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12 Mar 2010 - 2:35 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Oh, those tomatoes. I forgot to stake them before the roots took hold, then staked them too far from the stalk. I didn’t pluck out the laterals, so they became bushy and leafy. And I managed to lose at least one of the cards that should tell me what I’d planted.

But, and this is the thing, there have been hundreds of red pear shaped tomatoes. The Paul Robeson died a death after a riot of flowers (probably more than it should’ve), but the black Russians are thriving, the beefsteak (not sure which variety) are fat and heavy and there are others that I don’t know the origins of. One, at least, grew wild from some compost I must’ve not let rot enough from last year.

I pull my tomatoes from the vine when they start to change colour. They ripen best at below 25°C, I’ve heard, so they sit out of the sun on the kitchen bench. The occasional orb that gets lost under the foliage is also intense in flavour, though the snails and slaters seem to be keen on those too. I cut and salt my tomatoes and leave them for ten minutes while I prepare other things. I toss them in pasta, in omelettes, in with the scarlet runner beans. I use them to cut the richness of the bacon I made, sliced fat and put on sandwiches with that crisp, salty pork. If I had enough, I’d make sauce.

For sauce I’ll need to get a big mob of cooking tomatoes again. Maybe from George the market gardener who supplied them last year. The late summer, early autumn ritual is to make passata; a pure extract of tomato, a puree that is made minus the skins and seeds. This year I’m going to make my very first batch of bottled tomato sauce. The kind you put on your bangers and on your pie. A sweet, savoury, complex sauce that hopefully doesn’t resemble the thick, one-dimensional stuff they sell in the shops. I have an old recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, one that keeps well in the pantry for a couple of years, and in fact benefits from time in the bottle.

The change in season is readily apparent. Leaves burnishing just slightly on the willows down the creek. Pears fat and heavy, hanging like Christmas baubles on the tree next to the golf course. I only just finished the pears I preserved a couple of years ago – my first attempt with the Fowler’s jars and a mightily successful one too. They were from an ancient tree, estimated to be 100 years old, and were an unknown variety that never became soft enough to eat. Preserved in the jar they turned a glorious nude pink colour; all soft and gently fragrant and a joy to bring from the cupboard every time a dessert was needed at short notice.

I should find some more pears to preserve around here, right in the heart of the apple-growing region. Maybe I’ll barter some of the meat from the freezer. The bottles are washed, the time is ripe. All I need now is to lose an afternoon in the kitchen.