orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

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Friday, 30 November 2007


Funny old fruit this. We found this very pretty tree on our land, low growth, about 8 feet, fresh green leaves in spring changing to glorious shades of yellow, orange and red in autumn and producing this fruit, slightly tomato shaped, starting green, then turning bright yellow and finally dark orange. By the time the fruit is ripe the tree has lost all it’s leaves and you can spot a tree from a distance. They are quite common around here.

I didn’t know what it was, so we asked a neighbour. They told us it was a cachi tree. A look in the dictionary revealed that this is known as persimmon or kaki in English. We were none the wiser. So the first October, when we thought they might be ripe, we picked one, cut it open and tried it. My shirt instantly became 3 sizes to large and my head shrunk to the size of a walnut. Sour!!! They also left a rhubarb-like furriness on the teeth. Further enquiry told us that they should only be eaten when completely ripe, so we waited, tried again, and waited, tried again. The problem in our particular climate seems to be that it goes straight from under-ripe to rotten by about the end of December. Still, it’s a pretty tree, so we left it, hoping for a particularly fine autumn to ripen the fruit before the onset of rot.

This year, in our third year in Arcola, we managed to ripen some by the beginning of November and made some Kaki & Kiwi Jam. The kiwi was added to counter-balance some of the still high acidity. I called it Irish Jam as the 2 fruit varieties seemed to be the same colours as in the Irish flag. However many persimmons are still hanging on the now bare tree as you can see above. Anybody got any ideas what to do with under-ripe kaki?

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chilli threading and apple sauce

Today we started clearing the last of our 16 terraces at Arcola, although my strimmer seems to work only intermittently. Susan dug over the terrace that had tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies and courgettes in readiness for the second lot of broad beans and peas. According to my Demeter calendar we are to sow these about 5 days before full moon, which is going to be around the 19th December. The first lot planted in November is already poking it’s head out of the ground.

In the evening I turned the last apples from Villa into apple sauce. Simply quarter and core the apples and gently stew until soft. I leave the skins on, they have a lot of flavour. When soft, whizz them through a food processor, return to the pan, add sugar and cinnamon to taste, heat through and pot in hot jars. Seal and turn upside down until cool. Like this it will keep for up to 3 months. Serve as dessert with some cream or ice cream or with game or liver or potato pancakes. Delicious and a great way of preserving apples, even if they don’t look that great any more.

While I was busy doing this Susan threaded up the last of the chillies to dry.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Autumn Jobs

After we had quite a lot of rain last week (mind you we needed it after the dry summer!), we’ve had nice weather for 3 days running now which we used to get on with some work. Sunday and Monday we were mostly pruning trees on our own plot at Arcola (olives, apples, pears and vines) and today we carried on clearing our friends place in Villa, chopping down trees and turning them into firewood. At Villa there was a small woodland area consisting of what I call weed trees. I don’t know the name of this particular tree, but it grows very quickly and accordingly burns very quickly. But hey, all wood burns, so we put it into the existing stone cottage to dry and use for fire wood.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of sausage (shop bought), baked beans (our own beans and tomatoes, spiced with our chillies) and chips (alas we have already eaten our own potatoes, so shop bought spuds). The wine to go with was and will be shop bought, or rather local winery bought, for some time. The vines on our own plot are in an awful state and are mostly the Fragolino variety. There are commercial offerings of wines made from this variety and they taste as the name suggests of strawberries. I wouldn’t mind this, I like strawberries, but to me it tastes of artificial strawberry flavouring, and that’s disgusting. So we need to replant the lot with Vermentino, the quality grape of the region. That is going to involve a lot of money as well as hard work. Maybe I will get around replanting some next February.

The vines at Villa look slightly more promising and we are hoping to get a crop off them next year.

Monday, 26 November 2007


It's the time of year for pruning and general tidying up. This is me in an apple tree, while Susan's burning the prunings.


I have always had a dream. To live my life independent from the usual constraints, such as job, having to please bosses, having to have the latest consumer goods but instead living in harmony with my surroundings, both my immediate neighbours and the environment as a whole. I have been preaching that we need to do more to preserve our planet for more than 30 years and only now people seem to be waking up to the fact that we are running out of time.

What I would like to achieve in my own personal life is to be entirely self-sufficient, providing all my personal food needs, plus some surplus for friends, family and bartering for goods or services I cannot produce myself, being independent of national energy grids and the insecurity of fluctuating oil prices, having my own water source and not pollute the general water supply and generally not leave a carbon footprint behind. My version of the Bible is called “The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency” by John Seymour.

Now, reading this book it does sound all really easy. It tells you how to grow your own fruit and veg organically, how to rear, look after and butcher animals, how to make cheese, wine, baskets, bread, you name it. The one problem is, whilst if you get to the state of self-sufficiency your need for money becomes almost negligible, to start off with you need to invest money. This makes this project almost exclusive to two types of people: farmers, who have a head start in both knowledge and possibly land ownership, and the middle classes, who have money to invest to start off with. I am not part of either of these groups, but I am on my way to achieving my goal, although there is still some way to go. The following entries are the story of what I, or rather we (my wife Susan and I) and how we are coping. It may give some of you some ideas of how to live a more fulfilling life, or simply some gardening tips, as we work our way through it by trial and error, and more to the point, I would really appreciate tips from anyone reading this, if they have had similar experiences, know something about cultivating a plot of land in a Mediterranean climate.