Tomato week

This blog follows on from the interview with Owen and Emma Kate of TomBoys

After our chat they gave me some tomatoes – just over 20kg actually.. A lot. Too much? Nearly! Definitely enough so I could play around with how to use them.

When the Tassievores got together to brainstorm events for the events calendar, a group tomato picking/ bottling event was top of my list for a good reskilling workshop. It didn’t pan out unfortunately, so this blog is about my own experience with a lot of tomatoes.

Straight up I did as Owen and Emma Kate recommended and made a passata/ sugo style sauce from a Fowlers Vacola recipe that just so happened to be all Tassievore (score!).

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Chop.  Cook.  Herbs.  Don’t they look nice!? Here are the proud results of the passata-fest with sexy bottling outfit in the background.

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I have already used one bottle to make a zuchinni-puntanesca style pasta with some home churned pasta – very happy. I’ve given away a few bottles but will hold on to the rest for some more tasty adventures. I worried it would be too watery and bland, but nope! Great flavour.

I gave 8 or so kilos to a mate who made a big batch of tomato sauce with them – the type you’d pour on a (local) snag in bread,

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so after that and the Passata I had 7kg of tomatoes left. I decided to wait a bit for flavour to develop.  The tomatoes were picked that morning so there were no soft/squishy/furry toms in the mix. They didn’t make A grade due to superficial blemishes – a black spot or no little greeny stalky bit.  Checking in on them three days later I was greeted by a half-box of happy, red little fellows still quite firm and nowhere near ‘squishy’.

So I left them a week in a box on the floor.

And then they were how I wanted them, crazy red and getting soft to touch – still no furry ones as none of the skins had split. I made a sauce/ relish combo which turned out great (not as salty/ acidic as a tomato sauce, and not using a bottle of EZY sauce as I probably would if making a relish). The mustard seeds are really only for decoration as they didn’t add much flavour..

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I thought i’d give drying a go with the final kilo.  Unsure how economical this is with power though – especially when you put the dehyrdrater on the wrong setting – repeatedly. (estimated 14 hours of power usage to dehydrate them)

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Anyway – the end result of the drying experience (with salt and rosemary) was this.  They look crazy red huh.

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I can’t believe that’s all of the tomatoes gone!  Now that I know I can make these things I would love a few more batches of passata and some conventional sauce (mate only gave me one bottle, booooo) and maybe try a few types of salsa – I wonder if tomato paste is hard to make or the energy (electrical) put into making it doesn’t make it worth it?  Hmm yes i definitely want to try more.  Good news is that I know where to source TomBoys now (pun!) and they aren’t the only one around growing local toms. *ahem – proud announcement, the first of my own backyard crop are getting some colour on them – Behold the first pick!

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Grown in Tasmania: interview with Owen and Emma Kate of TomBoys

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This interview came about due to a question from a reader on our blog a few months ago – where can we source local tomatoes!?  I did some searching and got in contact with TomBoys, a grower in Bridgewater.  We got talking about their product which led to me popping across the river to check it out for myself..

Quick! Who are you and what do you do?

We are TomBoys: tomato growers based in Bridgewater. We’ve been growing tomatoes in Tassie since 2006 and are slowly increasing our stockists and retail venues around Hobart, to provide the market with fresh, local and tasty toms.

That was quick, you are good at this.  Tell me a bit more?

Sure, we are a family run business, growing in greenhouses using sustainable methods.  When we bought the property, the greenhouses needed a lot of maintenance.  We actually only use 1 of the 3 greenhouses here for all the tomatoes because it’s such a big job to fix them up and plant them out.  In the future we hope to expand and diversify the business, but for now it’s mainly toms.  We pick from November to Juneish and employ around 10 locals on a casual basis to cater for the really busy times.

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Nice one.  You mentioned sustainable practices, care to elaborate a bit on that?

Well there are some inputs that are unavoidable, we do save some seed but find the strike rate (number of seeds undergoing germination) variable and there is always the possibility that over generations the breed will lose characteristics over time.  We recycle our water and fertilizers which go through a UV filtration system.  Much better than chemically treating everything or letting it go to waste that’s for sure!  We recycle our grow bags (coconut husk by-product, highly recommended) for up to 4 years as well, we recycle a lot actually. We don’t use pesticides or fungicides pre-emptively.  Sure if there was a major bug problem we’d have to consider it, but there are better ways to keep the crop healthy.  One of our ongoing pests is the Greenhouse Whitefly, we are certain to encounter this every year.  We combat this with a biological control called Encarsia Formosa, a tiny wasp that targets the Whitefly – this means we don’t need to apply any chemical solutions.

We would probably be certifiable as fully organic if we didn’t use mineral based fertilizers, but that would complicate things as tomatoes are a hungry crop and we don’t want to sacrifice our quality.  When we have to heat the houses (rarely) we have a boiler that burns foreshore driftwood and offcuts from a local mill.  Our summer cooling is greatly assisted by our riverfront location; generally the breeze coming across the water helps to keep our temperature in check.

The fact that we only stock locally also reduces the crops carbon footprint by keeping our food miles low.  Crops are picked in the morning and delivered that afternoon and we never ever gas ripen: what you see is what it is with us.

Okay. That was impressive.  Why tomatoes?

We ask ourselves the same question sometimes!  We kind of dove right in without doing the research and learnt as we went along.  Luckily nothing went wrong with those early crops and we’ve now built up the experience, our product is getting better and better every year.  Perhaps next time we’ll plan it a bit more carefully, but we do love growing tomatoes!

Where can I buy your tomatoes?

We stock various grocers around Hobart, most of the big name gourmet ones as well as smaller neighbourhood options, ask them and they’ll tell you if they are currently stocking us!  We have our own little road-side stall which we love, we sell our toms and produce from the garden or other Tassie growers (lettuce, cucumber, herbs, potatoes etc.) at the end of Wallace Street in Bridgewater.  We really want to expand and have a presence at farmers markets such as the New Norfolk Farmers Market.  We’re also happy to deal directly with restaurants and the public.

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What should backyard growers do with their summer glut of tomatoes?

Eat them! Pickle them, chutney them, sauce them.  Make a basic sauce with just some onion and herbs, maybe red wine and a bay leaf and bottle that, you can use that as a base for soups, bolognaise, chili con carne, veggie roasts, sauces…..  Eat with grilled cheese, use with seafood, cook rice in it, toss pasta through it, add to mash potato, shepherd pie, serve with quiche.  You can make just about anything with it.

Milkshakes?

tomato milkshake

Never say never!

Fair enough.  Thanks for your time

No worries.  Take some tomatoes with you when you go..

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TomBoy farm is located on Wallace Street, Bridgewater, Their phone number is 0408107950.

Spending a few hours on a Sunday morning checking out TomBoys farm in Bridgewater was great, good to see passionate growers willing to work hard to get results.  The pickers started at 7, but I certainly didn’t get there pre 9:30!  Nevertheless they left me a token row so I could satisfy my need to get amongst it all, I love the smell of tomato plants: spicy, savoury and fresh.  You’ll see the orangey-red colour in my picture of the bucket of toms? That even colour means the tomato has taken what it needs from the vine, only requiring time to develop its full colour and flavour.  After picking, the tomatoes are passed through a bubbly water system to wash, graded by weight by a machine, then graded for quality by eye before being packed away.  All this happens not 20 meters from where the vines grow!  Packed boxes are transported by truck to various grocers around Hobart that afternoon, such a short/ minimal processing required food chain.

Grocers determine at what point the tomatoes hit the shelves – in the box the colour deepens within hours to a deep red, due to the fruits release of Ethylene, a plant hormone that promotes ripening (benefits of a MSc in Food Science and Technology: nerdy facts!).  Texturally, given they were picked that very day grocers are able to store the toms until required- just like fruit in a fruit bowl.

I ended up taking 20kg of sauce tomatoes with me..  And a few things from the TomBoys road-side stall, including a young Bay tree.  Side note: does anyone know if native wildlife will nibble down Bay trees like they have been my kaffir limes? Anyway –  I’ll share success, failures, results and recipes with you in the next blog!

Agrarian Kitchen – the garden tour!

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One of the highly anticipated Tassievore events occurred last week, a tour of the Agrarian Kitchen garden by gourmet gun – Rodney Dunn.  Rodney – an entertaining host and champion of the paddock to plate concept, had a lots say on growing: how and why.  Based on the ‘Oooooh’s’ and ‘Ahhhhh’s of the 35 Tassievores present, a great time was had at the cooking school in Lachlan, just 10 minutes out of New Norfolk.

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Starting in the herb patch (Mexican hyssop, apple mint and shiso cress!), we then got the low down on the smoke house, met the pigs and goats, explored the fruit trees and row upon row of berries, walked through two poly tunnels (tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and licorice basil all growing well!) and down the rows of planted out corn, beans, beetroot and lovage (aka “Celery on speed”).  Fascinating tales were told: growing tobacco as an insecticide, the Agrarian Kitchen’s former life as a district school and perving on pigs.

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What I was most happy to hear was Rodney’s common sense approach to local eating “I have no problem with eating a QLD mango in summer, but things we can grow here, we should be growing and eating here”.  Amen bro!  After an hour long stroll outside we popped into kitchen and had a sticky beak, checking out the wood fired oven, the cook book collection (650+) and customised rain coats – clearly the weather doesn’t get in the way of cooking school participants getting out and picking their own!

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I had a really great time at the Agrarian Kitchen and can see why the cooking courses are so popular (Tassievore Sarah attended a class in 2011 and still gets dreamy eyed when the topic arises).  A huge thank you goes out to all Tassievore’s who attended, and of course to Rodney and Séverine for hosting!

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Showing off his fast bowling technique

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Under the nectarine

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Fallsievore?

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For everyone traveling to Falls this week – get ready for a blast!!

We’ve checked in with the onsite caterers and to be honest, there isn’t a lot of Tassievore catering going on.  Tornado Potato use potatoes grown just around the corner from the Marion Bay Falls festival site for their deep fried goodness and Top Nosh use Tassie grown mushrooms for their tempura.  And that’s all we know about!  We were a little slow in contacting the awesome Falls crew regarding adequate Tassievore options, sorry about that.  We’ll work with the coordinators at Marion Bay to try and ensure future Falls caterers consider using local produce more widely.

So – to self cater! Put ice in the Eski and try to keep meat 4 degrees or below.  Consider making oat bars with local nuts and dried fruit or bake a loaf of fruit bread (we have a spiced spelt loaf in the recipe section of our website!) for a quick, easy to store breakfast.  Apples, stone fruits and berries are all available, but make sure they don’t get squished in the commute! meals like the veggie quinoa stirfry in the recipe section of our website can be made pre-Falls and stored in an airtight container in the Eski.  Do you have any other ideas to share for Tassievore meals that travel and store well? Whether you are going to Falls, or away camping with your nearest and dearest this is a good opportunity to put some extra thought into what you will take to eat, and how it can be stored safely.  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below!

If you are going to Falls – hope to see you there.  I’m especially excited to see Ballpark Music, Oh Mercy, Hot Chip and Boy & Bear – they were the stars of the show two years ago!

Until next time, stay excellent.

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Dear Santa – all I want for Christmas is for my pink eyes to grow bigger

Given that growing food is the first part of my Tassievore challenge mantra (If I can’t grow it myself, I’ll buy it from a Tasmanian that can.  If it doesn’t grow here, I’ll buy it from a Tasmanian who sells it) I really need to get you up to speed on what’s happening in my garden.  This is my first garden blog and I’ve got lots to report.  First off, here’s a chart that maps out my knowledge of gardening.

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As king of mount stupid, I’m going to dispense wisdom and advice on all things green and growy, despite the fact this is my first growing season.  I’ve killed a few token herb pots in my time, but clearing a patch, improving the soil, planting and fostering seed!? Newb.

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Here’s the current run down on my garden – good, bad, ugly.

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Bed Alexis – the good, bad and ugly all present in this bed, I’ve some excellent Florence fennel and a cousin of Quinoa (keen – wah) called Huauzontle (wah – zont – lay) doing really well.  Huauzontle flower buds are used similar to spinach and broccoli, can’t wait to try them out!  The rest of bed A was cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli (including broccoli rabe, my favourite) and Asian greens but they were riddled by cabbage moth.  Dammit.  Oh I recently popped the herb hyssop into this bed, but am unsure what to do with it when it takes off.

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Bed Bernice – A bean arbour, some thriving lettuce (home grown tastes the best!!) and some tomatoes under poly, bed B seems to get the best sun/ water ratio as the calendula marigolds planted  to attract good bugs, deter nasties were flowering here well before beds A and C.

Work it Tony!

Work it Tony!

I learnt a bit about poly tunnels and using poly at a Sprout Tasmania workshop a few months back – inspiring stuff.

Bed Celeste – Kale (largely Tuscan, largely destroyed by cabbage moth), snow peas, more lettuce and lots of herbs in this one.  I think I should have interspersed the herbs with the veg as they can function similar to the marigolds, but!  A quick search online showed me some herbs help veggies (chives and carrots) promoting growth and some deter growth (sage and cucumber), so now I’m unsure.  Bed C also has some immature asparagus crowns that may be ready next year.

Bit on the side – water cress, rhubarb and garden mint all growing well together.  There was some oregano here too, but the mint has already crushed it.

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Roots – slow going in the root box, leeks were the first thing I planted in the garden and they still look like well-spaced chives.  The parsnips failed completely but the carrots are looking promising and I’ve already harvested the radish.  I do have some big healthy turnips ready to pull but no idea what to do with them.

PP1 – I’m not doing to well with the pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers, I’ve had a number of batches grown from seed and seedling up and die on me.  Slowly the mounds I built are being taken up by easier to grow lemon balm, strawberries, a chocolate mint (found it at the farm gate market last weekend – curious to see how it goes!) and a basil mint.

Maria the safe harbour – located far far away from the other veg this is a reserve patch of pumpkins just in case the others are dying due to facial tumour disease.

Cane Lane – 24 canes = half a handful of raspberries and 24 dead brown sticks.  I did something very wrong here and need to investigate!  The jost and blueberry survive.

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The Orchard – some very old fruit trees with variable levels of fruit production.  I share a lot of these with the parrots as they were here first. The chooks are in under the trees.

Potatoes – 4 rows of pink eyes and one of dutch creams!  South arm pink eyes became available 6 weeks ago, but mine are still babies – hopefully I’ll be able to harvest some for Christmas day.

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Bees and Shroom bags – these are great, I bought 12 bags and continued to water the tops every day.  I had a good run of swiss brown mushrooms for a month – more than enough for a family of 4 as I was giving them away.  The water that collects at the bottom of the bags has run through organic matter and chook poop and whatever else makes a nice liquid fertiliser.  Once the mushrooms seem exhausted, I’ve been using all that organic material in beds to prepare the soil for things that like a lot of organic matter – my tomatoes for instance.

That’s it I think!  I get a lot of garden envy when comparing to a few more experienced friends (Ray, Alex and Louise I mean you) but the experience so far has been really worthwhile – I’m constantly learning, I’m constantly eating, and I’m constantly popping down to see what’s grown.  I’ll have to check the Peter Cundall guide for what happens next, I might get a few more rounds of some of the faster vegetables or plant out some frost sensitive options I haven’t thought about yet. Good times ahead for growing your own!

Feedback via the blog comments hugely appreciated if you’ve spotted a problem or want to share how your garden is going this year  – if you have the space and the time gardening is an excellent way to fulfill your Tassievore Challenge!

 

Merry Christmas from the Tassievores!

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Full steam ahead for all things Tassievore, we are popping up our Christmas post to you a week early, just in case you need a little inspiration or want to share with us what you are planning.

There is a greater variety of fresh produce available now than when the challenge started so no excuses – have a very Merry Christmas Tassievores!

Here’s the rundown on what some of the team are thinking about:

Lissa

I had to think a bit about what to make for our small Christmas Eve family dinner as between us, we are: Tassievore (whole hog), vegetarian, gluten free and 7 years old.  So, I am planning to make a saffron, fennel and garlic custard tart using quinoa and egg to make the base. A big salad of whatever greens and flowers are in the garden and dessert will be a mixed berry Clafouti and I might try to whip up some honey ice cream to go with it. I am even considering trying to make Tassievore Egg Nog… the only Tasmanian brandy that I can find is $120/bottle though…

Wishing you all a very happy Tassievore holiday season and may your new year be filled with Tasmanian goodness!

Kym

After five months spent in eight countries, this Tassievore is looking forward to spending time at Xmas at home doing absolutely nothing! Except eating good Tassie food, and hanging out in the garden with our energetic dog Jaspar. Our quiet vegetarian Xmas lunch will consist of Middle East themed salads with fresh vegies and herbs from the garden, some homemade flat bread, local haloumi, and Kindred Organics quinoa as a cous cous substitute. Washed down with a glass of Tamar Valley white wine from one of the local vineyards – gotta love such great produce within walking distance of the house! Wishing you all a fantastic Xmas and New Year spent with good friends, family and great food.

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Pen

This year I will be spending Christmas tucked away with my nearest and dearest on the Tasman Peninsula. We will be kicking back with a great big Tasmanian seafood platter, Tasmanian cheeses, salads, berry fruit and wine. I hope to get my hands on some Tasmanian non-sparkling cider too – think Lost Pippin or Willie Smiths.  For Christmas Eve we are booked to go out to dinner at the Stewarts Bay Lodge and are looking forward to sampling the succulent Doo Town Venison and the Huon Valley mushroom, tarragon and Tongola capri pie. Delicious! So delightful to see so many Tasmanian ingredients on their menu.  For someone who spent half her life as a vegetarian it’s almost wicked to confess how much I enjoy the occasional foray into the world of flesh. I tend to stick to wallaby and fish but some festive eating outside the square is always refreshing.

Now for the recipe: Hazelnut and honey biscuits

I have to confess that I completely made this recipe up with the help of my trusty hand-me-down food processor. But it seemed to work, so hopefully you will have a bit of fun making your own similarly free-style variations. These would make great last minute gifts for Tassievore friends or visiting relatives (nut allergy not withstanding…). Enjoy!

Caitlin

I’ll be on the mainland this year, so Christmas lunch is well and truly out of my hands! I’m looking forward to the “Vicavore” goodies at my Uncle’s farm, though I’m sure the obligatory Tasmanian smoked salmon will make an appearance. This year I’m doing a lot of homemade gifts – Tassievore treats making their way to Melbourne with me include hazelnut biscotti, honey spice biscuits, jars of lemon curd and this Spiced Spelt Loaf that wow’ed people at the Sustainable Living Festival a few months ago. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year everyone – don’t forget to celebrate the start of 2013 with a glass of local bubbles!

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Andrew

I’ll be keeping things simple and clean – last year was a monster of a day that saw me plucking a goose and dropping the rings in preparation.  Neither of those were a euphemism.  This year I think I’ll ignore most of the food and presents hype and go for a day walk.  Man has to eat though, so for dinner I’m planning something really seasonal: backyard pink eyes, podded peas and a locally brought bird with loads of fresh herbs stuffed under the skin before roasting.

Here’s something I’ve never done but am tempted to try for a low key dessert.  Merry Christmas all! Looking forward to 2013, the year of the Tassievore.

Erin

The hustle and bustle before Christmas grows every year at York Town Organics, so my family and I welcome Christmas day as a chance to relax, eat too much food and enjoy each other’s company.  In the morning we will meet at the farmhouse for a breakfast of croissants, freshly picked berries, mums home-made jam, and coffee made with gorgeous Elgaar Farm milk. We’ll then take our much loved hounds for a walk to our neighbours for a Christmas toast with a stiff drink and some home-made delights.  Lunch will be a of locally grown ham, salads from our micro leaves, a Nichols chicken stuffed with herbs and our baby carrots and Beetroots roasted and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.  Berries and mum’s pav to finish.  After lunch we will divvy up the leftovers and literally roll-on home.  Another year well spent, another locally-inspired feast consumed and another day of family company enjoyed. Merry Christmas you lovely folk, be merry and eat lots of yummy local tucka!

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Sarah

This year I am hosting my first Christmas, and we are feeding 19 people… Totally Tassievore style!!!

It’s a team effort, we are starting with Tassie cray, abalone (caught by my clever partner) and salmon roulade, then the full traditional roast: a Tasmanian turkey, pork and some beautiful fresh vegies.  To top it all off: a Tassievore-style Christmas pudding and summer pudding (using berries from my back yard).  The highlight so far has been sourcing ingredients for the Christmas pudding (I may be going a little far, but I am dehydrating my own currants and cherries for it…) It looks and smells delicious!

I love Christmas, and all the ‘hassle’ that goes with it, I love the manic preparations and the beautiful feast shared with your most special people.  Having the added requirement for Tassievore has just added to the fun for me, and honestly it has been easy. We truly are spoiled for choice, the mainlanders coming across to share our table are going to realise how good we have it.

Merry Christmas from the Tassievores!!

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Christmas came a little early this year!

The Tassievores are feeling pretty great right now!  Pen got her cycle map out in time, our festivity plans are coming along fine (Christmas meal-envy blog next week), we have + 400 likes on the FB page and the sun’s out.

(It’s not really, but it was two days ago and that was awesome).

We did get some fantastic news today too, but that’s a secret until its all signed and locked in.  To celebrate all of the above, here’s a little festive cheer that’s brightening our day, featuring a few of the Tassievore team. Tassievore’s got moves