Over the years I have been surprised that fruit which is only really been available to us having been stored a while is so different and delicious when you eventually get to try it straight off the tree. These are usually fruits you get to try while on holiday, warmed by the sun and nothing like the supermarket offerings. The first surprise were tomatoes, peppers, garlic and cucumber in Greece. I had always grown tomatoes, but they were nothing like the Greek ones. Apart from some exceptions (my favourite cherry tomato, Sungold being one) the tomatoes I grew at home seemed somehow.....constipated, for want of a better word. As if they wanted to be something nice and tasty and juicy but not quite managing it. Still miles better than the supermarket offerings, with the added spice that you actually produced them yourself. I am delighted, therefore, that the Bulgarian tomato is just as delicious as the Greek I remember. Our neighbours had planted a few different varieties, from the huge beefsteak weighing in at a pound and a half (700g), through ‘conventional’, to bottling varieties and even a rather tasteless orange one. I know there is a thought that arthritics shouldn’t eat anything from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and potatoes, but then we are told we can’t eat anything else either, including dairy, eggs, grain, coffee, green vegetables...the list goes on. As food is a hobby of mine, I am afraid I will just have to hobble! Other fruits (which I shouldn’t have either) so different fresh are citrus. They don’t grow in the ground here as the winters are so cold, but they do grow well in pots taken in at the end of the year. The ones from holidays, orange, grapefruit and lemons, just delicious. In Portugal in Autumn it was grapes and figs, nothing like any I had tasted before. Now here in Bulgaria I have been pigging out on cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines, figs and grapes, and now we have started harvesting the walnuts. Even Dave has eaten some, and he doesn’t like them! And wolfing down the coffee and walnut cake like there’s no tomorrow. They are not easy to harvest though, the tree is huge so we have to let them drop and hope they do so before turning black.
I have been making cakes and enriched bread for the freezer, using the surplus eggs. I tend to make the cakes in traybake form, usually without icing as the icing sugar is non existent and making your own too grainy. I have found that the butter here does not give a good texture to the cake, being too whipped, but the sunflower spread is great (but NOT on toast!)
I have also tried to use up some of the hundreds of peppers still on the plants by stuffing them with a rice mixture and freezing them. No idea if they will ever get eaten but I am still having trouble letting things rot on the plant. The mountains of peppers of all size, shape and colour in the markets and for sale at the side of the roads have to be seen to be believed. Even Venka buys them to add to the huge colourful bottles of whole vegetables she does.
And bless her, she sent over a bag full of beans as mine are no more. I have to say, though they look dry and unappetising, they are actually very good. I don’t know what she is doing with them, but the squash and pumpkin mountain is shrinking. She comes and takes a few at a time to who knows where.
We have found out why the little black dog from behind, Mimi, is on the loose. Two of our neighbours have lost chickens recently, one losing ten, which is a huge blow when you rely heavily on your own produce. Whatever killed them just ripped their heads off and left them. Some say fox, but knowing there are martens around and that they will do that to anything that flaps (often broody hens escape as they will not move) that is my thought. I hate leaving the chooks in latein the morning, but rather that than dead. A friend also believes that martens on the roof of the chicken house and scaring the girls might have contributed to the hens passing soft eggs in the night from the perch. So Mimi is left loose to scare off any intruding predator.
Mimi’s owner also seems to be waging war on the wild birds. She can be heard regularly banging a metal bin lid, hissing and snarling, for twenty minutes at a time. Deafening when you are in the garden, but strangely the dogs ignore it!
Dave has made good progress clearing the weeds from the garden, with half now looking ready for something, but so dusty as the few showers we are having hardly dampen the ground. When it does start raining no doubt it will soon turn green! But at least he is catching the annual weeds before they can seed, and certainly lessening the perennial couch grass. Bella is forever in attendance, either just lying close or playing or hunting crickets. Exhausting!