Title – just for ‘mid brother come blog critic’.
Once in a while I stumble across a fruit or vegetable variety we have grown and think … ‘this is the one’.The’Cuore di Bue’ tomato we are growing in the polytunnel this year is superb, and less temperamental than ‘Marmande’, which has been my ‘beefsteak’ tomato of choice to date. Well no more.
This delicious ox heart tomato is a weighty fruit with dense flesh and not too many seeds,
which makes it ideal for slicing, in salads or … for making tomato sauce. So that is what I did in the afternoon whilst the rain bucketed down outside.
Europe has a heatwave – we have torrential rain.
Still, the inclement weather gave me the opportunity to make up a big batch of sauce which we can use on pizza or pasta. I’m always pleased when I find a recipe that uses considerable quantities of produce; this one called for 5lbs of tomatoes; 3 medium onions; 8 cloves of garlic and a variety of herbs – all of which I could source from our kitchen garden. Big tick.
Using up 8 cloves of garlic was handy. Our considerable garlic crop was lifted a few weeks ago and we’ve been drying the heads in trays undercover in the dutch barn. As I was helping out on our smallholder association stall at a local agricultural show, we cleaned the largest bulbs and I took along a basketful.
I managed to sell quite a number but then diminished our profit by purchasing a vintage, blacksmith forged, garden line winder from my fellow smallholder who had brought along a selection of old tools.
Somehow I don’t think I’ll be making my fortune from selling our produce.
Reading this week: The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom.
Yes, I’m still at it, preserving any and all gluts from the holding. No fruit, vegetable or herb is safe from the possibility of appearing in a pickle, preserve, or being put into the dehydrator.
This week, I’ve turned my attention to the courgette, which is a vegetable plant that can easily swamp one with its bounty. I always have too many plants because I cannot resist having a range of courgette shapes, (cylinders and spheres), and colours, (different greens, yellow, striped…).
I’ve found that the secret to keeping a courgette avalanche at bay is to pick the vegetables when they are relatively small. Of course, this is the plan, but things, invariably, don’t turn out that way. This week, when I’d exhausted swopping the vegetables for other provisions with my neighbours, I made ‘bread and butter’ refridgerator pickles with sliced courgettes instead of cucumbers, (recipe used, here).
500g of courgette with pickling liquor fills about 3-4 pound jars, so making these can substantially diminish a courgette oversupply. The pickles are ready to eat after a couple of days and can keep for a few months in the fridge. Ours are all consumed well before then. They are delicious with bread and cheese and are a good substitute for gherkin with a burger. I’m in no doubt that I’ll be making another batch soon.
In the tunnel, the tomatoes are starting to ripen. I picked a bowl of the large ‘Cuore di Bue’ fruit.
Time to start making tomato sauce!
May has ended. It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches. From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.
We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.
Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.
In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air. I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have. Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants. I shouldn’t have worried. The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me. I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans. These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.
Working in the tunnel is a delight. I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.
I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening. We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…
and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.
Summer is here.
Posted in apricot, artichoke, broadbean, forage, gooseberry, herb, lettuce, pea, peach, salad, tomato, turnip, wildflower
Today, I pricked out and potted on the tomato seedlings into 9cm pots. I should do this sooner after germination but somehow I never quite manage it. This does mean that some of the seedlings, particularly the cordon type, are a bit leggy. However, I always sink my tomato seedlings in the pot as far as I can, up to the first pair of leaves. This stablises the plant and more roots develop along the covered up stem. It’s too cold out of the heated propagator for the seedlings to stay in the piggery, so the potted on plants are back in the utility room under the grow lamp.
This year I have kept the old stalwarts: Gardeners Delight; Sungold and Principe Borghese. My ‘Marmande’ tomato seed didn’t germinate. I suspect the seed was too old. I should learn from this and throw away out of date packets but somehow I can never quite bring myself to do it. Yes, I am a seed hoarder. However, I have a alternative beefsteak style tomato to try, an Italian heirloom variety named ‘Cuore di Bue’, ox heart.
Also new for this year, I’m trying out a ‘stuffing tomato’, aptly named ‘Yellow Stuffer’. According to the description this tomato is shaped like a bell pepper, and like a bell pepper, is hollow – so it should be perfect for stuffing! Finally I’m trying out some alternatives to ‘Sungold’; ‘Golden Cherry’ and ‘Golden Crown’ and last, but hopefully not least, a yellow, mid size, tomato called ‘Golden Sunrise’.
I don’t succession sow for the tomatoes so that’s it for 2017!
Watching this week on iPlayer: The Secrets of Your Food.
I always thought it was better to sow root vegetables direct rather than into modules to avoid root disturbance. Which is why, until now, I’ve always sown beetroot and radish in situ. However as I’m a bit pushed on space in the polytunnel, but want to get ahead, I’ve decided to try sowing in modules and then transplanting out, quite young, in about 2-3 weeks time. This way I’m hoping to minimise the root disturbance. I’ll also direct sow at the tail end of March, weather dependent. My go to guru, Charles Dowding has a video on module sowing here, (it’s excellent).
All the propagators have been moved to the piggery – the light is better there and I’ve started potting on the chillies and tomatoes – so far so good!
We have the odd day of sun, enough to encourage bud break…first up, the almond, peach and apricot…
Speaking of breaks, the lovely OH and I managed to catch the orchid festival at Kew. Fun though the festival was, far more impressive are the collections and the glasshouses….
…simply the best!
Watching this week, (on iPlayer): Around the World in 80 Gardens
We have started to remove the heat-loving fruit and vegetables from the polytunnel. All the ripe chillies have been picked along with the tomatoes, (green and red), melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers.
So we have quite a lot of preserving activity ahead of us. The lovely OH has made a start on the chillies.
He has found that putting a slit into the chilli before drying in the dehydrator helps to dry the chillies faster. Once dried we can use the chillies through next year.
Of course, we are eating as much fresh produce as possible, so our weekly supper menu has a definite lean towards vegetarian recipes. Gathered together here…the vegetable ingredients for a sambhar, recipe courtesy of Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India‘.
This is what happens when you don’t keep on top of pinching out your cordon tomatoes.
The resultant hack back meant that I was left with a moderate quantity of green tomatoes. Of course, the obvious choice of recipe for the tomatoes is chutney, but I’m with Nigel Slater – who wants vats of one sort of pickle? So I hunted around for a recipe that didn’t require kilos of tomatoes and plumped for Riverford’s version.
I do like making chutney because the process is less intense than jam; the ingredients are cooked gently for an hour or two rather than a volcanic boil so I can wander off, do something else, have a cup of tea etc.
The pickle needs to mature for a few months – so, should be ready for the Boxing Day cold cuts!
Reading this week: The Running Hare by John Lewis Stempel