Vermont Valley CSA Food Preservation

The flavors of summer are my favorite. Crunchy cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, juicy watermelon, rich basil! All leave my salivating and wanting more.

The only problem with these flavors (like all seasonal treats?) is that they're fleeting.

So when we heard that our CSA farm, Vermont Valley, was offering U-pick tomato and basil events, we jumped at the chance to load up on extras that we could preserve to have a hint of those summer flavors later in the year.

We drove out to beautiful Blue Mounds, WI to wander through the fields and gather the bounty. I forgot my camera, though, so some images from the Vermont Valley website will have to do. You can see the tomato fields on the left and the basil fields on the right:

 These images all from

We picked alongside lots of other CSA members, overhearing snippets of conversation about the differences in basil varieties, how people would prepare the tomatoes that night for dinner, and some frustrated parents telling their kids that no, you can't have the iPad right now. This is outside play time.

All CSA members got 10 pounds of roma tomatoes for free and all the basil they could handle. So we came home with just over 10 pounds of tomatoes and a plastic grocery bag full of bright green basil leaves.

Within a couple of hours, those tomatoes and basil had turned into tomato soup and delicious pesto (plus a tofu creole dish that JH whipped together).

I blended the pesto up in the food processor, spooned it into ice cube trays so that it could freeze in individual portions and then, once the pesto was frozen, dumped the cubes into a ziploc bag for later enjoying. Later, we'll mix it with pasta, spread it on pizza dough, or mix it with grains for satisfying salads in the winter months. (I didn't really follow a recipe, but here's a simple one that offers the basic method. Mine has basil, lots of olive oil, some roasted almonds, small amounts of parsley, garlic, balsamic vinegar, Asiago cheese, plus salt, black pepper, and some sugar to offset a little bitterness I detected--all to taste).

As for the tomatoes, I decided that tomato soup would be the perfect way to put these up for the winter months. So, following this basic recipe (times 5) I roasted a whole 10 pounds of roma tomatoes, along with garlic, onions, some red bell pepper, basil, salt pepper, olive oil, and vineger (a mix of balsamic, red wine, and apple cider). Then I just transferred all these roasted vegetables and seasonings into two soup pots, used an immersion blender to puree it all, and then added vegetable broth until it reached the desired consistency. I ended up using a lot less liquid than the recipe called for. I also added a bit of half-and-half at the end, mostly because we had some on hand that needed to be used.

After it cooled, I transferred the soup into some freeze-able containers we had, and popped them in the freezer. In total, this made about 22 cups of soup. Can't wait to dive in later in the year!

Anyone else putting up the summer bounty to savor for later? Freezing, canning, drying--or just eating?!