Work your magic with unripe fruit from the garden

Valerie O’Connor works herself into a pickle over unripe fruit while turning the best of the crop into passata.

My Mum arrived up to my house the other day with a huge tub of green tomatoes, harvested by my Dad, who got a bumper crop this year.

I sniffed to myself as I wondered what use they would be to me — but over the following days little beauties of yellow baby plum, and black cherry started to make themselves stand out from the crowd and they transformed into a big bowl of delicious treats.

I’ve grown a small number of tomato plants in the past few years and this is the first time I wasn’t blighted with, well, blight. 

Work your magic with unripe fruit from the garden

Anyone who has their plants indoors in a porch or on a window sill like I do, will enjoy fruits probably well into October or even November.

While there are lots of recipes out there for green tomato chutney, I prefer to make something that doesn’t require a bag of sugar for the recipe. 

This traditional Italian recipe gives you a smashing big jar of preserved green tomatoes that you can have with cold meats or cheese and some delicious sourdough.

Green Tomato Chutney

1kg green tomatoes, washed and cut into thick slices 500g sea salt or table salt 3 onions 3 celery sticks 250ml balsamic vinegar sugar olive oil

Method

1

Put all the tomatoes into a colander and sprinkle salt over them and mix through. Sit this over a pot or the sink and weigh the tomatoess down with a heavy weight, large bowl or jar. 

The idea is to get as much moisture out of the fruit as possible. Leave to sit overnight.

2

Wash the tomatoes and lay them out on a clean tea towel or metal cooling rack to dry out for about an hour. Try and get as many of the seeds out as you can and save these for future growing.

3

Meanwhile, roughly chop the onions and celery and cook these in the balsamic vinegar with the tomatoes for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add 2 tblsp sugar to bring out the sweetness.

4

Sterilise a large jar, or a few small jars and spoon the mixture into them, pour some olive oil on top to cover them to about 1cm deep.

Seal your jars and store them in a cool place. If your jars are sterile, this should keep for about a year before opening.

Passata

Home-made passata is incredibly easy to make and the flavours will be bouncing off the wall compared with shop-bought versions.

This is the best way to preserve the flavour and goodness of your crop once they are beautifully plump, juicy and ripe for the picking.

If you have a moulin legumes, or a vegetable sieve, you have no work to do at all. It’s worth buying one anyway for easy soups and incredibly good mashed potatoes.

If not, boil a pot of water. Cut a cross in the top of each tomato and pop them all into the pot for one minute , fish them out and whip the skins off quickly.

Ingredients

Tomatoes, whatever ripe red ones you have 1 tsp salt per 500g jar (typical jam jar size) 2 tblsp olive oil per jar

Method

1

Once the tomatoes are peeled you can simply blitz them in a blender for about 20 seconds, or pass them through the mouli.

2

Add herbs like thyme, oregano or basil if you like. Season the passata with sea salt to taste and pack into your sterilised jars, topping each jar with about 1cm olive oil.

The olive oil works as a natural barrier to air and will help keep your passata fresh for longer. Use this for pasta sauces, pizza toppings and instant soups.

Seed Saving

If you’ve grown your own tomato crop, and have some beautiful heritage varieties, why not save your seeds to share with friends and to grow even more next year?

The best way to ensure viable seeds is to give them a short fermentation first. 

So collect your seeds and probably some pulp from your tomatoes and pop them in a jar with some extra juice from the tomatoes and a little water, if necessary, to cover them.

Place some muslin over the jar and leave it in a warm place for three days. Some nasty looking scum will rise to the surface, but this is what you’re looking for.

Get your jar and spoon off the scum and rinse the seeds a few times in a sieve until as much of the ‘slimy’ feeling as possible is gone.

Now spread them out on some absorbent paper, coffee filters are best as they don’t stick, but good quality kitchen paper will work well too.

It can take a full week at room temperature or an airing cupboard to fully dry seeds.This is important so they don’t rot over their winter storage.

Store the seeds in small numbers in brown envelopes. Be sure to label them and give them as gifts to pals or anyone else open to growing food for themselves.


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