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.]
Last weekend while preparing a medley of roasted root vegetables for lunch, I popped outside to collect fresh herbs, as I often do, a pair of scissors in hand.
Living in a place where I can see the garden from the kitchen and simply pop outside to pick herbs on a whim was the dream I had when we were looking for our next place to live. While there was a long list of criteria that superseded this small point, it was ultimately this vision that kept popping up in my mind as an ideal.
Prior to that there was always some barrier. In the apartment there was a separation between our living quarters and the rooftop garden. I was never able to look out at it fondly from indoors and popping out for herbs wasn’t really difficult, but it wasn’t accessible in the way our garden is now. Furthermore, a good portion of my herbs were grown in-ground at the community garden plot, which meant planning ahead and cooking with fresh herbs that weren’t minutes or even seconds off of the plant as they are now. It’s one of those small differences that makes me feel happy and grateful to have found this house, regardless of its many (MANY) faults. We’ve affectionately named it “Home of the Half-Assed” for a reason.
But I digress (as always). The real reason for this post wasn’t to tell you about the garden or my small dream. It was to say that while I was outside collecting herbs, I remembered the Jerusalem artichokes that have been waiting in the ground to be harvested. These chunky tubers taste best after they’ve been touched by the cold weather, but I will admit that the real reason I had put off harvesting them was that I was afraid to face the sheer quantity of tubers that are lurking below the surface, and the work I will need to do to preserve some of them. I’m still dealing with the tomatoes, believe it or not!
We arrived home late from an evening spent with friends on Thursday, October 27 to the realization that several plants and crops would be spoiled or dead by the morning if we did not act fast. So it was in a panic that we bundled up and headed outside with flashlights and bowls to collect as many of the remaining green tomatoes as we could manage, along with pots of tender perennials that were meant to be overwintered inside. I’m so grateful that we got home when we did because some of the most exposed plants were already covered in frost and others were slightly frozen!
The kitchen was a disaster for days afterward. Every large bowl in the house was filled to overflowing! The basement and fridge doors along with the coffee machine were inaccessible. Guess which hurdle was tackled first?
With a heavy heart, I pulled up and composted the roselle plants (Hibiscus sabdariffa) this weekend.
They were done. The cold had become too much for them. Their leaves were turning crispy and dropping rapidly. Amazingly, the false roselle is still going and has not suffered the same damage. It seems to tolerate the cold better so I have left it in for the time being.
I had hoped to make sorrel (the drink) this winter using my own homegrown flowers, but alas none of the hibiscus plants made it that far. The two sabdariffa plants did produce tiny flower buds, but the cold came on and stopped their development before they could reach a mature size.