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Dublin: 17 °C Thursday 16 August, 2018
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GIY tomatoes: 'We are in what I like to call 'bruschetta' season'

It’s a wonderful time of the year, when a simple lunch or dinner can easily be conjured up from nothing, once you have some decent sourdough bread in the bread bin, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

WE’VE BEEN HARVESTING tomatoes since early July, but in the last few days we’ve moved in to abundance territory which is both incredibly welcome and a little earlier in the year than normal. That of course, is down to the hot, sunny weather which the tomatoes are absolutely loving.

You might recall that in an attempt to cut down the workload involved in growing 80 tomato plants, I made some changes and a bit of investment in the big tunnel – pleased to report these have paid off mightily.

Seep hosing

First up, I got myself a seep hose, rather than having to water each plant directly. The hose is laid along the ground, snaking along beside each plant. All I have to do is turn on the hose for about 4 hours a week and that’s getting the plants the 13 litres or so of water that they need.

Of course, I’ve been a little uneasy about the hose pipe ban but I am hoping my veg growing falls outside the non-essential / aesthetic category. I’m also doing my best to get the most from my watering, only turning it on morning and evenings to prevent evaporation.

To reduce weeding I also basically carpeted the tunnel in mypex, a weed suppressing membrane which also incidentally acts like a mulch to minimise water loss to evaporation. Happily, these things have reduced the workload considerably and with ongoing side-shooting help from my neighbour and friend Bridget, we’ve very little to do except enjoy the lovely tomatoes.

A daring raid

Yesterday morning I went down to the polytunnel to get a few fresh tomatoes to go with our breakfast eggs, only to walk in on a group of birds conducting a daring raid. They had managed to pull a few ripe tomatoes off the plant, and were busy gorging themselves on the fleshy fruit.

Once disturbed they flew around in a panic, getting caught in plants here and up against plastic there.  It took me some time to shoo all four of them out.

In some ways, oddly, I was happy that it was birds that were doing the pilfering, since last summer I assumed the nibbling on the tomatoes was caused by rodents which is not what you want messing with your food. Birds, while undoubtedly a pest, at least are not a major health risk. I have had to put a bio-net screen over the open doors to stop them getting in.

Bruschetta season

We are in what I like to call ‘bruschetta’ season – it’s a wonderful time of the year, when a simple lunch or dinner can easily be conjured up from nothing, once you have some decent sourdough bread in the bread bin.

Simply toast some of the bread, rub some cut garlic on it, add some slices of delicious ripe tomatoes (warm from the polytunnel), some ripped basil leaves, sprinkle with lots of sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with a good olive oil. Shake fists at the birds, and eat.

The Basics – Ways to “store” tomatoes 

Freeze

The easiest way is just to put them whole into the freezer. They can easily be skinned after freezing by immersing the frozen tomatoes in hot water for a minute or two, after which the skins will slide off when the fruit is squeezed. Then add to stews, etc.

They can also be frozen after stewing to a purée, for use as a base for pasta sauces etc. Simmer for 5 mins then sieve before cooling and freezing in a plastic container.

Dry

Tomatoes can be fully dried and stored in jars, or partly dried and stored in oil. Cut the tomatoes in half, lay on a drying rack in a low oven or in a drying box, and sprinkle a little salt on the upturned face of each half. The drying process can take up to a day depending on the size of the tomatoes – remove them when they feel firm and dry.

Store in Oil

Remove them while still a little squishy and pack into sterilised jars, covering with olive oil and sealing.

Recipe of the Week – Broad Bean and Pea Pate 

This pate will be lovely served by itself on crackers or toast. Alternatively spread some soft goats cheese on some sourdough bread and smear the pate on top.  Serves 4. 

Ingredients 

  • 300g fresh podded broad beans
  • 300g fresh podded peas
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of two lemons and their juice

Directions

Tip the peas and beans in to a large pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.

Drain, cool under cold water and then drain again. Heat the olive oil in a pan and then add the garlic – cook for 3 minutes and then cool. Whizz the peas, beans and lemon zest in a blender and then add the garlicy oil.

Add the garlic cloves, lemon juice and the tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and whizz again until smooth.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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© GIY Ireland 2018 – all rights reserved.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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