SUPERSIZE YOUR TOMATOES
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.