Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Tomatoes, coloured pencil on Pastelbord, 8" x10" copyright Teresa Mallen

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes...that is what has been occupying my spare hours these past weeks. Harvest time is busy for me but I love it. One of the reasons I grow food is because I love the connection to the land and the seasons that this work gives me.

In recent years I have been shooting for getting in around 75 to 100 tomato plants (in addition to the other veggies we grow, I don't just plant tomatoes :-) ). This year with the gift of a dozen or so plants from a neighbour and with the self sowing of a few plants from compost seeds, I ended up with 95 plants made up of different varieties. It is a long journey from the planting of seeds in tiny seed pots in the house in late February to now, the end of the harvest.

So what do I do with all of these tomatoes? Well what we don't eat fresh in the fall months, I use to cook with over the winter. These tomatoes turn into homemade pasta sauce as well as a base for sauces in soups, stews and chili. I have also created an annual late autumn tradition of turning lots of green tomatoes that have been patiently waiting in the garage into our year's supply of salsa.

Tomatoes are not only fabulously versatile in the kitchen, they also make great subject matter for art! I loved the look of these just picked tomatoes (still with a bit of stem), as they sat in a basket in the early morning light. I decided to capture the moment. This piece was done on an 8" x 10" board with a sanded surface (made by Ampersand, called Pastelbord).

I have been blogging in fits and starts this year. I would muster up some great intentions and then life would bring surprises. We lost a much beloved goat this summer. Her various health issues were my priority but alas in the end there wasn't anything that could be done, she simply had a heart that was done its job. Losing an older animal, even when they have had a great life is still not easy. Fortunately I was able to spend oodles of quality of time with her last months and that was wonderful.

So the harvest is just about in and I have been really busy in the studio. I have some new things to show you...I just need to snap some pics first.

Finally, here is a use for all of those green tomatoes that are left in our gardens when frosts come and there is no more time for ripening...Green Tomato Salsa. I have included a recipe here, it comes from Farmgirl Fare.


Farmgirl Susan's No Sugar Green Tomato Relish/Salsa 
Please note my recipe changes mentioned at the end of Susan's version.
Makes about 3 pints. Recipe may be doubled; increase cooking time by 10-15 minutes.
 2 lb. green tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 lb. white or yellow onions, chopped
3/4 lb. sweet red peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 lb. tart cooking apples, such as 'Granny Smith', cored and chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup 5% acidic organic raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon kosher or sea salt
4 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded if desired, and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onions, peppers, apples, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a large, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about an hour.
Stir in the jalapenos, cilantro, and cumin and simmer for 5 more minutes. Carefully purée the mixture using a stick blender or in a traditional countertop blender (in batches if necessary) until still somewhat chunky.

If canning, return the puréed relish to a boil, then ladle the hot mixture into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Store in a cool, dark place.
10 calories, 0g fat, 60mg sodium, 0g fiber, per Tablespoon

My changes to the recipe: I chop up the tomatoes, onions etc. using a food processor at the beginning, before putting into the pot. That way I am able to skip the hand blender step or putting it into a blender at that later point. If you don't have any organic raw apple cider vinegar, just use the apple cider vinegar that you find at your grocery store. Also, garlic powder can be used to replace the fresh garlic.
I also don't wait to add the jalapenos, cilantro and cumin. Not sure why you would add these ingredients for just five minutes.The cilantro and cumin add wonderful flavour! I add a lot more than the required amount of cilantro.
I always double the recipe and it does work well that way too.
Finally, I took the recipe and using some conversion charts, I converted the weight measures to cups. I found this easier to relate to.


Laura Pond said...

Your drawing is beautiful. I have never used pastelboard. Is it easier to work with as opposed to the bristol vellum paper that I use?

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Laura, thank you!

The 'Pastelbord' is a board that has a coating applied to it. The coating give a rough surface texture similar to the coating that pastel paper often has on it. It would be quite a bit different to work on than bristol vellum paper!

One neat thing about working on boards is that they can be framed without using glass, just like an oil panel (you need to spray the surface with a fixative so it is protected from anything being splashed on it etc.)

Personally, I enjoy working on both smoother papers and sanded surfaces. For paper, I often work on a paper called Stonehenge, which has a medium tooth. Sanded papers, the ones with the rough coating applied are much rougher. I really like working on Colourfix paper which has a tooth similar to this Pastelbord. Mi-Teintes also creates a coated paper called 'Touch'. While white sanded papers do exist, I always work on dark coloured papers when I choose to work on these rough papers.

The sanded surface can take some getting used to and depending on the hardness of your preferred pencil brand, it can use up your pencils more than smooth papers. I really like the Derwent Coloursoft pencils when working on sanded papers.

Bottom line, I wouldn't say it is easier to work on a sanded surface, it is simply a different way of working with cps. Just like some artists love working on Mylar or some burnish or some work over heat, it comes down to just getting the pigment on the paper in a way that we like. You might not like sanded papers or boards but the only way to know is to give a sheet a try. I really do enjoy working on them now but I admit I didn't at first. I had worked on white smoother papers for so long that it really took a while to make the adjustment.

Thanks for reading!

Laura Pond said...

Wow! Thanks for all the info. I think I will give the boards a try.

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

really want to try the mi-tienes touch paper, but its a little hard to find here :/...

anyway back to tomatoes :p they taste so much better when you grow them yourself, i cant go back to store bought now lol

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

oh and the drawing is great, full of light :)

Teresa Mallen said...

Your welcome Laura. If you ever have any other questions about what I am doing, please feel free to ask.

Hi Jennifer Rose, homegrown anything, no matter what it is, definitely ruins a person for storebought things. My first attempts at growing broccoli yielded scrappy looking plants but wow, the taste, I had never had anything like it, not even when purchasing veggies at a farmers market. I remind myself of this when in the spring I am working in the hot sun getting bit by blackflies and mosquitoes.

Paula Pertile said...

The tomatoes are beautiful! Love the little hairs on the stems. :~)

Reflections From Life Art Blog said...

LOVE your tomatoes drawing! I use Pastelbord all the time. Do you use a brush to blend the colors? You got such a smooth look, it seems like you did. Such lovely detail.

~ Nancy

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by!!! (blogs are getting quiet, not like the old days, eh?).

ANYWAY, I actually didn't use a brush. Just me, my pencils and the Pastelbord.

Thank you for you lovely comments.