Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Grow To Eat: Tomatoes and Rough and Ready Gardener's Tomato Sauce

Almost every beginner edible gardener is enchanted by the idea of growing their own tomatoes. And why not? They are fairly easy to grow, if a bit needy. They'll even do well on a windowsill. As every gardening magazine is equipped with a free packet of Gardener's Delight come spring you may as well grown them.

We've been growing tomatoes ever since we started growing food and here is our procedure.
Home Grown (just not that big)

Picking the varieties is always fun. But we don't have much space. Each year about half of our plants are the prolific performers Gardeners Delight. I love them. They may be small but they produce, and produce and produce. We have also grown beefsteak which provided fewer but larger fruits and this year we trailed some early varieties: koralik and latah. Planning varieties back in January 2010

We get ours off to an early start. We sow the seeds around mid January. We're quite blessed climate wise. Obviously when you start sowing will depend on when you can get them out. For us an early crop is best as it avoids blight and late summer winds. We sew plenty to a pot and cover with clingfilm. Sowing back in January 2009.

Remember all those seeds? They are up. February means pricking out the strongest and potting them on. I don't like this part of the process, it feels cruel. Putting it off will lead to stunted tomatoes and won't lead to less waist so I guess I have to. When they are all in big pots they get their own label. Pricked out tomatoes in a post about recycling in the garden last March.

Time to acclimatise. As soon as the tomatoes are looking strong enough and the weather is looking good enough I get them used to nights outside. With a old drinks bottle over them I take them out in the daytime and bring them in at night. I do this for about two weeks before planting them out properly. They keep the bottle hats for a week. The next week I put the bottles on at night but take them off in the day. Then the babies are ready to face the outside alone. Now all they need from me is tying to supports, watering every morning and feeding once a week. I don't bother pulling off side shoots as blight is a concern and I don't want to weaken the plants. Tomatoes planted out with their bottle hats on, April 2010

Eventually, and hopefully before the blight hits you get fruits. And then you can start eating. We like to make all sorts with our tomatoes like Hot Summer Tomato Soup or Passata or a million other things. This year though the crop wasn't great. Early spring heat lead to stunted plants and small, late fruits. They didn't ripen within good time of each other either. Instead of making one big quantity of tomato passata we made several small amounts of tomato sauce.

Rough And Ready Gardener's Tomato Sauce
(serves 1, scales up easily for more)

There are tomato sauces that require hour of work in summer, peeling, de-seeding and chopping until your fingers hurt. There are tomato sauces you make from a can in the dead of winter. There are tomato sauces you buy in a jar because you are cooking at your mums house and you don't even know if she owns pepper (she doesn't) Then there is this. Tomato sauce made in all of fifteen minutes because you are starving and barely have time to was the mud off your hand before you need to eat.

2 handfuls of tomatoes, about the quantity in the bowl at the top of the post,
1 tablespoon of olive oil,
1 clove of garlic peeled,
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes roughly. Very roughly.
Really, quite roughly

Pop them in a pan with the garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Get ready for heat

Pop over a medium heat for around 15 minutes, until skins are a bright red and the juices have come out.

Almost Edible
Whizz in a blender. Depending on your blender's strength and your tolerance for stray bits of tomato skin you may want to push it through a sieve too. Return to the pan, heat through and test for seasoning.
Eat this

Serve, as you would any other tomato sauce. Over pasta or polenta or on whatever you want...

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