28/08/2013 Pink tomatoes, the seasons turn,the odd shower of rain has cooled Bansko, the days are getting noticeably shorter and the blackberries with their contrary nature begin their lethargic charge towards autumn. Of all the “important” crops in our life the blackberries are the least stressful, at one and the same time they are one of the most bountiful crops in our garden but never give more than a kilo of fruit a day. To put the blackberry harvest into perspective our sweet cherries all ripen within a week of each other, the frantic scramble to get as many cherries in as possible normally involves friends and staff being called in, ladders borrowed, production lines set up and all in all a very hectic few days. God forbid it rains and the whole crop is lost!
The blackberries on the other hand refuse to be ruffled by the mighty forces of the cosmos, it is as if the say “winter so what! We have time, take it easy, there’s enough to go around so stop making a fuss!” 3 or 4 weeks ago I picked our first blackberries sweet and juicy I ate almost as many as I collected, 2 kilos went into the freezer and a few days later there was no sign I had taken any fruit off the bushes. And so the inexorable harvest continues. We graze the bushes filling bags every few days, the freezer fills but the bushes themselves never look as if they have been touched. Those bombproof little red fruit still cover the bushes and every time I go out into the garden there are another couple of bags of ripe black fruit to be picked.
Other than my idyl with the blackberry which I am happy to revel in, the start of the blackberry harvest is an important signpost in our year. There is another crop that is starting to pick up speed and unlike my sweet spikey friend this harvest is frantic rush. Bulgarian pink tomatoes would never make it past the man from del monte, ugly gnarly things, invariably topped with a yellow and green patch and black spots, their sides bulge like a fat girl in lycra. I tried to find some images of them on google to share their looks but as ever all the pictures are of the select 1% of pretty ones, but even the internets obsession with food porn couldn’t stop a couple of more normal looking toms getting through !
Unlike a tomato in the U.K. with its perfect plump (but definitely not fat) shape, uniform colour and slightly artificial aroma from being still attached to the vine the Bulgarian pink tomato is not even red! It stinks with an overpowering punchy smell (no poncy aromas here). A case warm from the sun put on the kitchen table will fill the house with a strong forest like smell. once you start to peel, de-seed and boil the resulting puree the smell is irresistible. The flesh is dense with little or no water around the seeds, the kaleidoscopic seed chambers inside look more like a walnut than the uniform layer we are used to in the U.K. Lunches now turn into a tomato fest, red onion and tomato salad, tomatoes with salt, we eat them like apples. The one thing I’ve noticed is we don’t really add much to them.
As most Brits do, I watch cooking programs on t.v. and I am beginning to find the celebrity chef obsession with adding stuff to food slightly weird. Vinaigrette!!! WTF are your ingredients really so bland you need to add this stuff. The words and actions just do not add up. O.K. they talk about seasonal this and seasonal local that so what the F*** are they adding things to the raw ingredient for. A really seasonal ripe smelly tomato just needs a bit of salt to draw out the juices and then five minutes later (if you really really need it) some olive oil. The vinaigrette is the juices from the fruit, spoon some of that onto a slice of toast (o.k. call it crostini if it turns you on) and boom you have an epic meal. O.K. if you really really must, you can slice some red onions, there are enough of the things around at the moment anyway! Cucumbers, even though not in the same league of punchy flavour deserve the same respect. When picked ripe served warm from the sun, just peeled and salted what more could they need and what more could you want?
03/09/2013 Bellinis @ Harry’s? There is something special about a perfectly ripe peach, the soft fuzzy skin is like a babies back, the smell so sexy and when it is a white peach the flesh and flavour are to die for. The season is so short and they don’t really travel well so the juicy little beauty I just had for breakfast could easily be the one and only perfect white peach I will eat this year!
13/12/2011 lovely local dinner the other night, cooked at home without much thought we had a whole grain spagetti with meat balls. it was not until I was pottering around the garden afterwards that I realised that nearly the whole dish was made from our own or friends produce. The bottled tomatoes and passata were from Douglas and Tash’s garden bottled by Vania, the onions and garlic from Yana’s mum’s garden, olive oil from some of our Greek regulars and the meatballs were from a wild boar shot in belitsa by Yana’s Dad. Only the spagetti was bought in. For me this has become so normal that I had forgotten how rare it is in the U.K. to get home made stuff. Lucky is not the word!