Beautiful things for you and your home!

Lots of homely thoughts on sewing, baking, papercrafts, gardening and all the things that go towards making your house a home

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Making Soup, Sauce, and Grow Your Own

It's been a funny old year, weather wise. Certainly not the best summer for grow your own - whilst we didn't have the drought that they threatened us with, a situation which the media revelled in, conjuring up hype about how we would all be queueing with our buckets at the local stand pipe, it turned out to be rather the opposite!

There was plenty of water raining down from the sky. And whilst it wasn't reaching scorching temperatures all that often (something I for one, didn't mind), it wasn't exceptionally cold either. Which all led to a rather muggy, damp summer. Around this time last year, our garden was pretty much decimated as we had to replace the boundary wall. The plants against it were overgrown and out of hand and needed to be ripped out so we could get to the area to build. There was big brown, muddy patch on the lawn where we had stacked cuttings as we shuffled them bit by bit in the compost bin and to the tip. Once it was finished, the wall looked fantastic, but the garden looked a little bare and sorry for itself. We managed to save a couple of plants and I bought a few more, and got a couple of donations from my Dad in the form of some red hot pokers that hadn't performed well at all in his garden. As we have different soil, we thought we'd try them here. Although the smaller one didn't flower, the bigger one sent up 5 or 6 flower spikes over the season. In its previous home, it had only sent up one spindly one, so it seems quite happy where it is now.

When I look at the garden now, it's hard to believe it's only been in a year, some of it less. The amount of rain, combined with enough warmth to get shrubs going, if not annuals so much, has resulted in the plants putting on quite a lot of lush growth! So, there's an upside for some of us.

On the other hand, my Mediterranean veg haven't fared so well.

I was having a fight with caterpillars on my chilli plant and found that apparently, they like to sleep in the chillies! There was a little hole, just the one, on most of my chillies. They munch a doorway, crawl in and take a kip! Although I could cut that bit off, I didn't fancy eating something a caterpillar had taken a snooze in so I whizzed them into the compost. I don't use chemicals so I made up a concoction of mushed up garlic, some chilli powder and a squirt of washing up liquid, and mixed it all with some water. I then strained it and put it in a sprayer bottle. I squirted this a few times over the plant, and it seems to have done the trick. I've actually been able to pick some chillies for use now. The aubergine and pepper have been quite a disappointment. One on each plant. The aubergine did have another but it had grown right at the bottom and with so much rain, it started to rot where it touched the soil. Another time, perhaps some straw underneath might help.

I also grew several tomato plants. We went back to more well known varieties this year after a disastrous outcome last year with 'natural', non hybrid seeds we'd sent for. Again, there's been a lot of lush and leafy growth and one of the Tigerellas got so big, it was wedged up with several stakes from the front as it had bent the large metal stake it was tied to! I've had a lot of pickings, and spent most of the day the other day making tomato soup. I tend to use Delia's tomato and basil soup from her Complete Cookery Course.

The book (available here at a great price). I also made 3 batches of tomato pasta sauce. My favourite recipe for this is Annabel Karmel's roast cherry tomato and mascarpone sauce here .

Both of these recipes call for the soup/sauce to be strained to get rid of any skins or pips at the end. After doing it the first time, I've never bothered with this step again. By the time it's all been blasted into oblivion with the food processor, it's fine with me if I get the odd tomato seed.

And as you can see from the picture, I don't stick to cherry tomatoes for the sauce recipe either. Whatever I have is whatever gets used. Still tastes just lovely!

Once again though, that damp humidity has had some affect on my plants. Blight appeared so I've had to get rid of a few of the plants and am just trying to get as many of the other fruit to ripen as I can, as I keep an eye on them and make sure it's not spread to any more. This is the second time I've had it on my tomatoes after years of not having it, but with the last two summer's we've had, it doesn't surprise me. And as Monty Don on Gardeners' World had his tomatoes attacked by it this year, it shows it's not just us amateurs who've had the problems.

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