Great Grafted Results After An Awful Summer

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Grafted Tomatoes Make Good, If Late

This summer was so cold that my poor heat loving crops just sat waiting patiently until August, when finally the nights warmed up enough to goose them into productivity. My pal Rick had similar results, both with grafted tomato plants he bought and some he grafted for himself. He gave plants to his brother as well, who in early August told him they were all doing dreadfully and he thought the whole thing was “a bust.”

However, last week, Rick’s brother asked him what to do with a glut of tomatoes. When the heat finally arrived, it kick-started his grafted tomatoes into high gear and now he has more fruit than he knows what to do with. Like mine and Rick’s, the grafted plants produced larger fruit than the ungrafted ones, and he feels the flavor is better as well.

Never Too Much Of A Good Thing

I wrote about green tomatoes a few weeks ago (see October 3), but there are always more fun things to do with green tomatoes. In my experience, any firm fruit that show even a little color will continue to ripen in the company of ethylene-producing fruit like apples and bananas, but there are quite a few instance where green tomatoes are far better than ripe ones.

For example, green tomato chutney is a great favorite with my family and friends. We eat it like relish on turkey burgers and use it to jazz up a plain tuna salad sandwich. It’s also a delicious condiment with roast chicken, turkey or pork, and adds zest to a bowl of steamed vegetables and tofu over rice.

Green Tomato Chutney

1 quart green tomatoes
2 large yellow onions
4 large apples
6 cloves garlic
3 cups cider vinegar
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 cups fructose or any sugar
1 cup golden raisins
2-3 tablespoons garam masala (Indian spice powder)

OR the following:
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons ginger root powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon  nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin seed

Rinse fruits and vegetables. Stem tomatoes,  peel and chop onions, core apples and cut all into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel garlic and chop in fine pieces. Put them all in a large stockpot with vinegar, adding water just to cover.  Bring to a boil and stir in sugar, raisins, and spices. Boil 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Pack chutney into canning jars and seal according to directions on lid package. Refrigerate after opening. Makes 4 pints.

Fried Green Tomatoes, Of Course

Everybody I know loves fried green tomatoes and everybody has a favorite recipe. I think you’ll like mine, which is crunchy and a bit spicy on the outside and melting with cheese on the inside. The cornmeal coating makes it a terrific side dish for any kind of fish (notably pan-fried catfish). A plateful of these golden brown treats also tastes terrific with barbecued chicken.

Fried Green Tomatoes

6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
4 green tomatoes (same width as mozzarella)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher or any salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 tablespoons grated pecorino OR Romano cheese
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons butter

Rinse and stem tomatoes and slice horizontally in 1/4 inch thick wheels and sprinkle tops lightly with salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each).  Slice mozzarella as thinly as possible, making enough slices to top each green tomato wheel. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs until foamy. In a pie dish or large shallow bowl, combine cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, chile flakes (use the lesser amount if you don’t like heat), and grated cheese. Stir to mix well. Preheat oven or toaster oven to warm and put in an empty oven-proof serving platter. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon butter until foamy.  Dip each set of tomato and mozzarella as a unit, first into the egg, then into the cornmeal. Brown quickly in the hot oil, cooking for 3-5 minutes on each side and turning once. Remove to warm over platter when done. Continue until all pieces are cooked, adding more oil and butter as needed. Serves four.

Green Chile Jam?

Green tomato and chili jam is not for everybody, but people who like sweet and spicy dishes usually love it. Try it on water crackers with a dab of cream cheese and some smoked salmon. This glowing green jam also makes a piquant condiment for roast chicken or fish.  You can also stir some into salad dressing to enliven either mixed fruit or tossed greens. It also provides a sparkling counterbalance to the bland starches of plain old rice and beans.

Green Tomato and Chile Jam

2 large green tomatoes
2 green bell peppers
4 cloves garlic
4-6 medium hot chile peppers
4 cups fructose OR 6 cups table sugar
1 pint cider vinegar
1 packet pectin

Rinse fruits and vegetables. Stem and coarsely chop tomatoes. Stem and seed bell peppers and coarsely chop. Peel and chop garlic. Using protective gloves (or great care), stem and seed chiles and chop coarsely.  Combine chopped pieces in a  food processor (or blender) with 1/4 cup vinegar and puree (whirl to a frothy liquid). Put puree in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring in remaining vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, stir until sugar is dissolved, and add pectin, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute, remove from heat and skim off any foam. Bottle at once, sealing lids according to directions on lid package. Refrigerate after opening. Makes 6 cups.

Old Fashioned Green Tomato Pie was traditional end-of-summer fare when most families grew their own food.  Farm wives used cinnamon and ginger to make it taste like apple pie before the apple crop ripened, so adjust the seasoning to your pleasure. You can even make a savory version by eliminating the sugar, trading nutmeg for thyme or parsley, and adding onions, celery, and carrots, as well as pepper. It’s all good!

Green Tomato Pie

2 9-inch pie crusts
1 cup sugar
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon
6-7 cups green tomatoes, sliced like apples
1 tablespoon butter

Line a pie dish with a crust, set aside. In a bowl, rub sugar with lemon rind to fragrance point (about 15 seconds). Add flour, egg, lemon juice, salt, and nutmeg and stir. Add tomatoes, toss gently to coat, layer into pie shell and dot with butter. Top filling with second crust, trim edges, crimp edges, and slash several times to vent steam. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 400 and bake until golden and bubbling (20-25 minutes). Let cool before slicing. Serves 6-8.

Fresh Green Tomato Salsa

4 cups green tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 red or sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (use gloves)
1 ear sweet corn, kernels trimmed
2 tablespoons fruity virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice or plain rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, stemmed

Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

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