August has been a flaming June kind of month, with beautiful sunny days and hot nights; but, I can definitely feel the “nip” of September and autumn creeping in during these latter days of summer. There have even been a few early morning mists and I smelt wood smoke the other night. This monthly post was supposed to be about poppies, but, the seeds I sowed earlier on this year were late to germinate so I am sharing some of my other lovely flowers today, all sown from Sarah Raven seeds and beautifully vibrant in the late summer garden.
The most successful of all my seeds for colour and taste have been my nasturtiums; they have bloomed and bloomed and have made a real splash of colour to the garden, as well as the salad bowl throughout the summer. I sowed Black Velvet and Alaska, and both of them have done well. Alaska is a real favourite of mine, as it has a variety of different coloured blooms such as cream, orange, deep red, yellow and yellow and orange spotted flowers. It can climb, and is perfect for covering walls, but I have mine in a huge old cauldron that sits on top of an old flat-bed wheelbarrow, a French one. I also love its dappled, variegated leaves of different hues and patterns.
Black Velvet is simply stunning with its deep red and velvety flowers, and it tastes delicious too. We have enjoyed both types of nasturtium in salads, as well as the leaves, and apart from the bright colours that cheer up a very green part of the garden, both plants also bring in lots of good insects and butterflies, as well as repel those that aren’t wanted, such as white fly and black fly, and for this reason it is always a good idea to plant them near vegetables that attract these insects such as cabbages and broad beans. Both plant’s blooms taste peppery, and once the flowers have died back, you can pick the caper like seed heads and pickle them; they taste just like capers, but are slightly tangier and crisper in taste and texture.
Another bloom that I have enjoyed for the last month has been the Dahlias; their pretty pinks and mauves have also brightened up a heavy green backdrop and they just keep on blooming. Called “Fascination”, these dahlias have provided hours of enjoyment for me and all of my dinner guests, as they are planted in a big pot on the edge of the patio and next the outdoors dining table. I love the way the bright new blooms come through in striking colours, and then as the flowers fade, you get the most amazing range of hues, from cerise and mauves through to candy pink. They are a semi-double dahlia with pretty almost bronze foliage that makes the most amazing cameo of colour.
But it’s our most popular summer fruit (commonly known as a vegetable) that I want to discuss for my monthly recipe today, the tomato. I have had kilos and kilos of tomatoes, both from the garden as well as from my neighbour’s allotments and the local farmer’s markets; they have kept on coming and we have eaten them every day, in salads and cooked recipes.
But there finally comes a time when you need to think about preserving them, and with a newly acquired toy on the “batterie de cuisine” front, namely an electric steriliser, I decided to bottle (or can, as our North American cousins say) the main glut of our tomatoes. I have always lusted after one of these, as they take so much of the oven and water bath hassle out of safe preserving, and my new steriliser has a nifty little “set temperature” and “set time” function, so you can walk away once the bottles are immersed and cooking.
I am sharing a simple recipe for Bottled Garden Tomatoes today, but, I will be adding variations on this recipe on my blog Lavender and Lovage over the next few weeks, so you can see what else can be done with the basic bottled tomato recipe. This recipe calls for any glut of garden tomatoes you have available, but I have bottled beefsteak tomatoes, tomatoes en grappes, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
The main thing to remember when embarking on a project such as this is to be well prepped; you need several jars that have been washed and sterilised, as well as lemon juice, sea salt and sugar to hand. You also need to make sure that you have enough rubber sealing rings, if you are using the Kilner or Le Parfait method of bottling. There are also the jars that have screw top lids with separate seal caps; you must make sure you have enough of the separate seal caps. (This method uses the Familia Wiss Jars)
Make sure your work area has bowls to tomato skins, and plenty of chopping boards to cut the tomatoes. I hope that this recipe will prove useful, as a basic method, for those of you whom have a “surfeit of tomatoes”, and if using the oven or water bath method on the stove top, please remember to make sure you have a reliable thermometer handy.
Please note, if using a large saucepan or the oven bath method for this recipe, the same time and temperature applies.
Tomatoes preserved this way will keep for up to 2 years or more, in a cool, dark and dry place.
Thanks for reading!