“Father: It’s been nine months since my last confession.”Nah, I’m not religious but Holy Moly has it been a long time between drinks on this blog!
Busy, busy, yeah you’ve heard it all before…work, kids, life. Doesn’t matter; here we are. And just this week life presented a lovely little window of garden abundance and time: two sweet things that rarely coincide so I grasped it with both hands and my pantry and fridge are slowly filling in its wake.
First, let me just say: TOMATOES.
Look at that colour!
Caprese salad to die for
Slow cooked oven-baked tomato sauce
Oven-baked tomato sauce
Dried cherry tomatoes in virgin olive oil
Hugo doing an awesome job halving cherry tomatoes for drying
A delicious by-product of bottling – Bloody Mary anyone?
Roughly chopped bottled tomatoes
They smell so good
A daily haul at our peak
And, oh what a glut we’ve had! However, I’m proud to say I’m learning from years past and this time I’ve succession planted. So while we’ve had a tremendous short-term haul of Black Krim, Mortgage Lifters, Tommy Toe and others I can’t even remember, they’re still coming! Green Zebras are ripening (although it’s hard to tell with that variety) and the orange Jaune Flammee and stripey Tigerella too. I planted six different varieties of cherry tomatoes that grew to such gargantuan proportions it was almost a little scary how much fruit we were harvesting. Reinforcements were called; it was all hands on deck!
One of the pleasures of growing so much food is giving it away to grateful friends, family and neighbours who rarely, if ever, experience the superior flavour and quality of homegrown produce. But that said, I would still rather keep as much of it as possible to feed my own family. And so began the wave of preserving, a joyful yet time-consuming necessity.
Here’s a taster of what I’ve made so far:
- 14 bottles of tomatoes made in my Mum’s old Fowlers Vacola system, which I subsequently overheated and broke. Ugh!
- Tomato Ketchup (3 bottles)
- Tomato and Eggplant Chutney (6 jars)
- Dried cherry tomatoes (3 bottles) sprinkled with garlic salt and dried basil and marinated in virgin olive oil
- Slow-cooked oven-baked tomato sauce (2 bottles). This is a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook.
This is, of course, in addition to gorging on fresh tomatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner. Eggs poached in chopped tomatoes for breakfast, bruschetta for lunch, Tray Baked Salmon with Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies and Tomatoes for dinner (thank you Jamie Oliver).
But it’s not all tomatoes. The cucumbers are starting to assert themselves in the pecking order of the vegie patch with a tidy harvest of 14 cucs in an afternoon (right after I’d just bought one from the shops – what was I thinking?!) So I thought I’d turn my hand to pickling given my son’s penchant for dill pickles. And this was the result: Bread ‘n Butter Pickles. It’s another recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook and I’ve got to say: absolutely delicious! Surprisingly so. I’m not usually the biggest pickle fan but these are incredibly moreish and the kids we’re in there with forks, shovelling them into their mouths. So there’ll be more of them to come.
What else? We’ve made Decadent Chocolate and Beetroot cake and Beetroot Relish with all the beetroots coming out of the garden (one of my all-time favourite vegies for its versatility.) Basil pesto is next on the agenda. I do this at the end of summer every year and freeze it in ice cube trays, then bag ’em. They’re great for popping into your spaghetti bolognaise sauce, as a pizza sauce base, adding them to fresh pasta with parmesan and olive oil for the laziest mid-week meal ever (my kids love it!)
Ah yes, I haven’t had this kind of time for ages so it’s just dumb luck that it coincided with harvest. I’ve changed my work situation (for the better I hope) as there are new business ventures to explore. Stay tuned for more on that later.