Posts Tagged garden

Not so plummy

A while back, as we completed the eco-friendly renovation of our two-candle home, I persuaded the spouse that we needed a couple of fruit trees in our pocket-handkerchief backyard. After mild debate, and total inability to find a greengage tree supplier anywhere in Ontario, we settled on a plumcot, which was billed as a high-yield, plum-apricot hybrid with a delicate taste and the ability to resist a Canadian winter, as well as two cherry-plum hybrids called chums.

But we’ve had that tree for about five years now, and I’m definitely not feeling the love. For the first couple of years we had no fruit at all, and then the squirrels climbed in and devoured the few green/yellow orbs that survived frost, rain and polar vortex. There was a lot more fruit this year, and I started to get my hopes up. But even before they ripened those damn squirrels knocked dozens off the tree, leaving sad, green fruit rotting on the ground. We picked the two baskets of what was left and let them ripen indoors, only to end up with an almost tasteless yellow-red clingstone plum. Not nice enough to eat, too few to freeze, so I decided on one small batch of jam, as the deciding factor on whether we keep the tree.

The verdict. Yes, my plumcots boil down quickly into a well-set, if curiously cloudy jam, with a pleasantly tart taste (from the lemon, perhaps?) and an interesting aroma that’s apricot as much as plum. But I don’t think it’s worth the effort of tending the tree, which isn’t a particularly good-looking specimen anyway. Time to cut our fruit tree losses and move on? But how do we get rid of the root, and what will we plant in its stead?

The good news. Our backyard raspberry patch had a few iffy years as well, especially after we dug the canes up so we could run the wiring for a fast charger for the spouse’s new electric car. But this year they are doing well, and I’m enjoying raspberries on cereal, with yogurt and fresh off the canes. Of course it’s not really a glut. You can never have too many raspberries.

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Scrimcoached peach tomato jam

First I have to thank blogger Mirandasoap for her use of the magnificent verb to scrimcoach, which she defines as  to pull together from your wits and which she used for a plum jam recipe last week.

You see scrimcoaching is what I do with recipes all the time, even if I didn’t know that was what I was doing, so my thanks to Miranda for giving me permission to use her word.

My scrimcoach  goal was simple: boil up a jam to prevent the home-grown tomatoes getting out of hand; and  attempt to recreate a five-out-of-five venture from two years back.

But while I loved the idea of a bright yellow tomato jam from my (mostly baby) yellow tomatoes, there was no way my little tomato plants were going to provide the three pounds of tomatoes I needed to redo  that 2010 recipe. Tomatoes and peaches make a surprisingly magnificent salad. Can I pretend they will be good in jam as well?

Tomato-peach-basil jam (makes 2-1/2 jars)
4 cups yellow tomatoes, seeded, but not peeled
2 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1 scant cup sugar
handful basil
juice of two lemons
splash of balsamic vinegar

Simmer the peaches and tomatoes together until they boil down to a bright orange mush. Blend half the basil with half the sugar, and slice the rest of the basil into thin slices and set aside. Add the sugar to the tomato mix and boil until it thickens up nicely, adding the herbs/lemon juice at the last minute. Add a splash of balsamic or extra lemon juice to taste. Bottle in sterilized jars.

The verdict. It’s almost there. But I added the basil too early, so the basil flecks are muddy-brown rather than vibrant-green.  I should have added lemon juice or balsamic to cut the tomato-peach sweetness, but I fretted that would make things more liquid, or more muddy, and I didn’t. So it’s just a little meh unless you find the right thing to mix it with. But it did taste surprisingly good with feta spinach omelet tonight.

Rating: 3 (out of 5). Worth trying again, but I need to tweak the recipe.

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Tomato time

We’re just about keeping up with the cascade of produce from our third floor tomato patch, thanks to a daily dose of tomato sandwiches, tomato salads and gazpachos, none of which I will ever be able to recreate because I throw different things in each time. One chilled soup was a slightly muddy-colored mix of cucumber, red and yellow tomatoes, spring onions and a single very ripe peach, minimally flavored with salt, pepper and sriracha. It loses points for the color, and for the fact that I didn’t have the patience to chill it for long enough, but it did taste good.

And the beautiful thing is that we grew our babies from seed, which means I’m already saving (and labelling) tomato seeds so we can do things again next year.

I don’t know what strains they are, but , but there are three types, each one better than the other.

  1. Large, misshapen pink-red things that came from a friend in Britain, who in turn got the seeds from her cousins in Vienna. They look bizarre, but they have a sweetness that’s unlike any tomato I’ve ever tasted. But they were the last to ripen and are not yet very prolific. Maybe they got crowded out by something.
  2. Slightly crumpled yellow things, which came with a public health warning from the same friend, who said she was disappointed. I beg to differ. These yellow tomatoes are very, very good, especially with a little salt and pepper and some good olive oil. Maybe they liked this super-hot Toronto summer.
  3. Red-brown cherry tomatoes, which are sweet enough to eat solo. We get a generous handful each day, and I pack a few to snack on during those hungry hours between breakfast and lunch.

Anyone want to trade seeds for next year?

Sadly the patch will not yield enough  tomatoes for canned tomatoes, so we’ll have to hit the market for Romas for those. Tomato Canorama is tentatively scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

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