It’s harvest time people. Which in this house, means obsessively checking each and every plant several times of day in the hope that this tenacity will somehow miraculously speed up time and turn those tomatoes a lovely shade of red. But we live in the UK which means we are at the mercy of at best, unpredictable weather conditions, so what do we do when our bounty doesn’t turn out to be quite as bountiful as hoped?
I’m no gardening expert (most of my experience comes from observing the other half’s efforts) but what I can do is tell you a bit about our recent mixed experiences to give you some hope if your crops don’t turn out as planned…
Tomatoes are a great starting point if you’re new to the whole grow-your-own thing and this summer we had almost perfect tomato-growing weather – sunny days, cooler evenings and the odd downpour. Our tomato plants flourished so much so that they were soon completely taking over and establishing their own mini-forest on a tiny patch of land in west London. The flowers came and it wasn’t long before we had lots of green fruit dotted about the place. I started to keep plastic containers to one side in anticipation of our bumper harvest, I promised a plentiful supply to friends and neighbours, I made space in our tiny fridge and braced myself for an ongoing supply of tomato soup to keep us going through winter.
However, the tomatoes were getting bigger but they certainly weren’t getting darker in colour. Or rather, they were. But the wrong sort of dark. A kind of brown, wrinkly looking dark. Not the sort of tomatoes I’d want to put in my salad. Combine this with yellowing leaves and we soon discovered most of our plants had late-harvest blight, a mould resulting from humid and cramped conditions. The only thing we could do was pull out the worst affected plants and spray the ones that weren’t looking too shabby.
We were distraught.
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. We were annoyed.
Luckily my husband had done his research. Green tomatoes may not taste great on their own but they do have their uses, the main one being green tomato chutney. There are endless great recipes for this online but we went with one traditional batch and a sweeter, spicier version, and we still have plenty left over that will hopefully be converted into green tomato ketchup at some point in the very near future. Another famous use is fried green tomatoes, something I have never tried but after looking up a few techniques I may give them a whirl this weekend. The fact that they seem to involve crumbing and only adds to my curiosity.
Our harvest wasn’t a complete wash out though – we’ve had success with beetroot and onion and I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for those few remaining tomato plants. ‘When good crops go bad’ is perhaps a slightly misleading title for this post – there’s nothing bad about our green tomatoes and we now have enough chutney to see us through several Christmases, so if you ever find yourself a cheese sandwich short of some pickle, you know where to come…