Franco’s Patch of Tomato Paradise
Visiting another city is always an adventure. A friend’s birthday was a great excuse to travel to Canberra from Melbourne. A lovely surprise was coming across Franco’s patch of tomato paradise.
Our friends had family staying with them, so a mate stepped in and welcomed us into his townhome over the weekend. We were greeted by a beautifully productive edible courtyard garden. Franco’s Italian background kicked in when he built raised garden beds in his new north east facing townhouse courtyard garden to house his tomatoes, basil, oregano, chillies and eggplants.
With plants reaching more than 1.2 metres he has a constant supply of sweet Black Russian and Tommy Toe tomatoes to eat fresh. San Marzano tomatoes are starting to bear fruit – they produce a dark red elongated tomato about 8-10 cm long, ideal for making a rich sauce. Romas are excellent as well and sometimes you will come across seeds or seedlings of local Italian varietals that were brought to Australia more than 50 years ago, they’re now considered to be heirloom varieties. If someone offers you these kind of seeds, snap them up gratefully!
Harvested oregano dangles from the garage ceiling drying out (oregano is one of those herbs that is often better dry than fresh) and he’s eyeing off the basil for harvest in the near future – hello pesto! We’ve had fantastic pasta using our friend Melinda’s recipe for pesto – click here for the recipe or just keep reading, it’s at the end of this blog.
Chillies are ready to pick as needed and the eggplants are fattening. Franco says the key is to keep the soil well mulched and add some organic fertiliser during the growing period. Careful not to use too much nitrogen though, as you will get beautiful foliage, but not much fruit! He picks off the dead leaves from the plants, makes sure they are sufficiently supported and harvests frequently.
Thanks Franco for sharing your patch and home with us – we had a wonderful time.
2 big bunches of Basil leaves (stalks removed)
150g Parmesan grated
4 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
125 g pine nuts
Olive oil – up to two cups (to your taste)
Place all ingredients except olive oil in grinder of your choice and grind. Slowly add olive oil until you reach desired consistency. Season to taste. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, although ours seems to get munched more quickly!