When we first bought the garden we were still living in Wales most of the year so we couldn’t grow much. When other gardeners walked past while we were in our garden, they would say ‘Vous avez des tomates?’ although it was obvious from a quick glance that we hadn’t. We would say ‘non’ and a few minutes later the neighbour would be back with a bagful of tomatoes for us from his garden.
For the last couple of years we’ve been growing our own tomatoes, but during the summer we are still asked the same question – ‘Vous avez des tomates?’ I’ve realised now that it’s a question that means more than the words appear to say. Tomatoes are so important here, gardeners grow 50 or more plants – as we do – and preserve most of the crop for use during the winter. Tomatoes are an essential ingredient in Mediterranean food – no one can imagine living without them and we eat them in some form or another almost every day of the year. So this vital question really means – ‘Is everything going well for you?’
Autumn seems quite ominous, then, as the tomato plants die back and the few remaining fruits take longer and longer to ripen. Is everything going well now, I wonder? Well, yes, I think so.
In a garden there is always something new to pick and to grow whatever the season. We’re picking and enjoying the chicory which Lo Jardinièr has been earthing up since last month. It’s delicious in salads or griddled to serve with cheese or cured ham.
We’ve harvested our olives. Friends and neighbours give us figs, chestnuts, pumpkins and pomegranates. Lo Jardinièr made this delicious jewelled rice, based on a recipe in Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, with one of the pomegranates.
We still have some tomatoes (the black ones below were given to us by a neighbour, the rest are ours) and we can pick peppers, an aubergine, or small courgettes to cook on the barbecue for lunch in the garden, or to serve raw with hummus.
And for the winter we have over 50 jars of tomato passata stored in the kitchen, so there’ll be no shortage this year.
Nous avons des tomates!