Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This post is out of date.

Almost all of these photos were taken last Friday and Saturday when the warmth of summer was still in the air and my world was filled with tomatoes. 

Little smiley cheeks filled with fat tomatoes, colanders in the poly tunnels and vegie gardens and market gardens over-flowing with tomatoes, crates full of tomatoes on the kitchen floor and plates ripening on the kitchen window sill, hours and hours spent picking and sorting and eating and cooking tomatoes.

So. Many. Tomatoes.

Last week my kitchen was a tomato preserving factory. Pots filled with tomatoes simmering on the Esse, piles of clips and rings and lids and bottles being washed and sterilised and waiting to be put to use.

Bottles filled with the delicious flavours and aromas of summery sunshine; onion, garlic, basil and tomato.

And the Fowlers machine was bubbling away, an hour and a half at a time, preserving these bottles full of rosy goodness for the leaner, colder months ahead.

We grew an enormous amount of tomatoes this year. In years gone by we would have picked them and package them all up and sold them. But this year I decided to keep them on farm. To feed our family first.

This year I made a commitment to grow enough tomatoes to eat them fresh while they are in season and to preserve enough for our family to eat for an entire year. We eat a lot of tomatoey things so that is a lot. So far I have frozen nine 900gram tubs and filled 118 Fowlers jars, I think I'm close.

But due to our three weeks away, I had counted on a few more weeks of picking and preserving. A few more weeks of reaching under green vines searching out rosy redness and filling up colanders and crates and bowls.

But the last Saturday night the temperature dropped to zero and we had our first frost of the season. The vines were burnt black and the gazillions of green tomatoes waiting to ripen were damaged.

I cried.

And then I picked myself up and picked 10 crates of the best looking green tomatoes to bring inside. I'd love to hang the vines but we have too many hungry mice and possums around.

The chooks will have the time of their lives with the remainders.

I'm grateful we still have the poly tunnels full of healthy happy vines to extend the season a bit longer.

As a farmer I fully understand and acknowledge the importance of the changing of the seasons. I know that so many of the fruits and vegetables we grow here need the iciness of winter just as much as the warmth of summer. I know that frosts and rain and cold are an integral part of the cycle.

But I still find that first frost of the season sad. That first frost signals the end to Summer and the onset of the many long, cold, wet months ahead. The end of red foods and the start of a mostly green diet instead.

So even though I only took these tomato filled photos a couple of days ago, they are already out of date. The time has passed. The season changed.

I'm doing my best to embrace the autumn, the Esse is burning hot, the soup is warming on the hot plates, I'm wearing tights and I'm knitting a scarf. I'm not sure I can bring myself to photgraph the frost burnt vines though, they're still a bit to raw and reminding.

How about you?
How are you with the change of seasons?
Are you heading towards the warmth or the cold?
Have you ever preserved enough to last all winter long?

Keep cozy.



  1. So much tomato goodness Kate! The frost is harsh isn't it? Our climate is so extreme, the plants have to deal with searing heat through to freezing frost. I wonder how anything grows sometimes.

    Happy vegetable growing, you stay cozy too!

  2. I barely planted anything and haven't really looked after my tomatoes but my excuse is feeding for the sixth time today so I'm not fussed. I'll try and plant some winter veg when the urge happens. At least we have the change in seasons to look forward to and the cold is a great excuse for more quilts in my world and more knitting in yours :-)
    Ab xxx

  3. Aw..I love summer and I feel like I'm at my best. I miss it when it passes too.

  4. I don't normally like tomoatoes (I know! what is wrong with me, you're all thinking?!) BUT... these photos may just convince me to change my mind :)

    Bring on the cooler months I say!

  5. Well done. Our tomatoes were rubbish this year, not sure what went wrong. I'm glad we were not attempting to grow them on the same scale as you. We shall have to buy our passata at the supermarket!
    I love the coming of the winter although I am sorry for your frost damage. Lovely cool nights for sleeping well and bright sunny days. Chance to wear tights and boots, bring out the knitting and light the fires.
    I wish I had an Esse or an Aga but not really practical in suburban Melbourne.

  6. Hi Kate, I don't think I've left a comment before, but have been a follower for about a year. I love reading your blog and especially love your photography. So impressed with how many tomatoes you've bottled!

    Last year we had a particularly short tomato season here in Canberra and were left with a lot of green tomatoes. My wife got to work and made a green tomato pickle which we immensely enjoyed slathered over cheese and ham sandwiches for the following months - it was really very good. Recipe for you below. No need for tears now. :)

    Take care, Michael.

    Green Tomato Pickle
    8 green tomatoes - largish ones - more if small
    3 large onions
    2 tbs salt
    2 tbs mustard powder
    1 tbs turmeric
    3 tbs flour
    2 cups sugar
    2 cups malt vinegar
    1 cup water

    Cut tomatoes in large sized pieces and dice onions, just cover with water in a pot and add salt. Bring to boil for 5 mins then drain. Mix remaining ingredients with water then add to the drained tomatoes/onions in a pot and boil for another 5 mins. Bottle.

    1. Thanks SO MUCH for this Michael!
      I'll hunt down some malt vinegar and hopefully make a batch this afternoon.

  7. Oh yes, Kate, I'm hearing ya...... in fact you took the words right outta my mouth!!!! Such sadness on the morning after the first frost, every year. I always run outside to see the damage and yet I don't want to know and certainly don't want to pick through sloppy vines and dream of the fresh tomatoes we could have had! Fortunately summer comes again every year as well........

  8. There's a nip in the air up here too. Isn't it good that you've had a week back home to be able to get what you could off the vines before the frost? It looks like a very productive week you've had.

  9. Oh gosh your tomatoes look yummy. up here in the tropics we do most of our growing in the winter! I have just put my tomatoes in the ground - hope I get some yummy tomatoes like yours.

  10. if you keep green tomatoes in the dark and dry, they'll ripen anyway, but they are less sweet then :-)

  11. Corr! all this talk of lovely hot days and tons of ripe tomatoes make me yearn for something like a real summer here this year. We have struggled over the last few, though even in my wee plot, I managed to grow enough of the red gold to make a few batches of soup and tomato sauce. I do love our seasons though when they act like they should, each one has its merits though I have to say the freshness of spring and the colours if Autumn are my favourites.

  12. ohhh looks amazing!!! all those lovely meals you'll make with such goodness Kate! We made over 100 bottles of Pasatta and hopefully it will last the year. I'm also sure you can make green tomato pickle if you've still got the green tomatoes! xx

  13. Just heading towards summer, finally, after a long, cold winter here in Blighty! Put tomatoes, cucumber and chillies in the greenhouse last week and hopefully growing courgettes and girlie flowers too! I love the summer, but dig where ur coming from re Autumn. Since having kids, though, I find there's still a lot to celebrate in autumn here, with Halloween, bonfire night and the birthday of my beloved first born! If u haven't already, I'd recommend reading "Autumn" by Pushkin, those russkies love their autumn, and this is particularly romantic and inspiring to me! Lots of love, loving your blog xx

  14. I am jealous. Really really jealous. You see I made a half hearted statement when I planted all of the tomatoes last year. This year will be the year that I have enough tomatoes to keep us going through until winter. Bwa ha ha ha. So much for that. We nearly ran out of water with our 72 day drought. There certainly wasnt enough to water the vegie garden so only 3 plants survived :( I have some slow roasted in the freezer but not many. Well done you

  15. We do bottled tomatoes, about sixty liters a year as well as peaches, jams, pickles and herbs. It's hard work for sure but I do love to take a jar off the shelf mid-winter and taste that beautiful freshness.

  16. Our preserving plans were waylaid by the arrival of our first born...I can't believe I thought I'd have the time and energy to garden and look after a newborn! Our veggie garden really suffered during the heat as most nights neither us had the energy to lug water from the tank. Our little one is sleeping a bit now, and I've managed recently to snatch a few precious hours in the garden - bliss! Enjoy your tomatoes x

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  21. Hi from the Uk
    We have just had the first few sunny days in what feels like a year and a half! Last summer was cancelled due to rain.(apart from a 2 week break for the Olympics -how jammy was that!)Now feel the need to rush out into my scruffy, soggy garden, push aside the rain bashed daffodils and get some tomatoes in the ground!! As the seasons spin so does the world! Enjoy snuggling in for the autumn! xx Kate B

  22. Hi from the Uk
    We have just had the first few sunny days in what feels like a year and a half! Last summer was cancelled due to rain.(apart from a 2 week break for the Olympics -how jammy was that!)Now feel the need to rush out into my scruffy, soggy garden, push aside the rain bashed daffodils and get some tomatoes in the ground!! As the seasons spin so does the world! Enjoy snuggling in for the autumn! xx Kate B

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  25. Your posts on preserving are really inspirational. I have dabbled in bottling and want to do more. Could you post on some of the practical stuff like how you source your different jars, bottles, Fowlers stuff and how the heck do you store all the bottled goods? You must have a huge pantry :-) Many thanks K8

  26. Pulling up tomatoes here too. Autumn is here in all her warm shades, funny the cold can be so golden.

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  29. Hi Kate,

    I've wanted to try bottling/preserving but have no idea where to start. Just wondering (if you don't mind) if you had any tips/links etc to help get me started?



    1. Hi Misty,
      I guess it depends on what it is you want to preserve.
      Once you have worked that out, google it, or look up some books, or blogs...
      Generally I think it's worth thinking about what you'll use and how you'll use it and working backwards from there.
      Personally we use a huge amount of stewed apples, so we freeze them.
      Also think about what is available near you, ie can you buy specific jars, lids etc? Do you have a large feezer? Pantry? Shelf space?
      Ahhhh I could go on forever.
      I hope that helps.


Thanks so much for stopping by...

I do read every single comment you leave and appreciate it very much, but I should let you know that I can be a wee bit on the useless side when replying to comments, that's just me, everyday life sometimes gets in the way....so I'll apologise now, just in case.

Kate XX

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