blind passion

Peter Linenko happens to be 89 years old and legally blind, but he doesn't let that stop him from planting, growing and harvesting between 30 and 40 tomato plants each year, ‘earlybird’ being his variety of choice. Though he did not even begin growing vegetables until the age of 60, his backyard garden in Kelowna, B.C. also grows carrots, beets, garlic, onions, raspberries and radishes; radishes being his favourite, as they are the first thing he eats from the garden each spring.

He plants by feel, using a line of string as his guide and counting in his head. Gardening is a passion for Peter which helps to keep him active and feeling productive. His daughter, Linda, cans some 60-80 jars of tomatoes, salsa and tomato sauce each year, using only the tomatoes he grows.

Though I have never had the pleasure of meeting Peter, Linda is a friend of mine. Last week she generously gifted me with a bag of his beautiful tomatoes. I was so very impressed by his horticultural abilities and accomplishments (not to mention inspired by such fine ingredients).

Here are some resources available online. See (no pun intended) What To Do When You Can't See What You Plant and Adaptive Gardening Techniques For The Visually Impaired.

So....what to do with a big bag of beautiful, fresh homegrown tomatoes? I had eaten a 'panzanella' (tomato and bread salad) during my visit to Seattle 2 weeks ago, at a newish, hip restaurant called Tavolata. The recipe originates in Tuscany, where stale bread is put to use in many ways, often appearing in salads. 'Panzanella' is Italian for 'little swamp'. The name is appropriate, as the chunks of bread are first soaked in cold water and then mixed in with the rest of the salad, where they sop up the zesty vinaigrette. What better time to experiment?

Panzanella (Tomato & Bread Salad)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
8 ounces stale Italian bread, cut into 2-inch cubes
8 cups (about) cold water
5 cups ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red onion, thinly diced
1 cup thinly shaved pecorino cheese
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn into bite-size pieces

Pour vinegar into small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Then add the anchovies, salt and pepper. Place bread in large bowl. Pour in enough cold water (about 8 cups) to cover bread. Soak 5 minutes. Drain well; squeeze bread to remove as much liquid as possible. Coarsely crumble bread into same bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, pecorino and basil. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. If necessary, season salad with extra salt and pepper. Serve topped with a light drizzle of good olive oil.


Anonymous said...

soggy! wheres the croutons?

global peasant said...

Mal, is that you? You may have crunchy croutons, but where are your balls?