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Over the top with tomatoes

Carlee Hutzenbeler, front, and her sister, Samantha Froehlich, stand by the trailer filled with ripening green tomatoes on Oct. 5.

"Holy Tomatoes!"

That's what a neighbor exclaimed when she saw how many green tomatoes were ripening at Samantha Froehlich's home south of Belfield.

Froehlich has been trying to keep up with the tomatoes by canning.

"Today, I'm making spaghetti sauce and tomato paste," Froehlich said.

While she grew a few tomato plants last year, her husband, Jeremy, and dad, Corey Hutzenbeler, got into the action. They started the tomatoes by seed and ended up with more than 50 plants.

Samantha shares the 1-acre garden with her mom, Deb Hutzenbeler.

"We couldn't get in until the first of June and the plants were over 2 feet tall -- we had to water every day," said Deb.

Samantha watched her mom preserve vegetables while growing up, but this is the first year she has taken up canning.

As of Oct. 5, she had canned 96 quarts of tomatoes and expected to can another 200 quarts. The tomatoes are ripening on the flatbed of a fifth-wheeler.

"They turn overnight, I have to can every other day to keep up," Samantha said. "I'm buying so many jars it's ridiculous."

Samantha plans to give gift baskets as Christmas gifts, complete with cans of spaghetti sauce, salsa jalapeno jam, chips and crackers.

She's also given away big garbage bags filled with zucchini and cucumbers to the neighbors, the House of Manna and Benedict Court.

"I don't want to throw any away," she said.

Samantha, who keeps the books for her parents' business, C & D Oilfield Services, is a stay-at-home mom with her two children, Kaylee and Ivan.

She doesn't mind canning and in fact, described it as being fun.

"I think it's healthier and tastier too," she said.

Her mom added, "I'm just shocked she got into gardening and canning. It's something we did in the olden days."

Next year things will be a little different. Samantha will insist the men cut down on the number of tomato plants they think will grow.