30 Oct 2009

Bees on Earth … Goodwill to all men

Recently, a friend of the York Rise Growers wanted to come over and show our children how to build bee hotels but, in the end, didn't have time.  The idea, though, remains a good one - I love bees; for me, they signal the arrival summer - and children, taught properly, have a healthy interest in bugs and the environment.

I took the photo above during a walk earlier this summer.  This little fella was too busy collecting nectar (and pollinating the flowers) to notice my camera lens nearby.  I've also had a number of buzzing visitors to my balcony this summer - by chance I grew lavender, marjoram, mint and marigolds (amongst others) which they love - and several have found their way indoors and had to be rescued with the old "tumbler and card" trick.

But there's a continuing international crisis in the bee world: a Bee-mergency, if you like.  Their numbers are rapidly diminishing due to an inability to resist larvae-borne disease and environmental factors such as loss of habitat (chalky grasslands, meadows and hedgerows).  In the UK alone, three species have become extinct - including the wonderfully named Bombus Pomorum (Apple Bumblebee).

Several campaigns are under way to try and reverse the trend but, amazingly, the plight of the bumblebee is not yet a conservation priority.  Not only are bees major pollinators of wildflowers but they're also commercially important due to their vital role in pollinating many arable and horticultural crops.  No bees: no crops to harvest; no wildflowers; no colourful UK countryside; loss of rare plants and a knock on effect on other wildlife.  Now times that by Europe, USA and Asia.  Okay, now you're getting the scale of the problem. 

There are ways that we can - and should - help.  After all, bees are the only insect to make food for mankind.  On a modest scale, if we make space in our gardens for more traditional flowers - the cottage-garden varieties or wildflowers - everyone should be able to attract at least 6 species of bees into their gardens.  Fruit and veg growers especially will benefit as we need bees to pollinate our plants.  (Beans in particular will thrive if companion planted with marigolds at their feet to draw in bees, as their scarlet flowers must be pollinated for an abundant crop.)

Until the end of December in the UK, look out for special jars of Rowse Blossom Honey which have a unique code for claiming a free packet of wildflower seeds.  (Rowse has already donated £100,000 to the University of Sussex's Apiculture Lab for research into developing disease-resistant UK bees.)

As they said at the Isle of Wight Festival this year:  (All.We.Are.Say-ing)… is Give Bees a Chance!

Here's how to help:

Build little Bee Hotels so that the queen bee has somewhere nice to make more baby bees. Find out more at BBC Gardener's World (Loving this one as I can use dead Japanese Knotweed stems – of which we have many – instead of bamboo!) 

Build a bee nesting box - lots of ideas here from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Plant flowers which will attract bees (and butterflies!).  Here's a list of flowers to get you started from (unsurprisingly) the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Teach your children about bees:  Rowse Honey have set up Bee School (a teacher's resource for children aged 5 - 7), including a free honey tasting kit and free seeds for the class!  (There's also honey recipes to be found on Rowse's own website here.)

More fun can be found on the Edible Playgrounds website - scroll down to Help the Honey Bees.

28 Oct 2009

When Herbs Freeze over …

 I read somewhere that parsley can be difficult to grow from seed - a fact which I'm questioning as our parsley (grown from seed by a child) is lush, tall, abundant and still growing strong.

We're all cutting it for our casseroles and soups but there's still loads.  I know you can chop and freeze parsley but it was still pleasant to come across an article on freezing herbs on the Gardener's World website.  Apparently Basil and Mint, as well as Parsley, can all be frozen in individual ice cubes which is great news as I've never had much luck growing herbs indoors.  Still… maybe I'll give it another go this winter - I'll let you know.

26 Oct 2009

A nice cup of Tea with Cake …

Sundays, weather permitting, seems to be the day when we go out to the Veg Patch and dig, sow, harvest, chat or loaf around discussing next year's planting plan whilst (if you're me) gazing encouragingly at this year's plants.  And at the end of all this hard work, in the time honoured tradition, a nice mug of tea and a slice of cake has been earned. 

I like a bit of cake at teatime, it's the way I was brought  up.  My mother ran a tight ship where meals were concerned and you could set your watch by her schedule for afternoon tea.  When my siblings and I were very young, we had proper tea: sandwiches first - or perhaps boiled egg and soldiers (fingers of bread and butter) - then fruit or jelly (if we were lucky) and, finally, cake. Always, always, homemade.  My maternal grandfather was a baker by trade and, when we went to visit, he would make the most beautiful fairy cakes for us; I particularly remember a plate of cupcakes iced with tiny swans - and I don't mean drawn on; they swam in 3D formation across the tops of the little cakes. How totally cool is that?   

My cupcakes are nowhere near so spectacular but I still believe they should look tempting.  With lingering thoughts of the cupcake mountain from the Regent Street Festival, I decided to make cupcakes rather than a whole cake.  Half these cupcakes were swirled with coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chocolate strands (above) and the other half were reserved for my Secret Surprise.

The recipe is what is known as a basic 4, 4, 4 and 2.  (Experienced bakers will immediately recognise this as a classic Victoria sponge cake mixture).

Secret Surprise Cupcakes
(makes 12 in a Muffin tin.  Use Muffin sized cases.)

4 ounces butter; 4 ounces caster (fine) sugar; 2 eggs at room temperature (UK medium size); 4 ounces flour (Self Raising, sieved).
Also 1 teaspoon Baking Powder and 1 teaspoon good quality Vanilla Extract.
Milk to loosen if mixture is not 'dropping' consistency at the end - add as needed but go easy and start with 1 Tablespoon.

Preheat oven to 180C.  Mix softened butter and sugar together until very pale and creamy.  Add eggs plus a couple of tablespoons of flour to stop any tendency for the eggs to curdle.  Mix.  Use a metal spoon to fold in the rest of the flour (with baking powder added). This keeps the air in the mixture.  Add the vanilla extract.  Test consistency of mixture.  If it feels thick, add a little milk.

Two-thirds fill each muffin case.  (Any leftover can be shared between the cases.)  Bake for 15 minutes.  Then test by patting the top with your finger.  If the cake resists, they're done.  If not, give them another 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack.

Here's the surprise:

When cool, slice out a cone shape from the top.   Add a dollop of strawberry jam in the hole (preferably homemade) and a spoon of whipped or thickened cream.  Replace the cone of cake, push down slightly and dust with icing sugar.  Secret Victoria Sponge (cup)Cake!  And, to my  mind, utterly delish - and a fair reward after a day's gardening.

Cupcake revealed …

22 Oct 2009

Temptingly Tasty … (lovin' this lunch)

Loving this lunch …

One of my gardening books that I'm re-reading - and thoroughly enjoying - is 'Veg Patch:  River Cottage Handbook No. 4' by Mark Diacono.  He's the Head Gardener at River Cottage in Devon (the restaurant/farm/venture that put chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the media map) and also teaches on the River Cottage courses.  He's written the book in a way that makes a first-time veg grower like me feel excited about what I'm doing – his passion for gardening is evident on every page; listen to this: "If you've got better things to do at 8 o'clock on a mid-June evening than pop freshly shelled peas into your mouth as you amble round your vibrant plot with a glass of what you fancy, then life must be pretty special."  (Definitely a  kindred spirit, especially the addition of "a glass of what you fancy", although I would also add a friend or two into this scenario.)

On making a wish list for what to grow, Mark advises:  put away your growing books,  get out all your food books and make a list of all the food you like that can be grown.
"Think firstly of flavour and you won't go far wrong."

And that's what I thought of when I sat down to eat my lunch: a delicious mix of Rainbow Stir Fry, rice noodles and coriander cut fresh from the kitchen windowsill.  Every crunchy, flavoursome, filling mouthful tasted of good health on a fork.

So now I know…  next year I have to grow bean sprouts, cabbage, red and yellow peppers, baby corn, red onions, carrots and edamame soya beans.  In the meantime, there's always Waitrose* …
*For non-UK readers, Waitrose is one of the big 5 food retailers in UK.

Foodie Fact:  
A lunch like this will make you feel good beyond it's sheer visual delights:  A rainbow of veg will supply fibre as well as a range of vitamins and minerals.  Vitamin A is found in carrots and peppers as beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to VitA when the body needs it. (And did you know carrots are more nutritious when cooked?) Soya beans supply protein and are rich in potassium and a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folate and Vitamin E (needed for healthy bones, teeth, nerves and muscles).  The peppers are excellent for Vitamin C (green peppers contain twice as much VitC as oranges, red peppers three times as much) - as are the Sprouted Mung Beans (one portion provides three-quarters of the adult daily requirement for VitC).  Cabbage is vitamin rich and well known for it's anti-cancer properties, especially bowel cancer - and only 16 calories per portion when boiled (hence the famous Cabbage Soup diet - which I loathe to mention as I hate "dieting".)  Small bunches of Coriander are used in Herbalism as a tonic for the stomach and heart and also strengthens the urinary tract.  Rice is a good source of starch protein which steadies blood sugar levels, but you can't grow it in the UK.

See?  Yum, yum - and anti-aging from all that vitamin C (vital as a building block for collagen).

21 Oct 2009

The best for your blueberries

(Blueberries, raspberries and redcurrants atop a large dollop of Greek Yoghurt.  
Yum.  I'm looking forward to recreating this dessert with my own soft fruits next summer!)

Even I have to admit that it's now Autumn.  Crisp, sunny days (a rare treat) alternate with grey skies.  The ends of the day are not yet frosty but soon, I think …  weather that's giving us a sharp reminder of pre-winter work to be done in the veg patch. 

I've got broad beans to go in with the other overwintering veg - a vegetable which I'm personally not very fond of (too many memories of school dinners) but maybe Home Grown will change my mind and, if not, plenty of others have professed a liking for them.  And, of course, there's our four blueberry bushes and two lemon trees to go in, all of which need to be planted before the rest of our Orchard arrives … and the beds have to be cleared and prepared.

So, because we're not yet seasoned gardeners, I just like to have a quick nod to the experts and today's invaluable advice comes from the BBC Gardeners' World website with a little video of the correct treatment when planting blueberries (and cranberries), most importantly the use of Ericaceous Compost.  Click here if you're interested in viewing this for yourself.

I've just learned that the above video is no longer there so I've edited to include this page from Gardeners' World about blueberries. 

P.S.  The photo is of one of my favourite ways to eat fruit (i.e. over thick Greek Yoghurt) and, obviously, any fruit is nice on top but I also like to finish it with some chopped pecan nuts and a drizzle of runny honey.

19 Oct 2009

Our Brick Skip Hour …

A load of old bricks

If you happened to be in the Kentish Town Road at 6.30 a.m. last Friday you might have seen my … ahem … derrière sticking out of a skip.  (If you were sensible, you'd have looked away quickly.  Ho, ho;  No, not really, I'm sure my bum didn't look that big in it …  Er, why's it all gone quiet?)

I'd spotted a skip load of lovely old weathered bricks as I cycled home the previous afternoon, a sight which quickened my heart.  (And, believe me, there's not a lot that does that these days…)

As the ground in the vegpatch is a lot damper in these Autumn days (which is good) and quite a lot of it goes home on the soles of our shoes, we needed to put down some little paths next to our raised beds.  And because we want to keep appearances up, we thought brick would be nice … except they're expensive and we have a tiny budget.  So the Skip Sisters (L and me) were on the lookout, and also passed the word around.  After many weeks, and many people claiming to have "only just got rid of" theirs, fate presented us with this bountiful haul.  And, by the way, I wasn't up at the crack of dawn because I doing anything illegally, but because the traffic is dreadful in Kentish Town.  I had, of course, asked permission to take the bricks as, I imagine, would all of you lot.

Now then, where are those builders when you need them?  Er, Frank?  Frank?  *Tap, Tap*  Is anyone there?

15 Oct 2009

A matter of priorities …

October Peppers - still growing!

I can't believe how quickly the time has gone since Saturday's jaunt to Camden's Good Food Day, what with the arrival of our first fruit trees on Tuesday and Wednesday (on which topic, I think enough has been said), plus we've had a couple of beautiful sunny, fresh autumnal days so, obviously, back out into the Veg Patch for some happy time, and a chance to look around the place with my camera lens. Sometimes there's so much good stuff going on you just don't know where to start …

Ooo… lucky D.  What a stunner! 

But first, a quick update on Saturday's event.  It was quieter than I anticipated - but hopefully lots of people went along later because there was some good stuff there: inspiration and education for food growing, advice about healthy eating and food waste, food co-ops and the seed exchange.  I chatted to a variety of folk doing sterling work in the community; hopefully a few of you will click through to their websites, below, and be inspired by the good they do - or maybe you already have something similar in your part of the globe.

Let me just say this - Real Bread making skills are back on everyone's agenda (as part of a community food project and as a free workshop on the South Bank on 24th Oct - more details nearer the time)  and I'm pursuing a line of enquiry about making huge baskets for plant growing - see Global Generation below, and I've made simple recycled plant markers from a top tip on City Leaf's website. (I also made some of my own which I'll show with a tutorial - mine are also recycled, but prettier, naturellement.)  Utterly F.A.B.

And, as they say, last but certainly not least:  Pumpkin progress.  We're watching this one.  Only 2 weeks to go before (say it quietly) … snip, snip, snip.  (Ouch! I feel so mean saying that.)

Here are a few highlights from Saturday:

Sustain - loads on their website about food, the environment, urban agriculture, workshops, training and grants.  Recommended! 

FoodWorks - Cooking and redistributing surplus retail food overstock as nutritious meals to needy people in the local community.  (Inspired by the Campus Kitchens Project in the U.S.A.)

Global Generation, engaging with younger generations to promote change in both the community and business.  (Take a look at their website; I was inspired by the large baskets they made to grow veg in at a local school, especially good if you only have a concrete patio, balcony or rooftop at your disposal.)

City Leaf:  Helping would-be gardeners make the most of their growing space (however small).  The website has some interesting tips and advice for gardeners - even if you're not local to London!! (Yayy, something for the non-London readers!)  …  I would, however, take them to task with their by-line "Grow Food Not Flowers".   For shame, guys!  Flowers are edible (nasturtiums, violas, lavender, marigolds, sunflower seeds, for heaven's sake!) … and companion plants … and pretty up your growing space to make it even more inviting.  Okay, I rest my case.  Point made.  Getting off my soapbox (for now).

14 Oct 2009

One size fits all …

Folded tree on right, Snapped tree on left.  (Middle tree not a lemon)

A few weeks ago when placing our Orchard Order, we added lemon trees thinking it would be so educational for the kids to watch lemons growing… nothing at all, of course, to do with the usefulness of having a ready supply for the occasional G&T or Tequila shot - although, now you mention it …  (And yes, apparently these particular trees are hardy enough to bear fruit even in the UK.)

So, today:  Arrival of lemon trees.   In gardening terms, this is the equivalent of getting a new puppy and should have generated a surge of excitement but, as it happens, turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.   The supplier had packed them into one-size-fits-all boxes and literally folded them in half to get them in!  [Sighs with utter disbelief.]  Hello??  Is there anyone with a brain in there?  Needless to say, branches are snapped off and phone calls will be made...

13 Oct 2009

Blueberry Thrill …

Welcome to our world - our new arrivals!

The hot news of the day here is the arrival of our Blueberry Bushes - were we excited?  OhYes!  We love blueberries. Immediate thoughts of next summer's harvest:  blueberry pies, blueberry cake, blueberries picked straight from the bush - blueberry heaven!   The packaging around the shrubs was Very Clearly Labelled:  Bottom (Heavy) and Top (Light) …

And then we found ourselves wondering, "Which part of that didn't the van driver understand?"  One of our bushes arrived with it's bottom in the air and understandably, after hours of plant yoga, no longer at it's best.  There is a very happy outcome to this though;  L contacted the supplier - the (newly) highly recommended Wiggly Wigglers - and they immediately offered to send another bush and gave advice on pruning the damaged one, which they said we can keep.  They are very nice people, and we thank them.

10 Oct 2009

Seedy Saturday …

 Share the Love…  
Butternut Squash seeds (I hope you don't throw yours away!)

Have I  mentioned that we're in the Borough of Camden (yes, reasonably close to that Market/tourist magnet -  more info here).  Far more interesting though, I've just heard that today is the launch of Good Food for Camden with various events being staged across the Borough, including Apple Day (with prizes for the best Apple Cake!), tours of growing spaces and my nearest event a seed and produce swap (with food tasting and plants to take home) at Somers Town (round the back of the British Library).

Gosh, I do love the fact that we have all this great stuff going on.  So, spur of the moment decision, I'm off to flaunt my wares. Don't look at me like that.  I'm talking about my veg - as you well know - and possibly a few swopsy seeds in my little seed packets.

I'm going with my Investigative Reporter hat on, and camera, and will report back on Monday.

Thrilling times, folks, thrilling times. 

If you can get to this event, check out What's On in Camden for times, etc. (the map's wrong, go by the postcode).

9 Oct 2009

Oh My Gourd!

Change of plan folks - and my Secret Surprise cakes will have to wait for another post.  (Sorry, 'bout that but I have an urgent veg/soup situation).

I've been granted permission to harvest one of L's butternut squash, lovingly grown on her YorkRise allotment and, having recently tasted the most delicious B'nut Squash soup made by my niece, I had to make a batch and bring this bowl of goodness to your attention.  A soup, by the way, which can be made in haste whenever a quick and satisfying lunch (or supper) is needed for extra guests or hungry children – my family are all soup-makers and use whatever veg we have available.

Here we go:

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

You will need:
1 Squash, 1 Sweet Potato, 1 Onion, 1 litre (2 pints) chicken (or veg) stock, 1 oz butter.
Optional:  a few fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley) - finely chopped, swirl of chilli sauce, homemade croutons.

Melt butter slowly in large pot or casserole dish.  Chop onion, add to pot. Cover with lid so that the veg 'sweats'.  Peel and dice squash and sweet potato.  (In case you're wondering, I don't use garlic in this recipe as I make my chicken stock with garlic, but you can add a clove or two if you wish.)

Add diced veg to the onion in pot, replace lid.  Leave to cook for about 10 - 15 minutes on a very low flame (we're still just softening the veg), but check and stir round from time to time.  Add the stock.   Season with a quick grind of sea salt and pepper.  Bring just to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool and blitz in a blender. (If you blitz before cooling,  you'll blow the lid off your blender if it's over half full - and scald yourself in the process.  Believe me, I know.)  Or leave chunky if you prefer. 

Blitzed to a puree and waiting to be heated through for lunch.
Either way, heat up a bowl for lunch, garnish with herbs, croutons, creme fraiche or chilli sauce - any or all of these! - and chunks of warm crusty bread …

Here's a thought:  Instead of adding chilli sauce at the end, you could chuck a finely chopped chilli in at the beginning with the other veg - or add a dash of Tabasco sauce during the simmering. 

8 Oct 2009

Just Sow Stories …

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."  
~Theodore Roosevelt

Excuse me while I just chortle gleefully and give thanks for the fantastic weather we've been having.  And, yes, I am talking about the rain over the last three days.  It was just what we needed to give our newly sown seeds a good start, and - correct if I'm wrong - aren't the clouds supposed to keep the warmth down on earth level and keep the frosty nights at bay?  And today's glorious warm sunshine has been the icing on the cake. (Mmmm, caaaake…  check back tomorrow for the weekend recipe - cupcakes with a surprise!)

Anyway … last weekend, as I worked in the VegPatch, I decided that it's only just no longer September.  We're an Urban VegPatch (cities being warmer than the countryside) and taking global warming into consideration as well, I thought there might just be time to get some more seeds in the ground.  ("He that waits upon fortune is never sure of a dinner."  Wise words indeed from Benjamin Franklin).  So, maybe it was a bit foolhardy, but another five lots of veg have gone into the raised beds and I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed for a slow descent into winter.

So, what d'ya reckon?  Could I be channelling Percy Thrower at the moment? (What do you  mean, who's he! I'm not that old.)

The view this bright and sunny morning. The parsley is huge after all that rain!

October Overview 
Still eating: lettuce and other salad leaves, radish, parsley (and from YRG allotments: butternut squash, tomatoes, sweetcorn, tomatoes).
Almost ready:  beetroot, salad onions, green tomatoes
Watching:  L's enormous Hallowe'en pumpkin ripen!
Just sown:  Kale (Nero di Toscana), winter spinach (Scenic & Viking), Raab (broccoli), garlic, blue radish (Hils Blauer Herbst und Winter).
Still to sow:  Green Manure (Phacelia tanacetifolia) for next year's beds. Allegedly improves soil structure and revitalises soil.  I've also just dug sand into our heavy soil… we'll see.
On order for November delivery:  Fruit trees (apple, pear, Victoria plum, Morello cherry); UK hardy lemon, early and late raspberry canes, blueberry bushes, watercress seeds.
Still to buy:  Horticultural fleece for the chilly months ahead and some cloches.
On the lookout for:  a nice cheap wooden greenhouse.  Anyone got one going spare near London?

6 Oct 2009

From Plot to Pot …

 (Photo courtesy of BBC Dig In Recipe booklet)

Here's a little something you gardening cooks might enjoy… a little pdf booklet of simple vegetable suppers from Nigel Slater (well known TV chef in UK).

His recipes are inspired by the vegetables grown from free seeds distributed as part of the BBC's Dig In project, for example - Carrot Fritters, Stove Top Squash with Toasted Crumbs.  As Nigel says, "Growing your own grub is the best seasoning your food can have."  (Er, Nigel, let's just keep it real. Home grown might taste better but nothing substitutes for salt and pepper in my book.)

See what you think.  Download the booklet from the BBC website here.  (And enjoy the rest of the site while you're there … there's a little blog about the project with some good tips for winter veg.

5 Oct 2009

Cardoons (I think)!

 Found on a recent walk round …
Okay, I may be getting a teeny bit obsessed with seed collecting.  My eyes now rake across the content of other people's gardens and process the location of any seeds worth gathering.  This beauty stopped me in my tracks a couple of days ago.  A seed head about 9 inches across, fluffy and spiky.  What a beaut! But still standing up (and in someone's front garden) so off limits.  However … on the return journey I noticed quite a few seed heads lying on the ground within easy reach (Yayy!) - and quite obviously neglected by the householder.   So I've rescued one and have since been dissecting, pulling and photographing.

I didn't know what it was but after a very satisfying flick through 'RHS Garden Plants and Flowers', I have my answer: it is a Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) or, possibly, Wild Thistle Artichoke.  

Apparently it's almost a weed, grown for architectural interest in UK gardens, loathed by farmers as its parachute seeds (plumose hairs with achenes attached) settle happily into their crop fields.  See what a little bit of reading will do?

Forgive my naiveté, and stop laughing seasoned gardeners, but this learning curve is what makes gardening so compelling.  And imagine my surprise when I found out from Sarah Raven's book 'The Great Vegetable Plot' that you can eat the stems! Awesome. Apparently they do it all the time in the Mediterranean.  

Yes, you're right … I really should get out more …

Achenes (ahem) on blue linen

4 Oct 2009

Tasty Tomatoes recipe …

Well, I promised … and I like to think I'm a woman of my word.  So for those of you that fancy packing your lunchbox this week with a few tomatoes on Ciabatta (or an oven-dried tomato salad) and want the recipe(s), go here. (This will open up in Google Docs and allow you to view and print.)

And from the reader's forum of Grow Your Own magazine, I've found Green Tomato Soup - which sounds, er, fascinating… I'll let you know.  More Green Tomato recipes on that website here.

Green Tomato Soup (courtesy of http://2-sheds.blogspot.com/ ) serves 6

1 oz butter
1 lb green tomatoes, sliced
8oz potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 pints stock
1 tin beans like barlotti/pinto/cannellini
1/4 tsp dried sage/thyme/mixed herbs/whatever
salt and pepper
a handful of rice
125ml single cream or a splash of chilli sauce (optional)

1. Fry the tomatoes, potatoes and onion in butter until softened.
2. Add the beans, stock, herbs, rice, salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
3. Simmer for 30 mins or until the veg is tender.
4. Blend 2/3 of the soup and return to the pan (If you like it a bit lumpy)
5. Stir in the cream/chilli sauce and reheat.

Bon appetit, lovely readers!  Let me know how you get on if you decide to give these a go …

2 Oct 2009

An Excess of Delight… (Gardener's variety)

From this …
… to this

Those two days of heavy rain earlier on seem to have worked wonders on Miss P's outdoor reared tomato vines. (Or could it be that she's been talking to her plants again … Hmmm.) I found her in her growing space carrying off a huge bag of toms - with plenty more ripening on the vine and masses of green tomatoes still waiting.   One option is to freeze the ripe tomatoes (I'm told it works well and the skins slip off easily when defrosted) but also worth mentioning is a version of Nigella's moon-blushed tomatoes - one of my favourite kitchen makes (after cake, of course! - priorities, people).  

It's incredibly basic but very yummy (if you like tomatoes … um - duh).  Preheat oven, chop tomatoes in half, lay out on a tray, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of fine sugar, dried herbs, salt and a glug of olive oil.  Bung in oven.  At this point Nigella would have us turn the oven off and leave overnight (hence 'moonblushed' - how sweet).  What suits my tastes (and greediness) better is to leave in the oven for 10 minutes with it still on, then turn off and leave tomatoes in oven until it's cold (about an hour). They're still juicy but the flavour is probably less concentrated than it should be. (I tried the original way once and found the tomatoes too dry.) 

What I did this time, though, was to remove the tray of tomatoes after 15 minutes to the smaller oven above my main oven (which had heated up nicely from the cooking going on below), and then I quickly knocked some bread together. (That'll be my inner domestic goddess showing off…)  When the bread was ready, the tomatoes were taken out of the oven and spread over slices of warm bread (are you feeling hungry yet?); and the remainder spooned into storage pots.  (I always save those small lidded pots as they have many, many uses. Take note.)  I also tried using fresh chopped herbs from our various gardens, which I feel worked well (and with the added bonus that I'm not dead yet).

If you want the full recipe (my version), I will shortly add a pdf link to a downloadable page.

Foodie Facts:  This recipe is good for you! Tomatoes contain lycopene which is concentrated by cooking and which may help to prevent some forms of cancer.  Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins C and E so very good for fighting off those Free Radicals.  Fresh herbs (Sage, Thyme, Oregano) are also beneficial.  Sage is antiseptic and antibiotic; Thyme aids digestion, helps break down fatty foods and is also antiseptic; Oregano (sweet marjoram) eases bad colds and has a calming effect on nerves.   Olive Oil helps in the absorption of Vitamin E and is high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids which lower blood cholesterol.
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