This has been a brilliant summer for tomatoes, I’ve harvested so many and they are still ripening even though the polytunnel plants have now been affected by blight. I remove the blighty leaves and any damaged tomatoes – these are composted, it is fine to do this in the UK.
I’m grew 25 different varieties of tomatoes this year, mostly in my polytunnel with a few plants chancing their luck outside. This was my polytunnel on the 23rd May this year…
And in early September – the photo on the left is a view from the back of the polytunnel and the other from the front, where lemongrass is growing enthusiastically too.
Sadly I have had to remove most of the cucumbers and all of the melons because they got downy mildew, a fungal disease we haven’t had here before. There are just two cucumber plants remaining, providing a small harvest now.
I check the tomatoes regularly for side shoots and any old or damaged leaves. The tops were pinched out on August 12th, again so that the tomato energy was going into ripening fruit not more flowers, which probably wouldn’t ripen at all as the days start to get shorter and temperatures drop.
I was helped with the picking and side shooting by a very young robin!
This tomato has self seeded in a crack in the concrete!
We cook the tomatoes and eat them fresh in many different ways – one of the pleasures of summer. I grow far too many for my small family so that I can preserve enough to last us until next year’s tomatoes start ripening. The different ways we preserve tomatoes are:-
Canning – homemade tomato sauces, pureed tomatoes, whole bottled tomatoes etc are preserved in my Weck waterbath canner
Chutneys, pickles, tomato jam – a great way of using tomatillos and green tomatoes too
Dehydrating – using an electric dehydrator, the tomato slices last for over a year
Freezing – I freeze tomatoes raw – cherries whole, larger tomatoes chopped – and also roasted. Great to add to soups and stews in the winter.
Upside down tomato tart
This is based on Anna Jones’ tomato tart tatin recipe which was published in the Guardian on 15th August, which looked delicious. Her tart has a pastry base with a slow roasted tomato topping – mine is more of a pie!
Ingredients – there are no quantities because you can adapt it to suit what you have
200g packet of puff pastry – shortcrust pastry would be fine too. Two packets if you want a big tart! I used some that had been lurking at the bottom of the freezer for a while. I always make my own shortcrust pastry but have never tackled puff. Roll this out until it is slightly larger your tart dish.
Red wine vinegar (alternatives – Balsamic, homemade fruit vinegar)
Basil and oregano
You’ll need some large trays for roasting and a dish for the tart
Halve the tomatoes, put them cut side up in the trays and drizzle with olive oil. I filled 2 large oven trays with tomatoes frugally so that the oven was full. Add salt if you want, I sprinkled on black pepper. And we had a lot of tomatoes! Put in a pre-heated oven at 100C/210F for 3-4 hours
Meanwhile, slice onions – I used a mixture of red and yellow, 3 of each (we really like onions) – and chop garlic (we really like garlic so I used 4 cloves.) Pour some olive oil in a large solid pan, add the onions and garlic and cook slowly over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Half way through, drizzle some red wine vinegar on top (1-2 tbsp).
Chop the oregano and basil. I used about 1 tbsp of chopped fresh oregano and 2 good handfuls of basil.
When everything is cooked, grease the pan and lay the tomatoes into it, squishing them together gently (Anna says ‘in a kind of mosaic.’) This is where my recipe deviates somewhat. Sprinkle on the chop fresh herbs. The tray is now full of wonderful tomato juices which I just couldn’t discard. If I’d been making a soup or stew for another meal I would have drained these into a jar and put them, when cool, into the fridge. So I poured them on top of the tomatoes, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all of those juices on top of the tomatoes.
Spread the onions on top of the tomato, scraping the pan to get all of those oily garlic onion juices into the dish too.
Place the pastry on top of the dish and tuck inside all around, so it covers the mixture.
Put in a preheated oven 200C/400F for around 30 minutes until the pastry is puffy and golden. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
Anna’s tart is now ready to turn over, but mine is too full of juices and would ooze! So I cut the pastry into serving sized pieces, then used a large spoon to ladle the pie onto plates.
It is delicious hot and cold the next day.
variations … add other summer gluts to the roasting tomatoes – aubergines, peppers, courgette.