Tag Archives: tomatoes

The best tomato pasta in the world!

In any normal year, come August and September, Mr Mac and I usually take on an orange glow due to the amount of tomatoes we eat. Our staple diet is usually this simple pasta dish which originally came about as we had to find ways to use up all the tomatoes.

This year it was 21 September before we ate it for the first time and I have been waiting all summer to share it with you!

It takes minutes to prepare and you can leave it in the oven for an hour and go potter in the garden.

Ingredients

  • one big bowl of tomatoes
  • spaghetti
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Fill a bowl with ripe tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Wash and slice in half (or quarters if they are large).
  • Place in a roasting tray and add a generous helping of salt, freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a glug of balsamic vinegar.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C until the mixture has reduced and the tomatoes have started to caramelise. This usually takes about an hour. Check after 30 minutes and give it a stir. It will look very watery but, trust me, it will reduce down to a gorgeous sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Boil and drain the spaghetti and stir in the tomato sauce.
  • Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

We have tried adding garlic but I think this makes it bitter. Chorizo works well cut into small cubes and also using chilli oil instead of olive oil adds a nice bit of heat. However, I believe the tomatoes are always the star of the meal and this is definitely a case of less is more.

 

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Finally, the 2012 inaugural tomato eating ceremony!

On the evening of Thursday 16th August 2012, Mr Mac and I were finally able to  pick our first tomato of 2012. It was one of the sungold variety and despite the appalling growing conditions it had, it did not disappoint.

It has become tradition that we share the first tomato each year. So the tomato was picked from the vine, taken to the kitchen, washed, sliced in half and sprinkled with a little salt. This year we contemplated some black pepper (I know – we are just crazy) but quickly changed our minds.

On the count of three we both ate our little half tomato. It was so sweet and delicious it probably did not even need salt.

Sungold really are the sweetest tomatoes I have ever come across and I have a challenge with fellow blogger  Carrot Tops that they are sweeter than his favourites, gardeners delight.

Unfortunately, I had to wait another 4 days before any more were ripe enough to eat and finally, in the middle of August, I was able to go down to the greenhouse and pick my first salad!

If Noah had a garden……

…..do you think it would have looked like this?

 

 

 

 

Or this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardeners in the UK will  relate to my plight. For those elsewhere in the world, this is not just another Brit moaning about the weather. Record after record has been broken since April and today was just one downpour too far for my already waterlogged garden. There has been so much rain that I have not needed to water any plants outside since May! After this afternoon’s deluge, what the slugs had not eaten has been washed away. Underneath the water in the photo are livingstone daisies, snap dragons and california poppies.

Apparently it is all down to the jet stream being in the wrong place but if you are to believe the weather forecasters it is on its way back to where it should be and things should be back to normal soon. For central Scotland that means humid drizzle and frizzy hair!

On the plus side we have harvested and eaten the first early potatoes. Having read the books, when first earlies flower, that is the time to dig them up. However, we waited and waited and they never flowered. The stems went yellow and fell over so we decided to see what was underneath.

The main crop tatties are in bags in the garden and are currently being decimated by slugs….but that’s a whole other blog, dear readers!

My experiment to have early carrots and petit pois worked and both crops have been eated and frozen respectively. Unfortunately, the second lot of carrot seeds I planted seemed to stop growing when they got to about 1cm high and as I have not got round to planting some more I now find myself having a bit of a carrot shortage. The peas outside are flowering so hopefully there should be more of them soon.

The spinach and pak choi were great but lack of maintenance meant they went to seed before we could eat it all.

Outside we have started to pick raspberries but as I write, the strawberries are under water! The blackcurrants and gooseberries should be ready for picking this weekend – jamtastic!

My first head of cauliflower has formed and there have been some small spears of brocolli. I need to research how you are supposed to pick  grow brocolli because mine just seems to flower immediately before an actual head forms. It’s tasty all the same. If anyone can help, please tell me where I am going wrong.

And finally, I have three tomatoes! In recent years we always started eating tomatoes around mid-June. Now we are half-way through July and look at how far behind we are. I am looking forward to my first roast cherry tomato and spaghetti supper.

 

 

 

My blue wall seems to be orange and purple!

My little sister emailed me yesterday and pointed out I had not posted anything for a while. I realise this is true but there is a reason. Every time I sat down to write something all I could think about was the awful weather, nothing is growing and how the garden is being eaten alive by slugs.

I am one of life’s positive people – irritatingly so sometimes. My glass is always half full etc etc etc but when midsummer night came and we were sitting in the dark with the fire on – normally we would be sitting outside until after 11pm – even I found it too hard to think of something positive.

Since then, the temperature has risen to a level that is still below average for this time of year but slightly warmer than the record breaking coldest June on record levels experienced recently. And there has been the odd sunny spell. It is still very wet, that combination of heat and damp that conspires against straight, shiny hair (ladies, you’ll know what I mean), but that is why scrunchies were invented.

So last night when I got home I wandered round the garden looking for something positive to tell you all and, despite recent adverse conditions, there is some good news.

My experiment growing early carrots and peas inside the greenhouse has paid off and I now have lots of the sweetest petit pois and Autumn King and Purple Haze carrots to eat. The spinach and pak choi are also ready for eating.

The tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, basil, coriander, peppers and chillies are all making progress, the aubergines are in the bed in the greenhouse and I have flowers on my melons (ok how many of you are hearing Kenneth Williams saying “ooh matron!”).

Outside, the brassicas are happy and there is beetroot, fennel, beans, peas and mangetout. The strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants should be ready for picking soon and the potato bags have already been filled up to cover the shaws.

On the flower front, I have still not finished planting all my seedlings, but most of what I have planted has been eaten by slugs.  I have turned my focus to the winter flowering pansies and perennial flowers for next year which are all germinating nicely inside.

Finally, my biggest surprise came when the flowers on my blue wall started to come out. I dedicated a trellis and the border in front of it to be only blue flowers to see if I could create a wall of blue flowers. For the climbers I picked blue sweet peas and a variety of morning glory called Grandpa Otts – a lovely royal blue flower. In the border I have planted blue and white anemones, white cosmos, silver dust, salvia, catnip (not that there is much left after Dennis has eaten it) and, when they are a bit bigger, my lavender that I have grown from seed.

Well the monring glory flowers have started to come out. What colour would you say this is?

In my book this is purple!

However, at least purple is closer in the colour spectrum to blue than this anemone!

My blue and white anemones appear to be orange!!!!!

But after the season we’ve had so far I am just delighted to have any flowers.

Happy gardening!

Tippety top tomatoes

I think if I could only ever grow one thing, without a doubt it would have to be tomatoes. One of my earliest memories is helping my grandad in his greenhouse and even now, the smell of a greenhouse full of tomatoes on a sunny day takes me back to when I was three years old.

Since then I have always associated gardening with growing tomatoes before anything else…plus I love them!

In the past I have tried growing different varieties with mixed success. Central Scotland doesn’t have the same climate as Naples so the San Marzanos that you see dripping off Italian balconies did not quite live up to expectations. So this year I decided not to be clever and stick with what I know works and tastes good – Sungold, Red Cherry and Moneymaker (my grandad’s favourite).

Having started early, sowing my seeds in February, I then lost all my plants to frost in April. I started again, gutted at having lost my 7 week head start and finally, last week, my boys were all ready to be planted in their final growing spot.

My boys are raring to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year Mr Mac made me some troughs which I used for growing tomatoes, melons and squashes. The mistake I made was putting weed membrane along the bottom to stop the compost falling through. I did not put in any drainage either and I don’t think my plants were very happy.

This year, I learned from my mistake and filled the troughs full of stones first for drainage then added a layer of our own compost and topped the troughs up with growbag compost.

The troughs were filled with stones and gravel for drainage

They were then filled with a layer of our own compost and topped up with growbag compost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I had to call on Mr Mac to do his special string trick! He thinks he saw Alan Titchmarsh doing this on tv but is not sure. It definitely works though. He runs wire along the roof of the greenhouse. Then he measures a length of string long enough to reach from the wire, down and underneath the rootball of the tomato plant, then back up to the wire. He then plants the tomato with the string underneath the roots and then ties both lengths of string to the wire. It should not be too tight but the tension can always be adjusted by untying the string on the wire and loosening or tightening as required.

The string is under the roots of the tomato.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This means as the tomato grows you can wrap it round the string and this provides all the support it will need.

All happy in their new home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I planted some French marigolds and basil in between the tomatoes to deter whitefly!

And then I had a little surprise when I went to plant some basil…

A little tomato plant is growing in the basil!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I checked my book and last year I planted the tomatoes on 25 April. This year it was 8 June! Now all we need is some sunshine although a friend told me that lining the greenhouse with foil or mirrors can increase the light to help them grow….I would prefer sunshine though so fingers crossed.

Disaster has struck!

I knew it was cold last night as we had a thick white frost this morning and when I checked the temperature at 8am it was -4 degrees!

It never crossed my mind to look inside the greenhouses because, although it was cold, the frost would not get to the plants. However, I have just been out to check everything and I have lost quite a few plants. So far I have lost:

  • All Morning Glory plants – I was worried about these anyway as the leaves were becoming discoloured. All 18 are dead.
  • 68 Cosmos Plants
  • 14 Marigolds
  • 11 Sungold tomatoes
  • 9 Red Cherry tomatoes
  • 9 Moneymaker tomatoes

I am not so worried about the flowers as they all germinate quickly and will catch up. I am gutted about the tomatoes though. I planted them all on 19 February so they had a good head start. I have lost nearly 7 weeks but am going to have to start again.

The problem I have is that where I live in Central Scotland our summers can be mixed and are not famous for wall to wall sunshine. So if I have late tomatoes they will probably not get enough sunshine to ripen. This is why I always plant them so early so they get a head start and get the full benefit of any sunshine.

Now here is what I think I have done wrong. Last night I watered everything at 7pm. It was a clear night so the temperature (which was already low) would have plummeted very quickly. I think that even though the plants were protected from frost, the water must have frozen in the pots and modules and that is what has killed them. So from now on, or at least until there is no more risk of frost, I will water everything in the morning.

Not happy tomatoes