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Helen Chesnut: Tangy gazpacho sparks memories of a summer in Greece

Gazpacho is a cold soup made with fresh tomatoes and other summer vegetables

I looked at the bowlful of tomatoes I’d picked and thought of Hal.

Hal was an interior decorator from San Francisco who was living in Lindos, a small village on the island of Rhodes, during the year I lived there in my mid-20s. The tomatoes triggered a memory of a hot summer day and meeting Hal in the village square. He held out a Thermos and invited me to taste the contents.

The Thermos contained a zesty gazpacho, a cold soup made with fresh tomatoes and other summer vegetables, flavoured with various optional herbs and spices. The soup is usually either blended smooth or left partly chunky. Variations in different regions of southern Europe are many.

I don’t know how Hal managed to mince the vegetables in the soup to such a fine texture. The village had no electricity to run kitchen machines (and no running water). His soup was delicious and refreshing.

I decided to attempt a rough duplication of Hal’s gazpacho, from what I could remember of his description.

I selected a few of the tomatoes, washed and chopped them into a bowl, then retrieved a cucumber from the garden to peel and slice into the soup. A few miniature orange peppers from the patio pots were added, along with thin slices, minced, of sweet Spanish onion and two plump cloves of garlic grated into the mix.

Salt and a dash of hot sauce were the flavourings I used, though recipes often include others, such as parsley, chives and cumin. To add more tomato flavour and liquid to the blend, I used a tiny amount of chili sauce left in a bottle in the fridge, diluted with a little water.

A hand blender reduced some of the chunkiness, but I elected not to blend it entirely smooth, to leave some texture. I was pleased with the result, and look forward to trying other variations in seasonings for gazpacho.

Lunga in hiding. Since midsummer, I’ve been haunting the compost heaps planted with winter squashes, searching beneath the vines’ thick canopy of leaves for developing fruits. I found one Lunga di Napoli squash, but it aborted and rotted off.

I could not find other “Lungas” — a great disappointment, for this had become my favourite winter squash for its sweet (cooked or raw), deep orange flesh. Then, at the beginning of the month, I saw one, its nose (blossom end) tucked into a shadowy corner of a compost enclosure. Delighted, I gently lifted the blanched nose up to expose it to light and rested the squash on a bed of straw.

At planting time, I decided to see whether rather aged seeds of another favourite winter squash, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, would sprout. The seeds produced many good plants, which I thinned to three. Those vines have borne several of the curved, long-necked squashes that I’ll be happy to have in my trove of stored winter food.


Apple identification. Dinter Nursery, 2205 Phipps Rd. in Duncan, is offering an apple-identification opportunity on Sunday, Sept. 17, noon to 5 p.m. For the best chance of having apples successfully identified, type “Dinter Nursery + apple variety identification guidelines” into a search engine.

Hardy plant meeting. The Hardy Plant Group of the Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. in Knox Presbyterian Church, 2964 Richmond Rd. Bryan Emery, proprietor of Bryan’s Specialty Plants in Victoria, will present Confessions of a Plantaholic. His collection, evolved over 25 years, includes unique annuals, perennials, house plants, cacti and succulents. Visitor $5 drop-in fee includes refreshments and a door-prize ticket.

Abkhazi Garden day of peace. Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. in Victoria, is celebrating the International Day of Peace on Thursday, Sept. 21, with a children’s ceremony at 1 p.m. and a showing of the documentary Abkhazi Garden — Sanctuary from War.

HCP plant sale. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is hosting its annual fall plant sale on Friday, Sept. 22 (members and volunteers only), and Saturday, Sept. 23, 9 4 p.m. both days. Garden admission is free. All plants are discounted by 25 per cent. HCP staff, Master Gardeners and volunteers will be on hand to advise on purchases. Plant availability list will be on the HCP website close to the sale dates.

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