May the roof above us never fall in
And may we good companions beneath it never fall out.

~Irish blessing

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rouge de Marmande - 1st prize

We have decided the best tomato of the season has been the beautiful Rouge de Marmande. Sown from Franchi seed well after some of the other varieties, it is the tallest, most productive and has sweet, juicy fruits up to 250 grams! We nicknamed this one Big Bertha.

Franchi seeds are available at Italian supermarkets such as Cardamone in Fairfield - and can be purchased online at

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Autumn Sowing

While temperatures are still nice and warm in the low 20s, I decided to get the winter and spring crops started.

Sowed: Snap peas, snow peas, podding peas, broad beans, spinach and tatsoi; plus more broccoli, cabbage and winter lettuces.

In the new wine barrel, and a few pots, we also planted out seedlings of brassicas and leeks, and one slightly chewed brussel sprout, so fingers crossed on that one.

Thinking of lots of delicious cavalo nero soups. Bring on winter :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tomato Relish

With all this warm weather well in to March, the tomatoes that were started late, and slow to take off, are now going strong. We have about 19 plants in our small backyard, mostly in containers, and my husband is bringing in atleast a few handfuls every couple of days, and earlier this week a whole basket load.

Some of our favourites have been the San Marzano's (below), and the Rouge de Marmande (pictured further down), both grown from Franchi seed.

The San Marzano's have beautiful firm flesh and a rich flavour that's great for cooked sauces. The Marmandes are softer and velvety inside and are lovely in salads and sandwiches. We also grew some San Marzanos from seedlings purchased from the nursery. The tomatoes produced are more egg shaped like a Roma, and still make a good cooking tomato, but I prefer the pointy, more authentic version from Franchi.

The Tommy Toe (Diggers seed) and Black Russians also have great flavour, and another one worth mentioning, that I initially wasn't sure about because of it's generic name, is a tomato we purchased by Floriana called 'Pot Tomato' - In a 15 inch terracotta pot, it has produced 4 heavily laden branches of very sweet and flavoursome, large globe shaped tomatoes, and it's still flowering. Next year I'm aiming to start all my tomatoes from heirloom seeds, but if I were to buy another seedling for a pot this would be high on my list.

So what are we doing with all these tomatoes? I made a batch of bolognese, as well as a tripe and tomato stew over the weekend. Today I tried my hand at what started out as ketchup, but ended up more of a chunky chutney or relish. Very easy and delicious.

Tomato Relish - Makes one large jar.

125g sugar
85ml vinegar
850g tomatoes
1 small apple
1 red onion
1 tbs salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
a good grating of nutmeg
4 cloves

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer for about 40 minutes. Store in a sterilied jar - washed with warm soapy water then placed in a 120 degree oven for 20min.

Enjoy :)

NOTE: Franchi seeds are available from