I took a break from posting the Herbaria recently. I did continue shooting the photos so I am resuming where I left off a few weeks back.
This week marks more tomatoes. All varieties have come in and many were already starting to wane at the time of this photo a few weeks back. It’s turning into a hustle to ensure that the remaining varieties as well as other frost tender plants make it into these photos before their time comes.
These last days of the tomato harvest are fast approaching and I am finding myself increasingly careful about how I use up the remaining fresh fruit. This is it and then I am back to another 8-9 month wait before I get to taste the good stuff fresh again.
It was with this late season panic infecting my brain that I decided I’d better get on enjoying a few last-minute tomato soups. My go-to, there-is-no-other-way-to-enjoy-it-thanyouverymuch method is roasted in the oven. Always with basil. I’ve probably thrown in some oregano now and again. Thyme is also a possible addition. But for the most part I am wholly dedicated to basil in my tomato soup.
I would never dream of marring the perfection of my tomato soup with another herb, certainly not a strong one like fresh sage. Never say never. The other day I was flipping through, “My favorite ingredients,” a cookbook by Skye Gyngell and stopped on a tomato bread soup recipe that used sage as its primary herbal flavour. I’ve made tomato bread soup in the past and while I don’t mind bread soups in general when the ingredients are good and the bread is appropriately dense, I’m always a little taken aback by the mushiness, a textural aversion that I have held onto from my childhood when our cheap canned soup lunches were bulked up by soggy crackers. That said, it wasn’t this aspect of the soup that caused me to pay attention, but the sage.
Sage in tomato soup you say?
I dared myself to try something different and potentially waste one of my last gluts of good homegrown tomatoes. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I used more tomatoes than were called for; I didn’t bother measuring out any of the ingredients, come to think of it. Her recipe includes a hot, dried chile pepper, but I decided to use the fresh, mildly hot peppers that are still coming from my garden. I topped mine with grated pecorino cheese. I did not use the chewy, peasant style bread that is often called for in bread soups because I didn’t have any. Instead, I opted for a few slices of stale spelt bread that I had in the fridge. Again though, it was the use of strong, earthy sage versus basil in a tomato soup that I was most interested in. The only reason why I stayed with the bread soup version was because I wanted to stretch this out into a meal.
I was not disappointed. We ate up the whole pot! This would make a particularly warming late fall/winter meal by substituting fresh tomatoes for a jar that has been home-canned (or purchased).
Behold a colourful mass of naked ladies emerging from a tangle of periwinkle that I happened upon on an afternoon walk. I highly recommend planting colchicum corms in any-sized garden, even if you are a beginner. [How to grow info is here.]
Perhaps it is a small observation, but one worth noting. This morning while working in the kitchen, I witnessed some of the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seedpods that I had set aside to fully dry bursting open and spilling their contents all around and onto the floor. The sound that they made as the seeds hit my enamel top kitchen table was audible and I wondered for a moment if it was raining.
Later in the day I went back into the kitchen for my afternoon coffee break and discovered more seedpods had burst and spilled their micro-sized contents all around.
While I was unsure about this particular poppy’s chemical constitution (I am always careful to wash my hands thoroughly after collecting the pods), the sight of them spilling onto the floor did make me pause and consider the myriad of garden collected seeds and seedpods that I have sitting in bowls, trays, and shallow dishes around the house at this time of year. I am used to living with an adult human and a cat who couldn’t be bothered with my strange human messes. But since last January we have welcomed a scruffy dog into our life, and like most dogs she is a living Hoover, vacuuming up anything that seems even remotely edible from any surface within reach. Everything is a potential snack until it has been tested and either rejected or approved. This made me think about those of you with young children who collect and save seeds from your garden. I don’t know how you do it. The task is rife with so much potential for little seeds ending up in little mouths.
I consulted a number of books on my shelves in search of an answer as to California poppy’s toxicity, and found it in Marjorie Harris’ “Botanica“:
It is exquisite close-up. Design by nature.