"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Vital crop

The one vegetable / fruit that I need to plant, and harvest in quantity, each year is tomatoes.

Last year I was devastated when the mice managed to eat / damage / decimate most of my tomato crop.  The little buggers weren't picky either - sampling this one, that one, any-which-one, and never finishing the meal they started.

What a waste!  Haven't they heard of food poverty?

Thankfully, this year we have seen very few mice in the garden, so I am harvesting enough tomatoes each week to keep me busy in the kitchen over the weekends, when the pressure of (income producing) work is lessened.
Clockwise from the top left:
My new purple tomatoes, golden yellow,
red beefsteak heirloom and cocktail tomatoes
Earlier in January I found a tomato seedling in the local nursery that had me intrigued - so, naturally, I had to buy a specimen.

It was a black (purple) tomato plant.

I have been excited - yes, it doesn't take much, does it ;) - to see what developed.

They are much smaller tomatoes, and really interesting.
A sliced purple tomato
As you can see in the pic above, when they are sliced, the inner edges still retain a touch of that "bruised" look.  I will be saving seeds from one of those I harvest in order to grow my own next year.

I need to make a salad from the different tomatoes I'm growing to show you the different colour contrasts.

A mixed tomato salad with a bit of basil and crumbled feta, sprinkled with balsamic and olive oil - heaven!!

But, the main reason I grow tomatoes is so that I can preserve them.
There are approximately 16 large beefsteak
 tomatoes reducing down in this pot - with 1 single
 yellow one added (it was almost over-ripe and I
 didn't want to waste it).
The must have staple of my pantry / freezer is tomato purée.

Cocktail tomatoes are to throw into a mixed salad.  Only.  I tried preserving them whole a few years ago, but it was a waste of time.  They disintegrated down into an insipid watery mush, and the small jars took up far too much space in my pantry.

Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are invaluable.

My main source of tomato purée is from the heirloom tomatoes -  the beefsteak and the yellow one.  I love the irregular shape of the heirloom tomatoes - it almost gives each one a different character.

(Did you know that perfectly round tomatoes are a result of needing a suitably tidy shaped tomato to put on a take-away hamburger?  Have you ever hear anything more ridiculous?  The bloody hamburger dictates what tomatoes are commercially grown these days - if you can call them tomatoes, as I find them completely tasteless and pasty in colour.)
This is what I mean about a disfigured
 heirloom tomato.  Don't you love the
 uneven appearance of them :)
The heirloom tomatoes around the stem are normally "disfigured" as in the pic above.  I have no idea what causes that, but their taste is amazing, so I don't give a hoot.  The "disfigured" section goes to my worm farm occupants - the worms don't know any different lol

The yellow tomatoes are my favourite, too - and they make the most amazing tomato purée - producing a much deeper colour than that of the beefsteaks.  The purée from the yellow tomatoes seems almost tinged with a dash of turmeric. That is quite a contradiction, as I had imagined, given their yellow appearance, that that purée would have more of a yellow appearance.

I use the purée in a myriad of ways - for pizza bases, in casseroles, soups, dips, sauces, etc.  This winter I also want to try using it in bread, in place of water :)
Recycled plastic containers holding yummy
 thick tomato pur
ée paste cooling down
 before they are popped into the freezer.
1.125 ltrs of tomato to enliven those wintry
 nights.  One of those oval 125ml containers is
 enough for a meal.  I have also water bath preserved
tomato puree in larger Ball jars for my pantry :)
There is something about the luscious redness of tomatoes in winter which, together with a roaring "Rosie" uplifts the cold, dreary days.  The hint of spring around the corner, with the promise of the next tomato harvest...


Quinn said...

Glad you are getting more of your must-have crop this year :)
No matter what the preferred shape, I'm more concerned about a reduction in the acidity of "modern" tomatoes which may alter the safety of canning them.

Dani said...

Quinn - I didn't know that. But, I reckon the heirloom seeds that produce the beefsteak and yellow tomatoes aren't lacking in acidity. I just love them - and the puree / concentrate that I can make from them :) They are seriously superior tomatoes when compared to those available and grown from seeds normally available in our stores.

possumqueensa said...

I made soup out of mine this year, I have never had such RED soup, not the insipid pink of those city tomatoes, this was fire-engine red. Just has to be full of goodness.

Dani said...

pqsa - Exactly. I feel for those who are unable to grow their own tomatoes, they honestly don't know what they are missing...

Marlene aka Ouma Miaau said...

I have bought, only one, mind you, the Kelloggs Good Morning variety in a pot from the nursery. HUGE toms and they cooked down very quickly. The flesh is almost mushy and quite by accident, I was making a puree, the batch ended up as the most awesome tomato sauce! We had that finished off in no time at all. I also like to experiment with the different types of tomatoes. It makes gardening exciting!!

Sue said...

Tomatoes are THE crop that we all love the most! It's hard for me to find a great variety that can ripen in our short season. Some years I get them, most years not. But-that's what keeps gardening so interesting.

Dani said...

Sue - If you can get hold of heirloom tomatoes they are the best.

Yeah, agreed - some years I have a bountiful crop of one thing, and the next year that item is a failure. Keeps me on my toes, I guess ;) But, tomatoes, they get my undivided attention :)

Dani said...

Marlene - Sounds like you hit on a winner. Did you keep some seeds for next year?

Personally, I love my heirloom tomatoes - and the puree / concentrate they produce :)

Leigh said...

It would be devastating to not get a tomato crop! Like you, I grow them mostly to preserve; not that we mind fresh tomatoes for eating. I always hope to put up more than a year's worth, just in case.

Dani said...

Leigh - We, too, don't mind fresh tomatoes, but I do love them for what they add - unfailingly - to the taste (and sometimes appearance) of a meal. Without them, I would be completely lost.