Monday, 23 June 2014

The Gentle Art of Tomato Tickling...

One of the main reasons we acquired a greenhouse for our new garden was to be able to grow our own tomatoes once again. We never got around to putting one into our last place, due to the fact that we spent a good deal of time working away so it wouldn't have got much use. But as soon as we moved in here we drew up garden plans and decided where we would site our greenhouse. So earlier this year I started some tomato seeds off in a little plastic greenhouse we've had ever since we lived in France, because they collapse down to nothing they are handy to have around for the start of the growing season. The chosen varieties included Super Marmande, Roma and Gardeners' Delight. While waiting for these to put on a growth spurt I rescued a sad looking Sungold plant withering away on the bargain shelf of a store and took advantage of a giveaway in a gardening magazine for 3 different varieties of tomatoes, (unfortunately I lost magazine details and can only remember that one was also a Sungold and the other two will remain mystery tom plants).

Once large enough, 23 of the plants where planted into the greenhouse. I decided to try the 'ring' method but instead of paying out for pre-made plastic collars I charmed Gary into cutting the bottoms off plastic pots. These were plunged into the soil borders and then the tomatoes where planted into these. An elaborate cane and twine 'rigging' was constructed for them to romp up and then the wait began.

I now have a Saturday ritual where I spend a happy half hour keeping company with all the growing tomato plants. Firstly they get their side shoots nipped out. Then they receive a dainty knot of twine to tie them higher up their canes. Their feed comes next, a large glug of seaweed extract shared out between them.

And finally comes the tickling...other people leave it to the bees, some people use paint brushes to transfer the pollen from flower to flower. But I prefer to take off my gardening gloves and with a tender touch of the finger gently tickle the flower centre and work my way slowly around each and every delicate yellow flower bell. They also enjoy some quiet conversation. Yes, like Prince Charles I too commune with nature. It must be working, talk of the weather, soil conditions and what I'm making for supper seems to be inspiring them to put forth lots of trusses of tiny green orbs. Hopes for a bumper harvest and painting inspiration abound.

Simply Super Marmande
Tiny truss of Roma tomatoes, perfect for pasta sauce

It is so different growing tomatoes here in the north of England than the ease in which we grew them in the veg garden at our little farm in France. When we bought our home there everyone told us how you just put things in the ground and they simply grow. How true they were, we would plant either home grown seedlings or perhaps something that had caught our eye at the local market and within days they had established themselves and were reaching for the sky.
We had so many tomatoes that we could pick them off the vine and eat them as a juicy snack while working the soil. And at the end of the season we had sufficient to make chutneys, pickles and jars of sun dried tomatoes to last us through the winter months.

Just planted tomatoes in foreground with old roofing used as stakes
Everything we grew there flourished, the only task other than picking things was spending time watering the veg beds, and having an acre filled with 22 beds meant two very long hosepipes connected together!

Back to here and weekend work in the Studio.
Gary finished his latest wildlife print and we uploaded it into our online shops yesterday. 
A rather shy Badger emerging from his well hidden sett in the green depths of Bracken fronds.

Mr Brock venturing out

With the end of last week being so chaotic - mainly brought about by the workmen bashing away mending our sadly sagging roof gable ends - I completely forgot to make some olive rolls for Friday night's pasta supper. Now, no matter how you try and convince yourself that homemade, seeded, wholemeal rolls will work just as well with a bowl of Spagetti they just haven't got the authentic appeal of a rustic olive roll. I found time on Sunday to rustle up half a dozen olive studded rolls to enjoy with Sunday's Italian inspired supper.

Just out of the oven...

The recipe is simply a white bread recipe but it is made extra special with the addition of a handful of flavoursome olives. I prefer to perk up my own olives, I buy brined ones and then bottle them with good olive oil, oregano, peppercorns, chilli flakes and lemon rind. After sitting in this mix for a few weeks they turn out full of savoury flavour.

And now starts the working week...
..this week will see Gary working on another countryside inspired print, while I will be cutting the final plate of my next floral piece. And, of course, there will be tomato tickling...

"If life deals you lemons, make lemonade; if it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys".

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