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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Beautiful Gardens, Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and Greasy Beans

gentling garden ashevillenan chase edible lawn 

A week ago I was in North Carolina visiting amazing Asheville area gardens with a great group of garden bloggers from all over the country. It was such a treat to see such a variety of beautiful public and private gardens with folks just as excited about gardening as I am. We started the weekend with a reception given by the folks at Sow True Seeds, the area’s newest seed company. Sow True specializes in open-pollinated, non-GMO seeds for western North Carolina. I stayed with Sow True owner and activist Carol Koury (

GMO Free Western North Carolina).

carol canningheirloom tomatoes asheville

I was surprised how far along the growing season is even in the mountains. Gardens were lush with spring greens and herbs. Tomatoes plants are full of unripe fruit so far along that I imagine that Carol and other savvy Asheville gardeners will have lots of ripe fruit before long. Actually the early tomato plants reminded me of Carol in her kitchen making delicious sauce from all of her heirloom tomatoes last summer.  I didn’t get Carol’s recipe but I think you might enjoy this everyday sauce from our summer kitchen here at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. You can add a lot more basil or garlic and still have a tasty sauce.

canning tomatoes asheville

Classic Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Fresh Basil

makes approximately 2 cups
30 min cooking

First: Place the tomatoes in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.

Then: Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and sauté for 1 minute only. Add the tomatoes and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil. As soon as the sauce reaches boiling point, reduce heat to medium to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes separate from the olive oil, stirring from time to time. Add the basil, salt, and pepper. Continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until the basil has wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool, or proceed with your recipe of choice.

If making several batches of the recipe, decrease the olive oil by half and increase the cooking time to about 30 minutes for each additional portion.
Example: If you multiply the recipe 3 times, use 9 lbs tomatoes, 3/4 cup oil and simmer the sauce for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. All other ingredients in the recipe can be multiplied exactly 3 times.

pole bean greasy cut short

Thinking about tomato sauce brought on thought of greasy beans, a specialty in the Asheville area and much of the mountain south. These hairless beans (makes them look greasy) stay tender even after the beans begin to form. Waiting for the pods to fill out adds protein to the pods. These are used for the leather britches famous throughout Appalachia.

Now is the time to put up to your trellises and get all of your pole beans started if you haven’t already done it. I’ll tell you more about leather britches and other dried delights next time.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing and cooking.


Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+varieties of Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other events throughout the Southeast. Her first book the "The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast" will be available in 2013