…greenhouse tomatoes. I have cleared this year’s crop: always a marker that you can no longer kid yourself: the season has really, truly ended.
I’ve been putting it off for a while, mainly because the ‘Roma’ plum tomatoes – pictured above – have been gratifyingly ripening at last. I’ve been waiting for them for ages: they grew like mad then just sat there with a load of green tomatoes, taunting me. But now the cold(ish) weather and dull days are here they’ve decided to get on and ripen everything. Don’t they read the textbooks or anything?
It did occur to me to wait till the bitter end with them, but I need the space for the winter salads which are in the cold frame and already a couple of weeks overdue for their transition into the greenhouse.
The other two varieties, ever-reliable ‘Gardener’s Delight’ and ‘Black Cherry’, have been prolific but undeniably over for quite some time now, sad grey raggy shadows of their former selves. Still got a few of the last green cherries off them though.
I actually like getting green tomatoes at the end of the season and make no particular extra efforts to ripen them. You can fry them (as in Whistlestop Café) – Nigel Slater’s recipe calls for garlic mayonnaise to dip them in too.
Or better: turn them into green tomato chutney. This is one of the finest you can make: tart, crisp, rich and utterly delicious. Here’s my recipe:
2.3kg (5lbs) green tomatoes
450g (1lb) onions
1 tablespoon salt
225g (8oz) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas
a thumb of root ginger
a red chilli
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
570ml (1 pint) malt vinegar
450g (1lb) Demerara sugar
Chop tomatoes and onions and tip into a pan along with the salt, raisins and sultanas. Pour over the vinegar and give it all a good stir.
Now chop the ginger and chilli and put into a little bag made out of muslin along with the peppercorns and cloves. Tie the bag firmly round the neck with string and float this in the pan.
Add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring all the time so the sugar dissolves completely. Then turn down the heat until it’s just simmering – a sort of energetic blup is what you need – then leave the lid off and let it carry on cooking, stirring occasionally.
You will read in recipes that chutney takes a couple of hours to cook: this is baloney. It takes about six hours of gentle blipping for the liquid you start with to turn into a brown molten chutney, thickening to the point where if you pull a wooden spoon across the top it leaves a channel for a few seconds. You’ll need to stir more frequently towards the end of cooking time to prevent it sticking to the bottom.
Once it’s ready, spoon into sterilised jars (good wash in hot water then ten minutes in the oven at 100 degrees). Leave for three months to mellow before eating. Yum.