The next couple of days we will be helping my husband’s uncle and aunt a fare i pomodori, or “do the tomatoes.” 100 kilos of tomatoes in all. This is an ancient tradition that is still observed in central and southern Italy in particular. Quite an experience, similar to participating in a vendemmia or grape harvest (I have done that, too, but I was a bit younger then!).
The process is simple: you put on some old clothes (at the end of this process, they will be completely splattered with tomato juice and seeds, so you don’t want to be wearing your good Ferragamo suit 😉 ), wash the tomatoes and leave them to drip a bit, then you slit them in half, squeeze out some of the seeds and pulp and toss the inspected and approved tomatoes into a cauldron (see photo). Each one of us has to make sure that all the rotten tomatoes get discarded. The seeds and tomato juice are later poured onto the compost heap, so anything useful gets recycled. It is a very efficient system, but also a lot of hard work, I assure you (my back is killing me right now!). However, in the end the families that still follow this tradition have enough homemade bottled tomatoes to get them through the winter months. And doing the tomatoes with the right group of people can be a lot of fun. As it was today. There were only five of us at work this afternoon: the two of us, Stefano’s aunt and uncle, and a 6-year-old niece, as cute as a button and full of beans. I know, it sounds a bit like child labour, but I assure you that for her it was all a big game. And besides, this is how traditions get passed on to the next generation. Anyway, we chattered and laughed and teased one another and had a jolly good time. In less than two hours we filled 7 cauldrons, which have now been put into the wood oven (see photo) to cook overnight. We will process those tomatoes tomorrow morning, when we will also prepare another huge batch of tomatoes that will be boiled, passed, bottled and sterilized. There should be a few more family members helping us tomorrow. I say, the more, the merrier (and the more laughter and the more gossip to be heard)!