The Random Garden: July

Our cherry tomatoes surprised us this summer.

It had stayed cool into June–not a surprise in Colares–but the days warmed only slightly as the calendar tipped past the summer solstice and into July. We’d had big new projects in the works, so we hadn’t bothered much with the Random Garden. S weeded a bit, and tended to the thistle he’d transplanted there for tea, but that was about it.

Fortunately, the garden has a mind of its own, and apparently needs no such shepherding to continue on course. The three avocado plants spread their leaves, and we picked one to repot and give to friends as a first birthday gift for their son’s celebration. Maybe by the time he hits school age, it will fruit.

The rose bush puzzled us completely. After three summers of pale pink fragrant blooms, the bush failed to blossom at all, save for a few spare buds high out of reach. No idea–or was it the lack of pruning that was to blame? A disappointment, as their delicate fragrance was one of my favorite early-summer scents.

S dug up more new potatoes as the weeks went by–precious little buds full of flavor–and we watched as the thicket of tomato plants took over the corner. I just enjoyed the smell of their leaves, rubbing them between my fingers; with the cool start to the season and our experience last year, I didn’t hold out much hope for a bumper crop–let alone an early one.

However, these child prodigies proved me wrong. I came back from a few days away with visiting friends to find S bending over those plants and laughing. “Look at this–we’ll have to pick them and take them with us on our trip,” he said. We were leaving in the morning to go to Gibraltar, where we’d tie the knot.

He held up a handful of little beauties, the sweet cherry tomatoes that we’d been buying from the Corner Market since we’d moved into town nearly four years ago. I popped one into my mouth, and it burst with flavor in that way only cherries right off the vine can do. We gathered up all that we could–a few had split from some overzealous watering the day before–and threw the others into the compost pile to feed the next season’s garden.

We had just enough tomatoes to make a salsa, adding in fresh padrones peppers, red onion, lime juice, and garlic. If you’re using larger tomatoes, you’ll want to peel them first (by blanching them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, plunging them into cool water, and slipping off their skins). But the cherries are tender enough to chop straight into the blend. Use a blender or food processor to smooth things out, if you prefer a less-than-chunky salsa.

A shiny red cherry tomato–in early July!