Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tomatoes galore

It's the end of May and tomatoes are still ripening in our garden. Not many, but enough to make me procrastinate about pulling out the vines. They'll have to go soon, though, to make way for the broad beans.

Everyone I've spoken to in the Geelong area to seems to have had great tomatoes this year. We've had the perfect summer for it, with decent rainfall and warm weather without searing heatwaves to frazzle the vines.

I always grow my tomato plants from seed, and always heirloom varieties, which crop for longer and (I think) have more taste. I grew Tommy Toe and Amish Paste varieties this year (seeds from Diggers Club).

Tommy Toe is the mainstay of our tomato crop each year: they grow like weeds in our garden and the fruit is great for sauces, salads, on pizzas - you name it. Amish Paste was a first-time experiment. Despite the rather unappetising name, they're a good medium-large slicing tomato, sweet with low acidity.

Amish Paste do seem prone to blossom-end rot, though, and I lost a large part of the early crop, yet no trouble with the Tommy Toes right next to them! Regular doses of Tomato Magic seemed to help correct the problem, but I doubt this is an allowable organic input, so next year I'll try harder to get the soil calcium right before I plant.

Speaking of soil prep, I've never lost a tomato plant to wilt or nematodes since I started growing mustard as a bio-fumigant two years ago. (The young leaves of the mustard make a nice spicy salad crop too.) Sow in winter, then, before the mustard flowers in the spring, smash it down and dig it in. You can plant tomatoes into the bed within a couple of weeks. Works for me.

Tomato sauce recipe (works best with small, sweet tomatoes like Tommy Toe):
  • Enough whole fresh tomatoes to cover the base of a roasting tin or ovenproof dish
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (we always get ours direct from Lighthouse on Anderson Road)
  • A good pinch of sea salt
  • Fresh oregano or cinnamon basil leaves
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • Optional: a glug of vino cotto, balsamic vinegar (don't overdo it) or red wine

Roll the tomatoes and herbs in the oil to make sure they're well covered. (Go on, get your hands oily!) Put in a preheated oven at about 180 C for 90 minutes or until the liquid is starting to reduce and the tomatoes are caramelised on top. Leave to cool, then whizz up in a food mixer. Will keep in the fridge for 7 days, or freeze in small containers.

I've never bothered sieving the tomatoes, though you could if you wanted a smooth paste.

Alternatively, just serve the whole tomatoes hot from the oven with roast meat or with pasta.

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