As I write this, I’m looking at our kitchen counters and noticing that that isn’t much space on them. Zucchinis are piled up next to the stove. Mini pumpkins and butternut squash are waiting for their turns. Chili peppers are drying beside the fridge. And then there are the tomatoes: about five different kinds, at various stages of ripeness, piled up in bowls.
I didn’t intend to plant so many tomatoes this year. My original intention was to grow just eight plants, but we sowed a few extra seeds as insurance and then couldn’t bear to get rid of the cute little sprouts. More seedlings came as a result of demos during a class I taught. A bunch of black cherries seeded themselves in one of our beds, and I decided to let them grow. We ended up with about twenty-five plants: Sweet Baby Girl cherries, Juliets, Romas, Oregon Springs and a mysterious, striped grape tomato that I certainly don’t remember planting.
It was overwhelming, all this abundance. Now that fall is here, it’s time to savour what we can. Pretty soon, I’ll be dreaming of fresh tomatoes and counting down the days until we have them again.
Tomatoes are fussy. Growing them requires a lot of work: starting the seeds indoors, carefully repotting seedlings, weekly pruning. They’re prone to a host of diseases. These central American natives just aren’t well-suited to our cool, damp rainforest climate. That’s part of that makes them so rewarding.
This year’s hot weather has brought a number of challenges, but growing tomatoes has not been one of them. They love the heat. So did our basil. This fussy herb has met with limited success in our garden in past years, but this summer it did beautifully. Poking my head into our tomato-and basil bed was quite the aromatic experience.
As soon as October rolled around, our tomatoes started to succumb to late blight, a disease that’s impossible to avoid unless you own a greenhouse. By mid-month, we had harvested all of the fruits, allowing the green ones to ripen in the kitchen. We also picked all of our basil and made freezer-friendly pesto. Nothing is quite as life-affirming as thawing out a jar of home-grown pesto in the middle of winter.
Soup season is here. I love making a big pot on the weekend and using it as the base for dinners for the next few days. Tropical cashews are definitely NOT a local food for us, but they have a place in our kitchen because of their ability to create a cream base that tastes even better than dairy. Miso may be an unexpected ingredient in pesto, but trust me, it adds a depth of flavour that more than adequately replaces traditional parmesan. This soup came together at the beginning of a busy week when I needed something fast, filling and simple.
- FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (romas are ideal, but any variety will work)
- ½ cup roasted cashews
- ½ chili (optional)
- 3 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE PESTO:
- ½ cup walnuts
- 2 cups fresh basil, stems removed, packed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions. On medium-low heat, cook until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cashews and chili. Turn up the heat and add the water. Cook until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.
- Transfer to a blender and blend on high until the soup becomes creamy. You may need to do this in two or three batches, using a large bowl to hold the extra blended soup. Once everything is blended, return the soup to the pot, give it a stir and add generous amounts of salt and pepper.
- The soup should have a nice creamy consistency. If it is too thick, add more water as needed.
- While the soup is cooking, make the pesto by combining all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Eat immediately or store for up to a week in the fridge. If storing in the fridge, use the smallest jar you can find to help prevent the pesto from oxidizing (turning brown) and pour a thin layer of olive oil on top. The also pesto freezes beautifully. Use an ice cube tray or mini mason jars to freeze the pesto in portions.
- To serve, pour the soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of miso-basil pesto.
Want more yummy gardening tips? Join me on Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM every Tuesday afternoon at 5:00pm Pacific for Fabulous Urban Gardens on “Home” with host Jana Lynne White!