Tomato sauce in zip-lock bags and crazy versions of tomato soup are frozen solid, stacked in the freezer, jars of spicy salsa and chili sauce line a shelf in our refrigerator. The kitchen resembles the aftermath of a slasher film. From three little packets of seeds grew an extraordinary amount of tomatoes.
We weren’t prepared for the abundance of Roma, cherry and those fat silly looking heirloom tomatoes that took over the citizen’s first Algarve garden. Was it the judicious use of the soil from the old chicken coop? He insists the secret is weeding early and often then watering every day at the same time. Each time I compared the healthy basket-loads of our daily harvest to the sad shriveled tomato plants of our neighbor, I am reminded that karma works in mysterious ways.
We don’t have only tomatoes. Basil, oregano, dill, rosemary, lemon grass, mint, parsley, thyme, (no sage, sorry) little very hot chili peppers and big mild chili peppers clutter the path to the kitchen door. A season of spinach and now green peppers are looking very healthy. This is being gown by a man whose only previous farming experience was growing a pineapple plant in an office window planter. It was a lovely pineapple plant if you ignored the cigarette butts people would grind into it and the parked dumpster nearby.
I am from the United States; eating produce from a supermarket in the States is similar to eating the waxed props you see in furniture stores. However, these fresh organic “wolf peaches*” are so good I eat them every day (sometimes, twice a day). Slice a few, drizzle them with azeite, balsamic vinegar then sprinkle a bit of Algarve sea salt, oh my, lycopene heaven.
My doctor, hairdresser, real estate agent, therapist and favorite characters about town have all been gifted with mixed bags of fresh picked tomatoes garnished with a bundle of herbs. The “Connie Tomato-Seed” of Lagos, casting seeds of friendship into the fertile life of my new home and crossing my fingers for a sustainable crop.
In the distance I see smoke as the real farmers are clearing their fields for whatever farmers plant next. The cute little cherry tomatoes are still hanging on, the last of the crop. In the nick of time, my imaginary friend, TV chef and fellow adventurer, Anthony Bourdain showed me a recipe using the little cherries. Cut them in half , toss with croutons, herbs, azeite and balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle a bit of the Algarve sea salt on, it will be fabulous.
* Wolf peach is derived from the tomato’s scientific name, lycopersicum. It comes from German werewolf myths. Since the tomato belongs in the nightshade family of plants, all sorts of evil were associated with my innocent little fruit (berry if you really research it).