My tomato harvest has been truly pitiful this year. Never exactly abundant, this year I could give you a description of each individual tomato.
It may be a combination of not enough sun at the right time, too much rain at the wrong time and me going to Dorset when they needed me. Other than the odd feed from my worm composter, the tomatoes haven’t exactly been cossetted. I always start off with good intentions; determined to pinch out the sideshoots religiously, support them well and feed and water regularly, I find myself forgetting for a few days and coming back to a triffid. Loads of green growth but unlikely to be great in terms of tomato production. When I look at my pathetic tomato and chilli plants I don’t exactly feel like a great gardener. The only time I have green fingers at the moment is when I squash the caterpillars on my brassicas. Well, I have to at least protect my broccoli, kale, cauliflowers and sprouts.
Ever optimistic, I have plans to look out for a second hand or freecycle greenhouse for peppers, tomatoes and aubergines next year. And concentrate my efforts!
In the meantime, luckily we have a great local farmshop where several different varieties of tomatoes are grown in some old greenhouses at the back. So tasty, they have the most flavour of any tomatoes I’ve eaten that hasn’t benefitted from an intense mediterranean sun.
Spotting the crate of 30p a pound very ripe tomatoes, it became my mission to think of ways to prolong the taste of late summer. The woodburner, now in regular evening use and using free wood is perfect for Autumn and winter cookling. It has a separate oven which is great for imprecise roasting or cooking warming casseroles and stews.
The intense flavour of the tomatoes is preserved wonderfully by roasting with garlic, olive oil and woody herbs for tomato sauce. It freezes well and so we’ll be enjoying it in pasta and risotto dishes through the winter. Pressed through a sieve by Ruby and mixed with a little vinegar, sugar and mustard, then cooked to reduce, it also makes a great alternative to the tomato ketchup she’s becoming far too fond of.
My own favourite is roasted tomato soup, perhaps with some of the last basil leaves stirred in at the last moment. We took some in a flask on a walk and enjoyed it sitting on the fallen tree that will heat our woodburner next year.
Roasted tomato soup
1.8 kg ripe tomatoes
200ml olive oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 onions, sliced
A couple of lovage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons tomato puree
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon
Pre-heat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Mix olive oil with garlic, herbs and tomatoes in roasting tin and roast for 35/40mins until tomatoes darkening at edges. Remove from oven and puree in a liquidiser with the tomato puree, sugar and lemon juice. Add water if necessary to make a smooth pouring consistency. Push through a sieve into a saucepan, taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper and more water if it needs it. Warm and serve with basil leaves or, if you still have rocket in the garden, a spoon of rocket and pumpkin seed pesto is good (recipe to follow in future blog).