Monday, 15 September 2008

Tomato Tales, Trials and Troubles

The tomatoes have had a mixed year this year. They got off to a good start with all of the seeds i sowed germinating in April, not going too leggy and lanky. For 2008 i planted the few remaining beefsteak seeds i had, some tumbling toms for the hanging baskets and also opened a packet of seeds that simply said "tomato" so i had no clue what variety of tomato i was going to get. They were from a bargin multi packet of seed that Nan had picked up in a £ shop. But they all germinated nevertheless.
So by May i had a lot of healthy looking plants, of course having sown more than i would need just in case i lost a few. That certainly happened with the squash plants but the tomatoes continued to grow....
They survived varying temperatures and weathers......
and the hanging baskets even survived attempts on their by squirrels, who decided they would be a wonderful place to bury some peanuts! You can just see some peanut skins left in the one above.
By August i had 5 growbags, 3 hanging basket and 1 spare one who ended up in the ground. so that was a total of 5 beefsteaks, 11 mystery tomato plants, which as you can see from above turned out to be cherry tomatoes with a very high yield, and 11/12 tumbling toms divided between the 3 baskets.
Sadly due to a little lapse in concentration from me, quite a few of the beefsteaks got blossom end rot (the one at the top of the photo), and after chucking the first one as i thought something had burrowed into it, mum alerted me to the issue of blossom end rot, so from then i simply brought them in for the fruit bowl to ripen. The other 3 beefsteaks in this photo were subject to another preditor - the caterpillar. These were in my mini greenhouse, so i presume a butterfly or moth had got stuck inside and whilst stuck in there had layed its eggs. I originally thought they were just munching the leaves and despite my efforts to pick them all off (both little green ones and larger brown ones) it seems i didn't get the all, as i started to find tomatoes with chunk out of them too! So they came in and joined my others in the fruit bowl.
Before long i had almost 1/2 dozen green beefsteaks ripening and then the cherry tomato enslaught began. My 11 plants started ripening left right and center.
So i thought i'd transfer them into one big bowl rather than having lots of smaller bowls all over the place.
Even the beefsteaks with blossom end rot ripened perfectly and all that i lost when i trimmed the was a slither off the side, the mark didn't go very deep at all.
Then within the last 2 weeks the real trouble started. Blight! Ah, every tomato (and potato) growers worst nightmare. Initially i thought i'd escaped it this year, but then i spotted in on my 3 cherry's by the back door. I bought some Dithane spray (anti fungicidal), took off the leaves, sprayed the stems and took off any dodgy looking fruit. I then started bringing in all fruit that had started to ripen. I'd rather have them ripen indoors than loose them completely.
With so many ripe cherry toms i thought i'd try preserving a few by oven drying them. But 4 hours in an oven isn't very eco friendly really....
I also picked up some smoked tomatoes when i was in London at Marylebone farmers market a couple of weeks ago, and also got to sample them at borough. So i thought i'd give that a go myself. I spotted an inexpensive smoker bag on ebay and bought that. I had plenty of tomatoes to use so if it didn't work it wasn't the end of the world. Putting them in the bag didn't work, it simply seemed to steam them and they weren't drying out, so i cut the lid off the bag. But even tho the smoke wasn't contained in the bag, it was still contained in the oven. They did end up with a light smokey flavour, but whether they will still be that way after being in the jar of oil who knows.
Mum and D were playing around with a more eco friendly smoker last night - not using electricity for 4 hours!! It didn't really work on such a small scale though and we just couldn't keep the fire burning on a low heat. I haven't looked this morning to see if anything happened to the tomatoes at all.
Like i said, there are plenty to play around with!! In fact this was a couple of days ago and since then i took down the ones by the back door as the blight had got out of control. So there are now hundreds of green tomatoes too! But i'm planning to try this green tomato cake probably without the nuts tho, and maybe a few more healthier alterations. should probably try and scale it down a bit too as i just don't have 12 people to serve!!

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