How to: grow your own ratatouille
Ratatouille will convert the most meat-loving individual into a vegetarian – if only for one night!
It was originally a common dish, prepared in the summer with fresh summer vegetables.
The original Ratatolha de Niça used only courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes, green and red peppers (bell peppers), onion, and garlic. The dish known today as ratatouille adds aubergine (eggplants).
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Dig over the garden, add compost or cow manure, go to the nursery and buy the seedlings.
Tomatoes are vines and need to be planted where they can be supported with a trellis. Use 1.6m bamboo stakes in a extended teepee design depending on the length of your bed. Tie horizontal bamboo stakes to the vertical teepee with string and train the tomato stems in and out through as they grow. Grosse Lisse, Mortgage Lifter and Ox Heart are best for this dish.
Zucchini is a low growing vegetable to 40cm. Plant 40cm apart and spray with an organic fungicide, such as Eco-rose to prevent powdery mildew growing on leaves.Zucchini ‘Gold Bullion’ is the one of the best compact bush type varieties available reaching only 50cm high and with a modest spread. It is ideal for pot, producing an abundance of yellow cylindrical-shaped fruit. Best harvested when fruit are about 15-18cm long. Expect to harvest in approximately 12-14 weeks. Pick regularly to prolong cropping and protect from strong winds.
Eggplant and capsicums are shrubs growing to 1m, plant at 50cm centres on individual stakes.
Feed every 2 weeks with a quality liquid feed for fruit and vegetables.
When mature and ripe, pick and chop up roughly. Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan or saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the eggplant and capsicum, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and zucchini. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover a simmer for a further 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with couscous and yoghurt, scattered with basil leaves.