coming months. And while I see we are spending more money now, I am starting to feel like this process will end up saving us money, not to mention keep us healthier all winter long.

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