Tag Archives: tomato

Poutu-te-rangi / March

edge
Dry maize rustles musically in the breeze

From Sweltering Summer to Temperate Autumn

The maize along the fenceline is ready for harvest. It’s a visual reminder that summer is over. The days are slow to lighten and early to darken, and the grass is thick with dew when I make my way to the barn in the early morning. The gravel road is dry and whenever a large truck rattles by, great dusty clouds drift across to settle on our solar panels.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written about South Head. Or about anything, for that matter. It’s been difficult to knuckle down to writing after taking time off over the Christmas/New Year period.

While it’s been a very long and hot summer, we’ve also had a decent amount of rain, which of course has meant that everything has just kept on growing. We’ve created enough gardens here to keep us busy every daytime hour, and for the first time I’ve been wondering if it’s too much. What with the dead-heading, the trimming, the watering, the sowing, the harvesting… not to mention the tying, the squashing (caterpillars), the sampling, the digging and the weeding, always the weeding. (It’s making me exhausted all over again, writing about it.)

alpaca
Kumeu A & P Show: curious alpaca & disinterested rooster

So… we’ve mostly been home over the weekends slaving away in an attempt to keep everything under control, with a couple of diversionary breaks visiting the local A & P Shows – I like to check out the poultry while Ben looks longingly at the tractors. ūüôā


 Bounty from the Garden

preserves
A selection of home preserves, from left to right: Beetroot; ‘Look Alike’ Lemon Curd; Spicy Tomato Sauce; Zucchini Pickle; Greek Tomato Paste

Since I last blogged we’ve harvested a parade of fresh produce, including grapes, lettuces, carrots, rhubarb, cannellino beans, sweet basil, garlic, cucumbers, peas, beans (green, yellow, purple), main crop potatoes (Agria), beetroot, silver beet, shallots, buttercup squash, tomatoes, butternut pumpkins and LOTS of of zucchini.

produce.jpg
A selection of produce, from left to right: white table grapes; cannellino beans; Rhubarb Tarte Tartin

To use up the rhubarb and zucchini I’ve made several Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and a few jars of Lemon Curd Look-Alike, as well as some zucchini pickle. But the neat thing about this year is that we haven’t had too much of one particular vegetable. Everything we’ve grown we’ve either eaten fresh, or I’ve cooked up, preserved, frozen or baked into something.

Tomatoes and Zucchinis

toms and peppers
Left to right: tomatoes & onions ready to be cooked for Tomato Relish; red and yellow habanero slices, arranged for drying

The tomatoes have been great, but I picked the last one yesterday and I know I’ll miss having them on hand at meal times. I’m glad that I preserved a good amount this season (Spicy Tomato Sauce, Tomato Relish, Greek Tomato Paste) and that I also froze about a dozen packs of frozen skinless tomato flesh for use during the cooler months.

Recipes

One of the easiest salads to throw together involves mixing chopped tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil (made into a paste), a generous squirt of extra virgin olive oil and finely sliced or diced zucchini or cucumber. I read somewhere that raw zucchini helps you feel ‘more full’ than some of our other salad vegetables, and it’s lovely and light when sliced thinly.

I love cooked zucchini, too. It’s such a versatile vegetable. My favourite quick recipe involves slicing the zucchinis thickly, then saut√©ing them in a small amount of olive oil along with crushed garlic and sage leaves. The sage leaves turn crispy and add a delightfully fragrant ‘crunch’ to the dish.

Habanero

peppers
3 stages of habanero peppers – fresh to dry

Our habanero chiles are ripening as I type, so I’m picking them each day, drying them, then nuking them in a small food processor. We’ll use the chile powder all through the year to jazz up our meals. One of my favourite uses is to sprinkle a liberal amount into cheese toasted sandwiches. Yum!! (It’s very hot, though – not for the chile uninitiated.)

I’ve also raised a pink variety of habanero this year. It’s currently at the flowering stage, so, no fruit, but I can’t wait to see what they look like!

Pears

pears
Autumn pears & the finished product

March in New Zealand is the month for pears and melons. Our old pear tree has produced a good amount of sound fruit this year and yesterday I bottled a small sample in a light syrup. Not sure why I haven’t processed our pears this way before – I usually freeze them for desserts – but I do like to see the finished product in our pantry. And it’s so easy to preserve them using the water-bath method.

I didn’t remember until after I’d finished that you’re supposed to pack the fruit tightly into the jars to avoid having them float to the top of the syrup… oh well… next time!

Melons

melons
Melon, ‘Collective Farm Woman’ (Cucumis melo)

I sowed seeds for a different melon this year, Collective Farm Woman. It’s a small Ukrainian melon from the Black Sea area, about the size of a honeydew, with pale flesh, the flavour delicately sweet and slightly evocative of bananas.


 Bantams!

bantams
Our new bantam hens (left) and Charlie

We picked up a trio of Bantams at the recent Helensville A & P Show. They’ve settled in well and having Charlie (the rooster) crow loudly at 5.15 am hasn’t been too much of a shock.

When we first let the bantams join the rest of the flock, they kept to themselves, but they’re now walking around alongside the others. They choose to sleep outside¬† – the rooster up high in a branch of one of the feijoa trees, and the two girls on the fence below. Not sure if they’ll ever voluntarily join the hens in the barn. Perhaps we’ll have to manually move them there in Winter when it gets cold at night.

That reminds me… feijoas! They’re growing plump on the trees. And just now I can see two fat kereru perched up on the yellow guava, eating the first of the golden yellow fruit. The kereru started visiting again a couple of weeks back – I guess our garden is part of their seasonal food cycle, too.


sunrise
Autumn: Looking across The Kaipara at dawn

 

 

 

 

End of February

Garden Update

The maize in the paddock next door is dry
The maize in the paddock next door is dry

It seems ages since I’ve posted anything.¬† February has been so busy and now that it’s almost over, I can’t think where the days went to.¬† The sun is rising noticeably later and setting noticeably earlier.¬† The temperature range is still in the high 20s to low 30s Celsius, but there is the ‘smell’ of Autumn in the air. It has been extremely humid, and almost unbearable for sleeping at night.¬† During the hottest parts of the day I still stay inside where it’s shady and much cooler.

The maize in the paddock next door has dried to a pale golden colour and rattles in the wind.  The days are loud with the clicking of cicadas, and the nights with the more musical chirping of black field crickets.

Much has been happening in the garden, including our banana flowering for the first time, tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, and a very good crop of garlic.¬† It’s been extremely dry, and sadly, I fear that some of the newer small shrubs may have been lost – many are looking very dry and shriveled up and it’s just about impossible to water them as the earth has become so dry and hard.¬† Large cracks are spreading in some places, and there are many patches where the grass has completely dried off.¬† The pumpkins and squashes are dying back and we’ve given up on our zucchinis.¬† There have been just too many of them.

In the vegetable garden, our best crops at the moment are basil, peas, silver beet, the last tomatoes, beetroot and chilli peppers.¬† We have a new batch of scarlet runners that look pretty healthy and the passion fruit are dropping from the vine.¬† I am always amazed at how lushly basil grows, even when it’s so dry.

Banana ‘Mons Mari’

Banana with first sign of flower spike.
Banana with first sign of flower spike.

The most exciting development has been our banana ‘Mons Mari‘ flowering for the very first time.¬† I observed the very first spike of purple (which was the beginning of the flower stalk) on Monday 03 February.

This plant has been in our garden since April 2011 – I realise now that we didn’t plant it in a very good place – it’s exposed to the wind from the North and is also in very poor soil.

The flower stalk appears out of the centre once the plant is fully grown, hanging down as the flower develops.  The male flower develops at the end of the flower stalk creating a bell, with the female flowers spiralling around the stem.

The bananas just keep on forming!
The bananas just keep on forming!

Nevertheless, it has produced an amazing flower stalk of small bananas with more still forming.  We counted 170 the last time we checked Рand remarkably this is only 3 weeks or so since the flower first appeared.

Tomatoes

A selection of tomatoes from the garden
A selection of tomatoes from the garden

We’ve had so many tomatoes that I couldn’t keep up with picking them.¬† The most successful have been the heirloom varieties, ‘Cherokee Purple‘, ‘Black Krim‘ and ‘Black from Tula‘, and the cherry tomato, ‘Suncherry’.

The latter have been dropping to the ground like berries and to be honest, we haven’t kept up with them.¬† I also grew ‘Bloody Butcher‘ and this was a very nice, smaller tomato, but nothing really beats the taste of the big beauties.¬† Some of the tomatoes were tunneled into by caterpillars, but not too badly.¬† And this year all have ripened, so I won’t be making any Green Tomato Chutney.

Left to Right: Spicy tomato sauces, Greek tomato paste, Tomato sauce
Left to Right: Spicy tomato sauce, Greek tomato paste, Tomato sauce

I’ve ended up turning just about all the excess tomatoes (and there have been kilos of them!) into tomato concentrate and tomato sauces.¬† I’m really pleased with a couple of recipes, so will post these in the near future.

This year is the first time I’ve tired making¬† tomato concentrate.¬† I tried two recipes – a plain one and a Greek version.¬† The taste of both, compared with the tomato paste you can purchase commercially, is far superior.¬† Sweet, tangy, fragrant and rich with the flavour of tomatoes that have been ripening in the sun.

Garlic

Garden bulbs hanging on the fence to ripen
Garden bulbs hanging on the fence to ripen

I’ve grown garlic for three years now at South Head and this is the best crop I’ve harvested.¬† There are more than 30 bulbs, a few of which I’ve left in the ground to mature a little longer.

I’ve read that garlic grows to its own conditions, which means that each year, if you use cloves from your own crop, the results will be better.¬† I love it that I can grow enough garlic to last an entire year.¬† We were literally turning the last of our 2013 garlic cloves into paste on the same day as we lifted the first bulb for 2014.