Saturday, July 29, 2006


This has to be the most gratifying time of the year for the city farmer who has worked hard throughout the summer. Courgettes are yielding a regular crop, apples are ready, winter squash and pumpkin are ripening nicely, and best of all, given a little sunshine, the tomatoes are ready.

Nothing can beat the taste of a freshly harvested tomato, still warm from the sun, popped into your mouth in the garden. And the possibilities for salads – my favourite is insalata caprese, tomato, basil and buffallo mozarella, with a little salt & pepper, and some olive oil drizzled over it. I could eat it every day, as long as the tomato and basil supply lasts.

Tomatoes and basil Posted by Picasa

Tomatoes can be tricky in Irish weather. This year was a a good one for me – we’ve had lots of sunshine. There was something funny going on at the start of the growing season, though, and there didn't seem to be as much fruit as last year. (Which was my best year ever for tomatoes.)

My kind neighbour with the greenhouse germinated some cherry tomato seeds for me – the yellow cherry tomatoes have done particularly well, and the red cherry tomatoes (the seeds for both were really cheap in Lidl) are doing great too. I have planted all of these in containers, in the sunny part of my garden, and the only difficulty has been with keeping them sufficiently watered.

Tomatoes grown outside in Ireland tend to develop a slightly thicker skin, which has a slight impact on the taste – especially with cherry tomatoes, which would have a higher proportion of skin to meat. But the flavour more than makes up for any skin chewiness.

I ended up with lots of cherry tomatoes this year by accident more than design. I had a notion that they would be easier to ripen, and this year they are certainly proving me right.

So what to do with the glut? Make your own sundried tomatoes.

Recipe for Sundried tomatoes
Lots of ripe cherry tomatoes -
Rock salt
Olive oil
White wine or distilled vinegar (anything except malt or balsamic, really)
Clean jars

Cut the tomatoes in half. Place them skin side down on a baking sheet with a little salt sprinked on it. Place in an very low oven - lowest temp possible for 8 hours or so. When they look sufficiently dry and shrivelled, remove from the oven.

Dip them into the vinegar, quickly, and fill the clean jars. Add a clove of garlic and some basil, in the middle of the jar. Put in as many tomatoes as will fit - don't be afraid to squish them. Add the olive oil to cover, put the lid on.

Sometimes I boil the closed jars to ensure that they will last for longer. Once opened, refrigerate.


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