I’ve been sick with a virus this last week, hence the lack of posting. As it is hard to do much when you are laid up in bed with the plague, I spent much of my quarantine watching historical re-creation reality shows on YouTube. It began with a re-watch of my favourite show in this genre, Tales From the Green Valley and spiralled into a marathon viewing of every one that I could find online: The 1900 House, The 1940s House, and Coal House at War. I even made my way through the less educational and more socially dramatic American programs Frontier House and Texas Ranch House.
Unfortunately, these shows (other than Tales of the Green Valley) are disappointing in their lack of information, re-creation, or experimentation with historical garden practices. I would have loved to have seen the people of the “Texas Ranch House” using the garden that was provided for them and exploring the wild edible possibilities in the landscape around them. There are a few shows that do delve into gardening and kitchen gardening more specifically. The Victorian Kitchen Garden is one that I have enjoyed in the past. Also in this series are The Victorian Kitchen, The Wartime Kitchen Garden and The Victorian Flower Garden that I am yet to watch in full.
If you’re interested in farming shows that are also educational and along the lines of “Tales of the Green Valley” (including cast members) I’d also recommend The Wartime Farm, The Victorian Farm, and The Edwardian Farm.
Plenty to entertain and educate yourself as you lay on the couch choking up a lung or blowing your brains out through your nostrils this fall and winter season.
Perhaps it is the cold weather that brings them indoors in droves or a last push to procreate before the end times come, but the fruit flies are taking over my kitchen right now as they do every single fall. They are everywhere. They settle on anything that doesn’t move (edible or not) and alight like a cloud of horrible little monsters when the cupboards are opened or a light wind disturbs them.
I invoke the spirit of my grandmother and shake my fist at no one. “I cast yee out foul things! Satan, I rebuke you!”
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work. What does work is a homemade system invented by Davin that we call “The Carrousel”. Its name is inspired by the classic Sci-Fi film from 1976, Logan’s Run. In the film, citizens of a Utopian/dystopian future who are over a certain age are entered into a death machine called the Carrousel under the guise of reincarnation/rebirth or “renewal.”
In our version of The Carrousel, fruit flies are lured into a jar of no return via a funnel system that leads to an intoxicating lake of old red wine. To make your own simply:
It is a chaotic blanket of thin, tangled branches smothering the lilac bush. A wild thing in a garden that has gone mad with wild things and wildness. And once it got going that poor potted dahlia hardly stood a chance.
I’ve realized that it is a living approximation of my grandmother’s “Christmas tree.” My garden’s tribute of sorts to the mass of potted tropical vines and houseplants that she decorated with small glass balls and assembled into a triangular “tree” shape each December.
I took a break from posting the Herbaria recently. I did continue shooting the photos so I am resuming where I left off a few weeks back.
This week marks more tomatoes. All varieties have come in and many were already starting to wane at the time of this photo a few weeks back. It’s turning into a hustle to ensure that the remaining varieties as well as other frost tender plants make it into these photos before their time comes.
These last days of the tomato harvest are fast approaching and I am finding myself increasingly careful about how I use up the remaining fresh fruit. This is it and then I am back to another 8-9 month wait before I get to taste the good stuff fresh again.
It was with this late season panic infecting my brain that I decided I’d better get on enjoying a few last-minute tomato soups. My go-to, there-is-no-other-way-to-enjoy-it-thanyouverymuch method is roasted in the oven. Always with basil. I’ve probably thrown in some oregano now and again. Thyme is also a possible addition. But for the most part I am wholly dedicated to basil in my tomato soup.
I would never dream of marring the perfection of my tomato soup with another herb, certainly not a strong one like fresh sage. Never say never. The other day I was flipping through, “My favorite ingredients,” a cookbook by Skye Gyngell and stopped on a tomato bread soup recipe that used sage as its primary herbal flavour. I’ve made tomato bread soup in the past and while I don’t mind bread soups in general when the ingredients are good and the bread is appropriately dense, I’m always a little taken aback by the mushiness, a textural aversion that I have held onto from my childhood when our cheap canned soup lunches were bulked up by soggy crackers. That said, it wasn’t this aspect of the soup that caused me to pay attention, but the sage.
Sage in tomato soup you say?
I dared myself to try something different and potentially waste one of my last gluts of good homegrown tomatoes. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I used more tomatoes than were called for; I didn’t bother measuring out any of the ingredients, come to think of it. Her recipe includes a hot, dried chile pepper, but I decided to use the fresh, mildly hot peppers that are still coming from my garden. I topped mine with grated pecorino cheese. I did not use the chewy, peasant style bread that is often called for in bread soups because I didn’t have any. Instead, I opted for a few slices of stale spelt bread that I had in the fridge. Again though, it was the use of strong, earthy sage versus basil in a tomato soup that I was most interested in. The only reason why I stayed with the bread soup version was because I wanted to stretch this out into a meal.
I was not disappointed. We ate up the whole pot! This would make a particularly warming late fall/winter meal by substituting fresh tomatoes for a jar that has been home-canned (or purchased).