Tag: tomatoes

This disconcerting summer

It’s been a strange summer alright. And a challenging one. Since writing my last blog post in the middle of what has been a catastrophic bushfire season across much of the mainland, followed by floods in other parts of the country, and now the new and unknown reality of coronavirus – or COVID-19 – most of the world is now living in lockdown, physically isolated from family, friends and work, and existing in a surreal kind of silence.

The pandemic has certainly changed the face of Australia, and although it’s concentrating the minds of our leaders, most state premiers have risen to the challenge very well. Others not so much, but it’s been surprising and encouraging to note, (after a rocky start in the case of PM Morrison), that Tasmania’s premier, and Scotty From Marketing, are handling the crisis efficiently and with authority. I’m no fan of either man, but credit where it’s due and they do appear to be steering the state and the country well at the moment.
Certainly these extraordinary times put into perspective the mundane and micro nature of the personal everyday. Those raspberries and tomatoes that were proving to be so tardy back in February have more than made up for their production delay in the weeks since. The natural world shows scant regard for the concerns of humanity, and both crops have forged on regardless. Until a few days ago picking them was a daily task that took at least an hour, such is their time-consuming abundance, but the dessert of raspberries we’ve now enjoyed every evening for weeks has been a joy. Unsurprisingly, tomatoes have also been a fixture in all but a very few of our meals – with the exception of breakfast.

As anticipated processing tomatoes has also been a regular item on my To Do list during the past few weeks, so the freezer is now full to capacity. Few meals are served without tomatoes featuring somewhere on the plate, and although friends and neighbours have thankfully helped relieve us of some of this excess bounty, there are few signs production is slowing. It makes up for their earlier tardiness of course, but I will not be upset when I can finally declare this particular harvest over.

Lockdown life is otherwise proving no hardship, which is my good fortune, and I’m well aware of that fact. We have space to move, a garden to keep us exercised and occupied – and plenty of tasks indoors to catch up on. And quite apart from anything else there are books. Plenty of them, and for the first time in years, a bit more time to read them without feeling guilty.

And, even more importantly, there is time (and fewer excuses!) to write my own major project, even if in my determination to catch up on some of those aforementioned tasks, it’s taken a little while to settle down to doing so on a regular and determined basis.

Growing pains

It’s been a strange summer so far as growing and harvesting vegies goes, and I know from speaking with others that we’re far from alone in wondering if and when the tomatoes are going to ripen. Ditto the raspberries. We have two varieties of rasps, one is early, the other late – even into May/June if the weather is kind. This year though both are proving frustratingly tardy.

Despite lush green growth and looking fabulously healthy, the former has limped along providing us with meagre fare. The other teases with literally masses of fruit that’s budding up well, but which stubbornly refuses to reach the pickable stage.

It should be noted that I absolutely adore raspberries so to potentially have so many sitting there refusing to ripen is driving me nuts!

Tomatoes are also proving incredibly slow to show any hint of colour; although I did pick the first couple yesterday. The vines are loaded and John is moaning that summer will be over before the tomatoes are ready. Personally I doubt it given the changing climate means warm summer days now extend well into March, and even April even if the nights are cooler.

I just look at both crops and think, Oh my goodness, when they do actually ripen they’re going to do so all at once, and in a rush, and for a few weeks my life will be dominated, both by picking them, and then – in the case of the tomatoes especially – processing them and cooking up a storm ready to freeze for winter soups, casseroles and pasta sauces.

This is of course a good problem to have, and I’m not complaining, but it makes me wonder how the commercial growers of our fruits and vegetables are managing since their crops must be similarly affected, and with climate change it’s a seasonal production situation likely to become ever more challenging.

As for me well I’d be naturally much happier if these two crops could have sorted their growing and ripening styles a bit more conveniently. But at least they are growing, and they do look like ripening soon, and that’s a good thing. I just need to be patient and wait for nature to do her bit. Which she will of course, but in her own good time.

In the meantime there’s an abundance of cucumbers and thornless blackberries, a steady supply of capsicums, a second crop of peas to anticipate, and what currently looks like considerably more pumpkins than we managed to harvest last year, so we’re unlikely to starve. Always a plus.

Summer is berry nice . . !

By the time March comes around all the daily harvesting of produce does become a bit tedious and rather a grind, but there are compensations. One of them is having a steady crop of raspberries and strawberries for weeks on end.

The strawberries have been into their second fruiting for a week or so now and are producing well, while we have two varieties of raspberries; one an early fruiting variety, and the other that produces in autumn. Despite the weather being far from autumnal so far this year, the latter variety is going gangbusters and there are loads more berries to come. Which is lovely, and I’m definitely not complaining, but at the same time I’m rather over having to devote time to picking them each day, and the scratched arms that go with the territory and are an occupational hazard.

I was in the UK last year from early May, but for almost the entire month John continued to enjoy a generous handful of raspberries for his dessert each evening, something he gleefully told me each time we spoke, and the way things are looking this year will be no different – unless the weather changes dramatically of course which isn’t looking too likely at the moment.

As for the tomatoes, still they come, although they are slowing up rapidly. I’ve chopped, sliced diced, and cooked them up with the usual onions, garlic, chilli, capsicum and zucchini; made relish, and given masses away, and once again the freezer is chockers, so the pressure is off when it’s time for winter-warming casseroles and pasta dishes.

This year though we also have more than a few containers of raspberries and boysenberries jostling for freezer space, which is of course a very satisfying position to be in as we head towards cooler weather, darker days, and the inevitable colder nights. In the meantime the Tomato Cookbook has pride of place on the bench as I seek out new recipes to keep pace with these fabulous fruity vegetables while they remain so abundant.