The balmy days of autumn have come at last to the Adelaide Plains, the sun shines on the gardener’s work from a gentle clear blue sky and months of effort are beginning to bear fruit as crops reach fruition and the harvest begins.
There are some 13 garden beds in this large kitchen garden, each one a little different to the others. Global financial disasters prompt others to move their funds into secure stocks and bonds; around here, we invest instead in truckloads of commercial organic compost. After years of effort, we’ve built up a rich black friable soil from the underlying red clay; this provides us with nutritious fruit, herbs and vegetables, exercise, a closeness to nature and a sense of purpose and connectedness with our food supply. These days we fence the chooks out and the garden in, and the tomato and eggplant bed above hosts about 36 producing tomato vines that are staked and interspersed with basil plants. Each week now sees a few more bucketfuls of tomatoes brought up to the house for bottling and storage.
From top left, clockwise, are ‘Amish Paste’, ‘Red Oxheart’, ‘Burpee’s Delicious’, ‘Mortgage Lifter’, ‘Tommy Toe’ (red cherry tomatoes) and ‘Golden Sunrise’ yellow cherry tomatoes. All of these will be used for bottling sauce and purees for winter consumption, as we have plenty of tomatoes left over for eating fresh.
The best tomatoes are selected and tomato seed is saved from them for next year’s crop.
All the remaining tomatoes are cut in half and brought to boil gently in large pots, then excess fluid is drained off through muslin cloth into pots and stainless-steel buckets and put aside by the cook for other purposes. The main mixture is allowed to cool before hand-pressing into puree.
These new Italian plastic tomato presses are inexpensive (AUD$50), stronger and lighter than earlier metal machines used by our Italian neighbours. We set ours up outside on a stainless-steel tray, and squeeze the mixture through two to three times to thicken up the puree and minimize wastage.
The net result is a bucketful of tomato puree that now needs to be bottled; we use a soup ladle and small plastic funnel to feed this thick sauce into old sterilized beer bottles and jars saved for the purpose, and capable of taking a tightly-fitted lid that will allow the mixture to be boiled for 20 to 30 minutes without spilling over. A fresh basil leave is placed in the top of each jar to add flavour. (Left over basil is used for making basil pesto).
Bottles, capping machines, large pots and buckets; all these household items represent a long-term investment in our kitchen and garden – just like the compost mentioned earlier, but not subject to the vagaries of world-wide economic markets.