post depot - forward planning

The Post Depot, forward planning the garden.

Any aspiring self-sufficient couple has to learn how to deal with a glut of one particular food. This requires some ingenuity.

In early March Janet put tomato seeds into pots which stayed in the warm conservatory for a month. Almost all the seeds germinated and grew quickly, and in early April I had to move them into the garden. I dug, manured and peated trenches a foot deep to provide plenty of food for the greedy plants – twenty-four metres of trenching, allowing 60cm per plant.

P1030808 support tomato & cucumber
Based on experience of previous years, when in summer a strong wind could wreak havoc on my bamboo supports whilst the plants were heavy with fruit, I decided to make a really stout support for the tomato plants to climb. We went to a post factory and bought a dozen hefty posts 2.2 metres (seven feet) long.

The resulting structure was eight metres long and 1.5m high! No chance of the wind blowing this over, and enough room for us to experiment with climbing cucumbers too.

Jen's Tangerine tomatoes

Jen’s Tangerine tomatoes

We put in fourteen “Jen’s tangerine tomato”, three local “Chucha” long and four “Maça” big round tomatoes, and seven long cucumber plants. Beside those, we planted aother fourteen of an early spreading variety, Latah.

We fed all our vegetables with 10% solution of our own wee, which is both a fast-acting and a slow-release general fertilizer. Within two weeks all had rich green foliage and were doing very well.

Once the fruit forms we stop urine feed and use Wilko’s tomato feed, which has higher levels of potassium and magnesium, and less nitrogen.

Janet beside the chucha tomatoes with maca in the foreground.

Janet beside the chucha tomatoes with maca in the foreground.

 

Barely three months after planting we had loads of spreading red tomatoes and plenty of the orange variety – brilliant timing. On 1st July our friends Lenka and Justin came from London to stay – Lenka loves tomatoes, and would happily eat them for every meal. She was able to go and gather as many as she wanted, and eat as many as she desired. We had a lovely time with them.

P1040041 Lenka1cropb small

They work in the wine trade (Justin is a Master of Wine and Lenka soon will be!), they brought their expertise to share with me, champagne to enjoy together, and were excellent company – a real treat!

After they left the plants were really in the peak of production and Janet began conserving the crop, picking every few days. For a month this takes at least an hour a day! The first few kilos are pureed because their flavour is not yet at its sweetest; they go into the freezer. Once the plants are in full production the fruit is more full-flavoured.

Early Latah tomatoes, some pureed and the others to be sun-dried.

Early Latah tomatoes, some pureed and the others to be sun-dried.

We drizzled the first batch of Jen’s Tangerine tomatoes with olive oil then slowly roasted them at sixty degC for a couple of days, turning the oven off and leaving it ajar at night. Then they are preserved in olive oil, thyme and garlic, and put aside for winter use.P1040071 roast toms in oil

This  would work well in the UK if you have access to lots of cheap tomatoes.  Clive loves them with homemade brown bread and mature Cheddar cheese – he can easily eat thirty halves!

P1040136 sundry2

For sun-drying, the toms are cut in half and spread on a tray with the cut side up. They are covered with a muslin cloth to keep insects off and left on a table in the full sun. They have to be brought in at night. After four days they are done. We could sprinkle the cut face with cracked pepper or herbs first but we prefer the natural taste, which is very rich.

Oven-dried Jen's tangerine ready for bottling

Oven-dried Jen’s tangerine ready for bottling

We all love them in winter casseroles. These sun-dried tomatoes are lovely in winter – preserved sunshine.

 

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