Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The accidental tomato

I am quite chuffed with myself, having been away galavanting in the glorious autumn colour over the weekend, on my return, I found the accidently sun-dried tomato. There is the evidence, one peedie perfectly formed sun-dried tomato, what a clever little chap, saving me the job of preserving it. I know, happily grown and sun-dried on a windowsill in Orkney, who would have believed it to be true.  Indoor tomatoes are possible, if you don't have a greenhouse and can't grow them, like me, out there in the frozen north of Orkney. We've had not a bad harvest of tomatoes this year from the windowsills.
The accidental part of the tale is that it happenned on a windowsill, unknown to me, sun-dried itself nicely on the sill behind the windowbox it was growing in quite happily, whilst watching a grand view of Graemsay, Hoy and Scapa flow, clever peedie tomato. I guess must have basked in sufficient Orkney sunshine to get itself all lovely a dried. The rest of the tomatoes I managed to harvest before they went and dried themselves whilst I wasn't looking.
I have to say, without being too blaggy, the indoor allotment this year has been quite successful, a plentiful supply of herbs and tomatoes. Take that you pesky wind, growing tomatoes and basil in Orkney with no greenhouse nor tunnel covered yet would appear to be quite easy on a windowsill, in a windowbox indoors.
We've also had basil growing a plentiful from late spring until now. The basil has been a real eyeopener, one supermarket pot of Basil, (you know the kind, in the salad aisle, herb concentration camps I think of them as, so I took one home and set them free) I bought in May, gently teased into a windowbox, still going strong, into November and has had oodles of picking from it. I'd say almost 1kg of basil - which is only the quantity I've frozen, can't account for the random pickings at other times for Orkney pesto and when we've needed it for cooking. Well worth the 75p we paid for it. OK I could have easily grown it from seed, but for me that way was easier, supermarket pots have upto 50 seedlings in a pot - thats value for money, and if you don't have a green house, or are a bit daunted by raising seed or you simply don't have the time to raise seedlings, these pots are ace to get you started.
Ok, its beginning to get a bit straggly, but its done so well, we're letting it flower now, its worked so very hard! By the way how pretty are basil flowers? I love them so much, although I often stop the plant flowering for a while, but how bonnie is that?
We've had tomatoes a plenty since late June, harvested them hard, scoffed them as Orkney bruschetta, pasta sauces and frozen whole into canon balls for using later. I'm a bit sad as the last of them for this year are sitting ready to be harvested in the upstairs living room.  Then I'll empty the pots and put them away until the springtime, the end of the summer I guess. The last truss...........I'm quite touched, (and not in my normal in the head way).......
I've taken down all the other windowboxes but somehow I can't bear to just take the final tomatoes out. I guess that means summer will really have come to an end. Well, I guess not really, we're lucky, the freezer is bulging with home grown canon balls for making sauces later in the winter.  They get lobbed randomly into tubs and bags in the big chest freezer, no skinning, blanching, no anything, just lobbed and frozen. I may be proud of my little frozen friends, I have alot of photos of them. Folks, I clearly have a problem!
 OK, well bulging is perhaps an overstatement but there are kilos of tomatoes in the freezer happily snoozing away until they are turned into sauce for the pasta guzzling cellist.
 There are also an array of tubs and containers, bags and the odd tub which are full of an array of home made pasta sauce in the freezer, for quick food when we need it after work, or lazy food when we need it over the weekend. A fraction of the cost of even the swankiest pasta sauce, home made ingredients means I know whats in it too. 
Tomatoes freeze wonderfully, cooked or otherwise. I lob mine in whole and deal with them at a later date. Or I chop them up and make sauces and freeze them from fresh tomatoes if I've the time. There is no rhyme or reason to this, my life is very random, but it works for us. At the end of the day, if you can find a way to make it work for you - whatever you grow or cook, we all get a gold star as far as I'm concerned!
Chopped, if I have time.....
Pasta sauce a bubbling, if I've got time........
Pasta sauce a frozen ready for eating, if we've time otherwise we freeze them whole for when we do have time!

There you have it, can you grow quite nice food on a windowsill in the frozen north? It would appear you can. The plants were raised in windowboxes, indoors on the sill. I'm lucky, I've got a lot of deep windowsills in my life.
How did we do it, by growing from seed, small plants and shop bought bigger plants, just did what suited at the time, putting one to three tomato plants in a windowbox, depending on the size of the box. Watered and fed well all summer.

Some of the tomatoes were raised from seed I was given, like tomato 'Latah' (bush, but sprawls)which does indeed insanely sprawl, just like Little Black Fox told me it would. Some were old seed given to see if I could do something with them, 'Lilliput' (bush), thank you Robyn, all germinated, although they were slow, they provided the 'second' flourish of the crop which we are eating now.

Some were grown from home sown seed, which is merely labelled 'good bush tomato, prolific, might be one of the artic ones, no idea' in my very own hand, they also did well. These are now known as the 'no idea tomatoes' I've really not a clue what they were, but I've saved more seed this year as they really were a prolific tomato.

Some were grown from bought seed with proper labelling (I know, I'm in shock, given my panchant for not labelling plants, I was surprised to find a properly labelled plant in my ownership). The proper labelled grown from seed types were 'Tom thumb' (bush), 'Red alert' (bush), Marmande, Andes and Lemondrop (diva, or indeterminate tomatoes). The taller one didn't fare well with me, took too much room and drove me crazy, but, then again, I'm not renowned for my patience.

And finally, some were bought as baby plants online (big companies and smaller suppliers, in shops or in the lcoal supermarket), all were generally bush tomatoes (varieties the same as above) as I'm a lazy grower and a bush (don't do anything with me but water me tomato), is my favourite. I guess the moral of the story is it doesn't matter how you try and grow them or where you get them from, but have a go.

Come on, if I can grow tomatoes in Orkney, on a windowsill and enjoy fresh tomatoes and a stash of home made pasta and pizza sauces, bruschetta, gaspacho and even the odd fresh tomato with a cooked breakfast, anyone can.

All you need is a windowsill, you've got one of them, right?


  1. Wow these are amazing! We have a couple of accidentally ones in a different way - dumped squishy split tomatoes in the edge of flower bed and they sprouted... so have now potted them up on the windowsill to see if they survive the winter.

  2. Thanks for all the advice about basil. I think we will give that a go.

    Sft x

  3. What an impressive success story Fay, you really have proved that an indoor allotment is possible, I am envious of how long you have had fresh tomatoes.

  4. Oh I'm SO pleased that the seeds I sent sprang to life for you - although I rather suspected they might!

  5. Hey Fay, I always make sauces and things when freezing tomatoes. I never thought of chucking them in the freezer whole and fresh. Saves a lot of trouble...

  6. Janet, it really does, and a frozen tomato is a very handy frozen canon ball shaped container. I just grab out a few each time I need a 'tin' of tomatoes for a recipe. Its helped us really cut down on the stuff we buy in and the tins we need to recycle. We had homemade pasta sauce for tea last night - a work night, quick tea, was lovely - all the nicer for being home made. I'm very stupidly proud of my indoor allotment! Frozen tomatoes are also handy for lobbing at your enemies, but to be honest I wouldn't waste them. Too yummy!

  7. Robyn - they were slow, but they worked grand - I'd almost given up on them and potted the compost they'd been put in around the bigger peppers. Big mistake, a week later - I had to gently tease them out of the pepper pot and repot them in their own pots - just shows you patience is a virtue I don't appear to have! Brilliant crop though, I love the shape of liliput.....

  8. Janet/Plantalicious -- you're as always very kind!
    I'm really chuffed it worked - since growing peppers and chillis on the windows, which worked fine, the tomatoes were just a 'had to try crop' - since growing them though, driving around the island I've noticed many folk growing tomatoes on their windowsills indoors where they don't have a greenhouse, can't claim it for my idea - its clearly a 'local' adaptation to a lack of a greenhouse - I guess I imbided the idea subliminally! xx

  9. sft - any herbs from these pots will split up into about 50 plants if you're careful - Basil I have to say is the trickiest, its got quite soft stems, but if you're patient its really worth it - my basil window box has been having hard haircuts for months - and we've had an abundant amount of basil. I'm glad you're thinking of setting a 'herb concentration camp' free - good for you - basil at this time of year is probably a bit hit or miss, I'd give it a go in spring. Goodluck!

  10. W Watering can - I'm giggling - they are tenacious little things tomatoes aren't they, all seed I've kept myself has been very viable? I hope you get your little seedlings through the winter :) Clearly many folk have 'accidental' tomatoes :)

    My little sun dried beast is going to be kept for seed, a plant with that much spirit is bound to be a good parent for next years crop.

  11. hello! I'm so pleased that the tomatoes grew well for you! I've never had much luck with basil, but you've inspired me to try again next year!
    all the best Jx

  12. i had no idea that tomatoes froze so well. good to know. i am amazed at how many tomatoes you have. the house must have had that lovely tomato smell ... like a greenhouse. yummy.

  13. LBF - thank you for introducing me to it - very kind!!! Glad you'll try that dratted herb again next year - !

    JTs - the house was packed and they did attack folk trying to sit on the sofa - but hey ho - we got an ace crop this year, we're not self sufficient in tomatoes - but I've really reduced the amount of tinned/carton tomatoes I buy.