A couple of months ago, we planted out a few packets of tomato seeds, including some that were sent to us by Heinz. Fast-forward to June and we have about 3 dozen plants that are fast outgrowing their pots and need to be planted out on our allotment.
Last year’s crop was very disappointing; some of it was down to the weather, but if I’m being truthful, they were a little neglected and were in dire need of some tomato supports.
We’re really impressed by the plant halos (#2). They’ve had lots of good reviews and it’s claimed that they can boost your yield as it encourages two sets of roots to develop.
We didn’t really think about using tomato grow bags on the allotment, the tomato plants have always gone into beds – in which case frames #1 or #2 would work well. However, if planting into the ground isn’t an option – or you’ve had good results with grow bags, there’s currently an offer on a set of halos with an eco-friendly reusable grow bag for £17.00. We don’t have a greenhouse ourselves, but we might actually try one on a windowsill to test and compare results.
- Tomato support cage: £7, Wilko
- Tomato plant halos (set of 3): £10.95, Harrod Horticultural
- Fold-a-frame: £19.99, Suttons
Justin doesn’t normally get involved with the Thursday recipes – well, apart from taking the photos! However, this week, he’s actually done the cooking too. Don’t worry though, you’re in safe hands – as he was a chef for about 15 years before re-inventing himself as Mr H is for Home – and he does most of the savoury dishes in our household anyway.
We mentioned this lovely all-purpose tomato sauce in last week’s pizza post. Most people list tinned tomatoes in their store cupboard essentials, but we always have batches of this home-made tomato sauce in the fridge or freezer.
It’s quick – only taking about an hour – and very straightforward too.
It’s so flexible. The addition of ground black pepper and Parmesan makes for a simple yet delicious pasta sauce. It also provides the base for a myriad of other recipes. You can add all sorts of ingredients to it for some wonderful dishes – meatballs, chicken, fish, olives, roasted aubergines & peppers to name but a few. If you reduce it down and concentrate it a little further it makes the perfect tomato sauce for pizza topping. The recipe can be scaled up to suit requirements. You can also tweek quantities to suit your own taste – more garlicky, more olive oily etc… and add other herbs if you like too.
We make up a batch of home-made tomato sauce every few weeks and put a couple of two-portion containers into the freezer – ready to grab as required.
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Luxury home-made mincemeat
- 200g/7oz currants
- 200g/7oz raisins
- 200g/7oz sultanas
- 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
- 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
- 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
- 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
- 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
- 200g/7oz vegetable suet
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 3tsp mixed spice
- ½tsp cinnamon
- ¼tsp nutmeg
- 6tbsp rum or brandy
- 100g/3½oz butter, cubed
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- Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
- Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
- Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
- Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
- Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
- *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
Our potatoes have been chitted & planted out, the first of our veg seedlings have sprouted, it’s time to start thinking about getting some tomatoes started.
Our garden (and allotment for that matter) is really shady, a definite no-no for sun-worshipping toms. The sun only hits our back garden from around 1pm, and only at a height of 4 foot and above. We have a tall south-facing fence so we’ve decided to try growing tumbling tomatoes along it. We have a couple of hanging baskets and just bought some hanging grow bags.
Mark Ridsdill Smith aka the Vertical Veg Man recommends ‘Cherry Cascade’ for hanging baskets. In a Telegraph gardening trial ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ came out tops. After some research, we’ve come up with this short-list of tumbling tomato contenders.
- Tomato ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ (10 seeds): £2.25, Marshalls
- Tomato ‘Gartenperle’ (25 seeds): £1.49, Crocus
- Tomato ‘Cherry Falls’ (15 seeds): £3.19, Mr Fothergill’s
- Tomato ‘Romello’ F1 hybrid (6 seeds): £3.99, Thompson & Morgan
- Tomato ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ (8 seeds): £3.99, Suttons
This year we decided to grow more of our own – and we’ve got no excuse, as Todmorden‘s the home of Incredible Edible.
We have a variety of crops to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Most of them are growing in containers as much of our garden is paved with stone cobbles. It also makes protecting them from the ubiquitous slugs & snails much easier.
We use lots of the old galvanised metal ‘dolly tubs’, buckets and bins.
The plants seem to like it!
Potatoes, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, courgettes, squash, peashoots, salad leaves, a variety of herbs – and yes, those are figs.
There’s still a little room for some flowers.
Perennials like the hostas, astilbes and lupins return each year like old friends. Although this year’s harsh winter saw a few losses.
To these we add a few annuals – osteospermums, lobelia and the like.
We’ve enjoyed working in the garden this year. We don’t think self-sufficiency is here just yet – but hopefully we’ll reap some rewards!