Goodbye summer in the vegetable garden

During October as the autumn sun passes lower and lower behind the houses in Piazza Rocchetta the piece of land where my friend Delia and I have our vegetable garden gets less and less sun, until by the middle of November the entire plot is in the shade – and it will stay that way until early February.

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This fantastic rim of ancient houses is the back drop to our vegetable garden and a total sun screen during winter.

Before the sun has gone completely we pick the last of the tomatoes and make a tangy green tomato and ginger chutney – a treat with cold meats or with cheese. The recipe is never twice the same but the general idea is this:

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The ingredients assembled in the photos are for double the recipe – 2kg tomatoes

1 kilo or 5-6 cups of finely chopped green tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sultanas which you have soaked overnight in strong tea or spirits of your choice – rum, whisky, tequila, limoncello …

1.5 cups sugar,

600ml vinegar

A good handful at least of finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

1-2 teaspoons of ground chili pepper.

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When all the ingredients are ready put them together in a large saucepan and boil gently for as long as it takes for the mixture to become thick enough for you to see the bottom of the pan when you run the wooden spoon through the mixture from the side of the pan towards the centre.

Spoon into hot jars and leave to cool wrapped in a blanket.


Meanwhile, in the vegetable garden it’s time to take down the tomato stakes and cover the beds for the winter. To one side of the plot we have various brassicas, some artichokes and some lettuces. In a raised bed near the warmest edge of the garden we’ve planted leeks. This is where the very last of the sun can still get through the gaps between the houses until about the 10th of November, and where in February the first rays of early spring will appear. Some of the young leeks have been squashed by a visiting cat deciding to take its siesta on them. Hopefully the rest will do well.

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Brassicas, lettuce, leeks

Over the embers of last Saturday’s barbecue lunch we roasted the final picking of red chilli peppers. Cleaning the seeds out of them is quite a messy task but when it’s done and the chillies have been reduced to a paste in the food processor, we freeze the paste in teaspoon-sized portions – enough to really liven up our winter dishes. (Other previously picked chilli peppers are already drying at home – they will be ground later on, to use in our sauces and chutneys.)

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Two ways of dealing with chilli peppers


3 thoughts on “Goodbye summer in the vegetable garden

  1. Pam

    I’ve been pondering the best way to preserve my chilli peppers and will definitely try your roasting method this summer. Do you basically chargrill them, let them cool, then remove the stems and seeds before pulverising them? And do you find this gives a similar result to drying them, then grinding them to a powder, or is the outcome quite different in terms of how they react in cooking? More advice please!

  2. ventimigliaaltawords Post author

    Hi Pam, yes, you grill them, trying not to burn the skin too much. when you take them off the heat put them in a paper bag and then in a plastic bag so that they steam up in the bag, then remove seeds and stem and if you can, the skin – getting the skin off can be rather tiresome so don’t worry if you can’t. The result is very similar to drying them – I would use roughly the same amount of either the dried and ground pepper or the roasted and frozen version. I also keep some roasted ones in some olive oil in order to have chilli oil for salads etc.


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