o it turns out that green fingers are actually a thing. Spend enough time with plants (tomato plants in this case) and your fingers will go green. So will your clothes, your face and anything else you hold dear, (like the new cover on your phone) but fingers are glory boys, have a better publicist, and so they get all the headlines. The fake news is that green fingers are a sign of horticultural ability. Ah, how I wish that this were so! If it was, I would have a beautiful plot, with neat raised beds and a well organised area in the shared poly tunnel. Sadly this is not the case. After a brief period where I couldn’t get up to cut back the overgrowth I ended up with Tomatogedden.
Not only was there enough undergrowth to make Bear Grylls reach for his machete, the shared water tap was now a distant memory. (I am sorry allotmenteers – I have dealt with the problem now).
So how does this happen? The short answer is that it was a triumph of inexperience over planning ability. Back in May or thereabouts, I planted a few innocuous looking tomato plants, tiny little things, and they did bugger all squared for months. So I waited, I waited through July and August and got absolutely squat, barely a flower for all the watering and feeding and attention. Meanwhile the courgettes developed ADD and went into overdrive. It became a competition between me and them – who would give in first, Me (imagining new ways of hiding them in my children’s food) or them, running out of new courgettes.
By the time September came round, I had more or less given up on the tomatoes, nearly admitted defeat to the courgettes and really needed to devote most of my attention to labelling the plethora of educational items that two boys need for school these days. So the allotment was neglected and the sneaky tomatoes must have noticed this and pushed out new growth like my boys push out farts after a feed of beans.
How long will tomato plants actually flower for? I mean it’s October and the damned things were flowering merrily away like it’s the height of summer. Half an hour of cutting back revealed that I did actually have a crop of tomatoes, some of them were even ripe. Half an hour of cutting back without gloves also meant that I now resembled the Incredible Hulk – in middle age, core muscles aren’t what they were, but the rage is still strong. Fingers were bright green, but without any kind of horticultural ability at all with the exception of not having killed all of the plants.
Taking a fresh look at what was now lurking sheepishly behind the remaining leaves, unveiled not just the ripened tomatoes, but an absolute mass of green tomatoes that wouldn’t ripen in a month of Sundays – not this late into October. Given that I promote no food waste as part of my job, I could hardly buck them out, but some ideas were forming, so I harvested a load of green toms along with the reds with the idea of pickling them.
The first step was easy; wash dry and slice them, then layer with coarse salt and leave overnight. I did this, and felt like a pickling boss. Todays task was to boil them in vinegar. Can I just say that nowhere in the recipe does it say that when you do this you loose the lining to your nasal passages from your nostrils right down to your lungs. It has to be the olfactory equivalent to using bleach and an electric toothbrush to clean the toilet.
The upshot is my blocked nose is now a thing of the past, and I am the proud owner of two rather large jars of pickled green tomatoes. I have to leave them for a month before opening them, I’d say it’ll be at least two before the lining in my nose grows back.
If you have a glut of green tomatoes, and I haven’t put you off, this is the recipe. It’s been adapted from the Reader’s Digest book, Food From your Garden.
Green Tomato Pickle
3kg green tomatoes
1l spiced vinegar (I used malt)
1 Large Onion
Spices – I used mustard seed, cloves and a cinnamon stick
Wash, dry and slice the tomatoes. Layer with salt and leave overnight. Drain off the liquid, put the tomatoes in a pan and cover with the vinegar and sugar.
Add the thinly sliced onion, spices and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30minutes until tender. Pour into warm jars and seal. Keep for a month before using.