Sunday, March 15, 2009

the great tomato glut of 2009


We’ve had literally buckets of them.

Who would have thought when the SE insisted we plant five of them (I thought the three I first bought were a little over the top for just the two of us) that he’d be away for 2/3 of the time they were in season.

Nor that when he finally came home in time to enjoy the last flush (a mere 10 kg to plough through before they rotted on the ground) after a day or two he’d embark on a water-only detox (he approaches health – good or bad, like an extreme sport).

We’ve given away more than we got a chance to eat but in a final sprint this week has been the festival of the tomato. Here’s a round up of my favourite tomatoey endeavours this season.

1. Whole tomato pasta

Slowly sauté onion and garlic, add whatever else is in the fridge. When the onions have softened throw in an abundant handful of cherry or tommy toe tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes. As they heat through, squish with the back of a wooden spoon. Toss through black olives (Kalamata, Ligurian etc), basil or parsley and season before serving with gluten-free pasta.

The “whatever else’ bit – zucchini, green beans, tuna, anchovies….

2. A rich tomato and kidney bean soup or stew

Cumin, coriander, onions, garlic, eggplant fresh from the garden, kidney beans (a handy can of the organic variety), lots of fresh tomatoes and whole Kalamata olives, This created a rich and juicy delight needing no added stock, just a little seasoning before serving. The original meal was somewhere between a soup and a stew, served with generous slices of fresh sourdough bread to dunk.

The next day I added some silverbeet/chard in desperate in need of using up and as the remains were not as soupy, I ate it on hot buttered toast for lunch.

3. The freshest Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted

So good, there were a few repeat performances scouring the vines for the last pieces of fruit.

Tips and tricks: tommy toes are like bouncy balls that fit perfectly down the chute of the juicer. Unless you want your walls and white t-shirts looking like a massacre, while the machine is not running place about 4 whole tommies down the chute, cover with the plunger then turn it on.

Melrose organic Worcestershire sauce is worth the hunt.

Thanks to Ed’s comment I will try making it next time with pasata!

4. Two versions of pasata

It all started because I planned to make a big batch of roasted tomato soup to freeze. Roasting tomatoes is a no-brainer. The large, juicy grande lisse were halved and crammed into one baking tray, the free wheeling whole tommy toes in another. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and placed into the oven at 190c. The small ones took about half an hour, the large a further 10-15 minutes (in my oven at least).

On the first night, which was going to be for the soup, I slowly sweated onions and garlic in my big cast iron pot while the tomatoes roasted. When they were done and cool enough to handle, I just slipped the fruit out of their skin and dropped the pulp straight into the pot. There was lots of juice in the pan also, so I poured that in. I threw in some whole basil, a little sugar and salt, and then simmered for a while longer. The whole beautiful mess was blended (with the basil removed first). One taste convinced me to go no further with the soup idea. This is the perfect base for bean and vegetable stews, fishy casseroles, tomato sauces and of course diluted with good quality vegetable stock to make a great soup.

Night two – another bucket of tomatoes to dispatch, only the small ones this time I was considerably lazier. Simply roasted tomatoes whole, with lots of unpeeled garlic cloves thrown in for good measure. I love the mellow flavour of roasted garlic! Once cooked, the tomatoes are simply pinched between the fingers to de-skin and the garlic peeled. These went into a big mixing bowl, a little dissolved sugar and salt added and given a whirr with the stick blender. A much lazier exercise than the first batch but just as delicious.

The pasata, instead of being bottled or canned (no equipment and who can be bothered with all that fuss?) was ladled into containers and sits ready to be used, in the freezer.

Though a large glassful was leftover and beckons me from the fridge! Roasted tomato and garlic bloody Mary anyone?

5. Semi-dried tomatoes

This is where “laying down” the glut began. I’ve been vigilant due to the moisture content, to make sure they remain well covered with oil. It will only take a day or two on the bench for any bit sticking above the oil line to begin to grow mould. However I grew tired of this and now have thrown a handful of olives on top that act as weights and of course, they too can marinate in the great garlicky oil.

I’ve also added sprigs of basil to some of the jars too.

These semi-dried tiny tomatoes are plump, moist and delectable – they’ve found their way into scrambled eggs, pasta sauces, squished on garlic rubbed toast and been a star of the antipasto platter with the olives.

6. Au naturel

Sun warmed, straight off the vine and into the mouth.

In salads of every description.

As a snack.

On toast.

In roll-ups.

But now the time has come and the season is at an end for us. Though stay tuned and the great chilli glut of 2009 iscoming your way soon!

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Blogger Jack said...

I can't believe we live in the same town yet mine were just awful this season. I had five heirloim varieties that slowly estabilished themselves and flowered well, but all but one baby tomato died with the 40+ degree heat we had. Just today ate our one and only tigeress tomato. I used sesol and watered well, but they just hated the heat.

3:47 pm  
Blogger Wendy said...

Sigh. Jealous. It's too cold here year round to grow decent tomatoes out of doors and greenhouse ones just don't taste the same. Loved reading about your glut, nevertheless.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Zoe said...

Mine sucked too, too many years in the same bed I think. *crossing fingers for next year*

10:59 pm  
Blogger Ed said...

We did okay. Partly I think because we shaded them on really hot days with an old sheet and we still have some coming through. What I have noticed it a severe pollination problem due to few bees being around and should have spent more time out there doing it myself with a paintbrush.
Jack, I wonder if Toms need something a bit more powerful that Seasol - blood and bone to start them. And they don't need watering as much as you think.

8:58 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

To be honest I think the secret to my success was lazy gardening. I let the plants go feral, taking up most of the garden. No pinched out laterals. It created a great canopy and protected the majority from being burnt on the hot days.

Soil condition-wise, we put $200 worth of organic manures into the soil to build it up before planting, then a heap of pea straw/lucerne on top. We didn't water every week, yet the soil remained quite cool and moist.

Or maybe it was just dumb luck :)

11:58 am  
Blogger Ran said...

my tomatoes are still going with no end in sight! we picked about 6kg on the weekend and i made a massive batch of tomato, apple and raisin chutney last night.
i reckon we still have 10-20kg to go! but i want that space to start broad beans and peas... i guess i can wait a bit longer

i dont think tommies need a lot of fertilising. too much fertiliser is actually really bad. we seasoled and had some horse poop from the inlaws chucked on. had some early problems with blossom end rot on a couple of plants but that was just irregular watering at the beginning of the season.

on the weekend we had a bunch of tommies split on the vine due to the rain ;( too much water is a bad thing.

2:04 pm  
Blogger Ran said...

oh yeh we didnt pinch laterals either. it is a jungle out there now though, maybe next year i will.

maybe it was just beginners luck for me ;P

2:05 pm  
Blogger Ran said...

arggh sorry, one more post, forgot to add Ed that tommies dont need bees really, just wind.

there has been a bee shortage though, as my poor pumpkins have found out. 3 vines and only about 6pumpkins.

2:06 pm  
Blogger amanda said...

These ideas sound so good. I want to test out the bean soup/stew. And who doesn't love a bloody mary!

10:31 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

Hot buttered toast always makes leftovers very yum.

Pulled the last of mine out this morning and planted out silverbeet seeds. Must say, it felt quite good.

But you see, you didn't make the jelly. Next year.

5:33 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Oh, and you only need to water them when they are babes. From December onward, I am very mean. They wilted, jst a fraction, in the heatwaves, but improved no end the second the weather cooled. Like nothing had ver happened. Definitely need blood and blone. Good for everything.

5:35 pm  

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