Happy birthday, Nonna !

Nonna Domenica just turned 75!

Over the weekend, we were in Montreal to celebrate our Nonna’s 75th birthday. Surrounded by her children, grand children and even her first great-grandson, it was a great moment to reflect on her journey from Campobasso, Italy to Montreal, Canada. Things have sure changed from the moment she set foot here as a teenager in 1950s. Throughout the years, Nonna worked hard to support her family and provide them the best life possible.

Her cooking brought and still brings a smile to everyone’s face. We all laugh when she insists on offering seconds although her first generous portion of pasta and meatballs is more than enough. My grandmother speaks both Italian and French. Even though we both communicate in French (I unfortunately don’t know any Italian), it always felt as though certain things were lost in translation on both ends.

Thankfully, it seems as thought the language barrier has dissipated somewhat, especially since I’ve grown increasingly curious about her culinary secrets. I visited her on my own about two summers ago. I feel as though this was the stepping-stone that has brought us closer.

“Take a look!”

On that day, Nonna had taken great pride in showing me pretty much every single herb, flower, fruit or vegetable growing the backyard of her Rivière-des-Prairies home. That yard is quite the scene. Every square foot is put to use: loads of oregano plants by the patio, chard, onion and tomato plants in the sunny spot and grapes growing on the car port. There were even beanstalks planted in a narrow space behind the shed.

The cold room is just as impressive. Inside, you’ll find some vegetables pickling, wine aging, cheese and sausage drying. My grandmother’s face lit up as she carefully showed the fruit of her and her partner’s labour. It was just great.

I must admit that I’m completely fascinated by the “art” of approximation of ingredients that she has mastered in many of her dishes. I’ve written about it in a previous post on her pasta sauce. With that being said, I now give her a call for advice, whenever I’m intrigued about something in the kitchen.

I’m looking forward to many more visits in Nonna’s garden and words of culinary wisdom.

Grazie Mille! Tanti auguri, Nonna!

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Putting our green thumbs to the test: an update

Steady as they grow: Black Cherry tomatoes.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our gardening experiment with heirloom tomatoes on our deck. About two months in this endeavour, the seedlings have grown; hence, it’s time for an update.

All four tomato plants have grown, but not all at the same rhythm. The Black Cherry and Aunt Ruby’s German Green Cherry have shot up quite a bit. Both are over five feet tall (a couple of inches shy of my height) and have several fruits waiting to ripen. We should be able to taste the fruits of our labour soon enough.

The situation of both the Yellow Pear and Vintage Wine is quite different. The seedlings didn’t grow nearly as much as the other two. They stand at about three and half feet tall. The Yellow Pear was quick to bloom and produced one fruit that has yet to grow or ripen. After the rain of the last few days, some of the branches have broken.

The Vintage Wine has been quite the late-bloomer, literally. Several flowers have blossomed over the last week and a half. Promising.

Thoughts on the process

We have been quite intrigued by the way our tomato plants have grown. The Black Cherry and Aunt Ruby’s German Green Cherry have grown quite high. To protect them, we used two three-foot bamboo poles per plant to support them. We were expecting the tomato plants to grow a bit more in bushes, but instead grew in height. Apparently, this isn’t unusual. Heirloom tomato plants can grow up to six feet tall.

Based on discussions with family and searching through online publications, we’ve come to the conclusion that our plants are not having enough sunlight. Ideally tomatoes need between six and eight hours of light per day.

Looking forward to finally biting into one our homegrown pomodoros!

Got any tomato growing anecdotes?