SUPERSIZE YOUR TOMA­TOES

NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Crop Of The Month -

HAD TROU­BLE WITH PSYLLIDS THIS YEAR? TAKE AC­TION to avoid dis­ap­point­ment next year. Auck­land gar­den­ers Shona Smith and Alis­tair Aitken in­stalled a mesh-cov­ered cage in their back­yard big enough to ac­com­mo­date their en­tire tomato crop. The frame is a fruit cage from Hunkin Gar­den Prod­ucts re­sized to fit their gar­den beds. Tent-mak­ers Made in Can­vas fab­ri­cated a made-to-mea­sure cover of hor­ti­cul­tural mesh from the Bi­o­log­i­cal Hus­bandry Unit at Lin­coln. The cover has a zipped door and 200mm flaps on all sides, weighted down with wood and bricks. Alis­tair says it’s been well worth the trou­ble and ex­pense. “It’s the best fruit I’ve ever had.”

There are other ad­van­tages. The cage pro­tects from wind, birds, rats, green shield bugs, tomato-stem borer and other pests.

Out­side of the tomato sea­son, Alis­tair will use the cage to pro­tect bras­si­cas from white cab­bage but­ter­fly. Alis­tair has planned for crop ro­ta­tion too. He has three beds the right size for the cage. Sec­tions of con­duit pipe have been sunk into all three beds to sup­port the legs of the cage. When it comes time to move, the cage can be lifted from one bed to an­other.

And what do the cou­ple do with their pic­ture-per­fect crop? Some are frozen for win­ter casseroles but most are eaten raw, oven-roasted with an­chovies or given away.

You could also try LIZZY'S TOMATO REL­ISH. Ingredients • 2 ta­ble­spoons fresh minced gin­ger • 2 ta­ble­spoons fresh minced gar­lic • 2 tea­spoons chilli • 2 ta­ble­spoons oil • ¼ tea­spoon each fenu­greek, black sesame, mus­tard and fen­nel seeds • 1 tea­spoon salt • 400g chopped toma­toes • 6 chopped dried apri­cots • ¾ cup sugar

Sauté the gin­ger, gar­lic and chilli in the oil in a large pan. Add re­main­ing ingredients, boil un­til thick­ened, then pour into jars and store in the fridge for two weeks.

Fancy Bar­bara Smith's TOMATO CON­CEN­TRATE? Freeze 1-cup por­tions for use in soups. Ingredients • 5kg toma­toes • 2-3 onions • splash olive oil • any of the fol­low­ing: 2-3 stalks cel­ery, 2-3 cap­sicums, 1 chilli, basil, cour­gette, oregano, thyme, 1 ta­ble­spoon each cel­ery and mus­tard seeds

Boil the toma­toes in a small amount of wa­ter for 5 min­utes, then press through a mouli or a coarse sieve. Gen­tly sauté the other veg­eta­bles in the oil un­til soft­ened. Add the toma­toes and herbs and cook un­til thick­ened. Freeze or bot­tle (wa­ter bath the bot­tles for 10 min­utes).

Or make Bob­bie Ni­cholls’ TOMATO CHILLI JAM. Ingredients • 2 ta­ble­spoons oil • 3 small onions, finely chopped • 2 cap­sicums, de­seeded and chopped • 500g toma­toes • 100ml malt vine­gar • 300g white sugar • chilli flakes or paprika • salt and pepper

Sim­mer the veg­eta­bles in the oil un­til soft. Add the vine­gar and sugar, then sim­mer with the lid off un­til it has re­duced by a quar­ter. Sea­son to taste with the salt and pepper. The fin­ished re­sult should be glassy and sticky like jam. Bot­tle in ster­ile jars. Makes about three small jars.

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