And there she goes! Speeding by with no intention to stop. The past year has been jam-packed, almost as packed as a tomato festival in Spain but more of that later.
Thankfully though, the summer has been easy breezy. The first week of July we had some family visit us and for the rest of the month, we did weekly trips to Caspe. Wil to evaluate fruit. The girls and I to jump in a lake. We stayed at Lake Caspe Camping. If you love camping and you love Spain, this is the spot for you! We haven’t camped for decades, so we were reliving our days of roughing it as twenty-somethings. The girls thoroughly enjoyed it too.
The campsite facilities are great, there’s a restaurant, a bar, a playground, swimming pools, bungalows and much more. The best part being the lake of course. There you can relax on the bank, go for a swim, canoe, fish or just blankly stare and become one with the lake.
So, one evening while merging with the lake, Wil came up with the idea to drive to the town where his forefathers come from, Lemmer, which is also his surname. I thought it a splendid idea, immediately got up, ran to the first spot where I picked up a signal. Google maps. Lemmer, Friesland. Direction. Location. We were 1932 km from Lemmer, a 17 hour and 42-minute drive. Just then and there we laid out the entire journey, that is the power of Lake Caspe.
Our journey started on a Sunday, we stayed over in Perpignan, from there Valence and then Paris for our youngest daughter’s seven birthday that Wednesday.
The girls and I had never seen the Eiffel tower before that day and I must say, having seen the Eiffel Tower on so many posters in my life I thought I had a good idea of its magnitude, boy was I mistaken. Truth be told, turning the corner of the Palais de Chaillot and seeing the super-colossal structure towering above and beyond cloud-bustering heights made me inhale sharply and blinking more than biologically necessary.
Next stop was Amsterdam, friends from South Africa moved to Amsterdam some 3 odd years ago and we were delighted to see them in their new environment and meet their children. During the course of the weekend, Marianne showed us around Amsterdam and took us on a must-do Blue Boat trip on the canals running through the city. Amsterdam doesn’t have a city feel at all, everyone is so calm, reading and cycling, getting on with life in such an easygoing way. It seems more like a small town that just became slightly bigger and kept its village ambience. The Sunday we said goodbye, hearts filled with promise to see each other soon and hands filled with stick insects.
Then we arrived. We were booked at Hotel Lemmer. So Mr Wil Lemmer and his family booked in at Hotel Lemmer in Lemmer. When the hotel owner actually said the aforementioned out loud, Mr Wil Lemmer beamed.
Lemmer is a beautiful coastal town. Boats are a big thing. The port of Lemmer is filled with sailboats and pleasure yachts. The people are strong and friendly. The food is delicious and hearty.
Whilst there, Maarten van de Weijden, a 36-year-old Dutchman was swimming alongside the 200 km track of the Elfstedentocht, a canal connecting 11 towns in the province of Friesland, to raise funds for cancer research. Maarten, himself a survivor of leukaemia, managed to swim a total of 163 km in 55 hours raising over 4,3 million euros for cancer charities. This was the talk of the town during our 3-day stay, and we got quite caught up in it. After 2 days we felt like we knew Maarten, cheering him on and finally crying when he had to withdraw! Hats off to this brave man and his cause!
Next stop was Oldenzaal to spend some time with our dear friends the Pross family before making our way back.
Back in Valencia, we had a tomato war to attend. At one stage we were squashed between 20 000 people drenched in pulverized tomato silently wondering why are we even here?
It is a most disgusting and enjoyable festival. Although the enjoy factor only really kicks in afterwards. The festival, Tomatino, was held in the small town of Buñol in Valencia on the last Wednesday of August, as it has been since 1944. It was banned at one stage but returned in full force in the late 70’s. Lezl, one of our dear friends, flew in from London for it, along with 15 000 other tourists.
So, there we were, the three of us, geared with entry bracelets, throw-away clothes and goggles (tomato burns your eyes!), ready to defend and attack against the onslaught. The war took place in a small street between 11 am and 1 pm.
The street was jam-packed, can’t-breath-deeply type of jam-packed. Then just when we thought things can’t get any tighter and where are the tomatoes?! a truck turned into the street, forcing everyone to squeeze to the sides. An almost impossible task at the time. It stopped and from inside the truck, people relentlessly started throwing tomatoes. When enough red sauce had been spilt it slowly moved on. This happened 6 times, six tomato-filled trucks worth of tomatoes came thrashing down on us. Eventually, it was as if the entire festival became one organism. Throwing tomatoes, dancing, laughing, falling, fainting, cheering and as the next truck pulled in everyone inhaled, squeezed to the sides, welcomed the thrashing, exhaled as the truck left before throwing tomatoes, dancing, laughing, falling, fainting and cheering all over again.
But even while being part of this entity, with a role to play, Wil and I did manage to ponder over the variety of tomato used for the battle. We still can’t quite figure it out, but we are certain it’s not the Raf tomato. Here are some reasons why?
It’s not originally from Valencia.
The variety came into being in 1961 by a natural crossing between an old French variety Marmande 27 and a South American variety that was resistant to a vascular disease caused by filamentous fungi, Fusarium. The French seed company CLAUSE registered the Raf variety in 1967. It was the first variety with natural resistance to Fusarium oxysporum. The production of the real RAF (Resistant Al Fusarium) is confined to south-east Spanish provinces, Alicante, Murcia and Almeria. Nowadays it’s more of a niche product with a high market value, mainly consumed by the local market.
The tomato has a unique shape.
The tomato has a special morphology, which is characteristic of the Raf variety. The fruit is a flat oval with the sides pulled up to give it a heart-shaped quality. The deep creases that run from the lifted sides to the centre distinguish Raf from other tomatoes and attest to its quality. Its skin is essentially red with green-tinged shoulders.
On the inside, the pulp is a pinkish colour, with a very firm, compact, yet juicy texture containing only a few seeds. The absence of too many seeds contributes to the compact quality. I really appreciate this characteristic because when you work with this tomato you’re not left with a kitchen top full of watery seeds and only tomato rinds for your dish. As a result of the elevated sugars (9° Brix) combined with citric and malic acids, the Raf tomato has a delicious balanced sweet and sour flavour. Should you have Raf tomatoes in your kitchen you will notice the pungent aroma lingering around.
It’s not a tomato there will ever be too much of.
This variety of tomato yields between 5 to 8 kilograms of tomatoes per plant, which is very low when compared to that of other tomato varieties, where yields range from 21 to 28 kilograms.
Why the low yield?
The Raf is not a very strong plant, a natural characteristic of the parent plant resistant to Fusarium. One could increase the yield by giving the plant more water and food but not without compromising the flavour. The sugar-acid balance is the secret to this variety’s unique aroma and taste.
It was out of season by end of August.
The optimum temperature for Raf tomato production is between 20 and 30ºC during the day and between 1 and 17ºC during the night. The cultivation of Raf tomatoes thrives on brackish water, not suitable for human consumption. The salinity of the brack water directly influences the flavour quality of the tomato, giving it a taste unparalleled by other tomato varieties.
In the northern hemisphere, Raf is sowed in the first week of September and harvested until the end of June.
Big shout out to Pierre Boniol for sharing his knowledge of Raf with us! Thanks Pierre. We appreciate it!
This post is dedicated to everyone who had battled cancer and won, everyone who had battled cancer and lost and all their loved ones who had been by their side.