Gardening without cheating is a lesson in patience and humility. By cheating I refer to all the dangerous technological measures we exert over the elements and living things. Honest organic gardening harmonizes with nature, accepts its lessons. Having given this preamble, I confess that the eight robust tomato plants occupying half my garden have only barely begun to produce tomatoes. Nevertheless for the sake of other gardeners with timely harvests, I will share one of my favourite summer recipes: tomato chicken soup Provençal.
The Golden Cherries were supposed to ripen at 64 days, Bonny Best at 75 and Black Prince at 90. They have all been in the ground for 98 days and the Golden Cherries have only begun ripening prolifically in the past week or so. I have plenty of plump green tomatoes, but no sign the others will begin ripening soon. As soon as nights start to cool below about 10°C (50°F) tomatoes slow their ripening powers considerably. That has not happened yet. Needless to say, I hope summer will press forward a few more weeks.
What have I learned from this? Do not delay planting tomatoes any later than necessary, and make sure they are well hardened-off. Hardening off is the process of slowly introducing seedlings to outdoor conditions. When I finally planted my tomatoes around June 1, 10 days late, they were fragile and stressed. It took them a good two weeks to recover and begin growing. When the fruit began to appear, rodents ate them off the lower branches where they would have ripened earlier. All I can do to prevent that is erect a proper fence. I will decide about that next spring if we stay in this house another year.
I was never a fan of traditional puréed tomato soup. In fact I did not like tomatoes at all as a child. I finally acquired a taste for them in my teens when I grew them myself. There is a fantastic difference between tomatoes fresh off the vine and the dry, insipid kind available in supermarkets. To this day I seldom eat tomatoes unless I have grown them myself. The ones that went into this soup came from the CSA of a friend who cannot eat tomatoes (thanks Lori!).
This recipe is one of the best ways to celebrate summer harvest. Most of the other vegetables and herbs came from our garden: onions, green pepper, basil, thyme and rosemary.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3½ cups tomatoes, chopped, pulp and seeds discarded
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, green pepper and garlic and sauté 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, stock and herbs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 40 minutes.
- Add chicken and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.