A couple of months ago I gave the Wee ‘Un’s nursery a couple of tomato plants to grow on a window ledge.
At the time, they were fairly small but I assured the staff that, if cared for, the plants would produce some reasonable tomatoes by the time school broke up for the summer holidays.
Well, today was the end of term and the plants are indeed laden with tomatoes with the largest fruit, a Super Marmande, being larger than my clenched fist.
Of course, the tomatoes are still green but the the children have been able to watch the tomato plants grow, flower, set fruit and approach harvesting.
They’ve been able to pick out suckers, prune unwanted leaves, check the growth by picking out the tips, water the plants, and feed them (with my super-duper liquid feed of rotted seaweed and muck).
When I went in to collect the Wee ‘Un today, the nursery staff—who appear to be almost entirely non-gardeners—were keen to find out if I wanted the plants back and, if not, what they could with them.
I was tempted to bring the plants home as they have some very fine tomatoes on them, but I thought the plants would make a good, and different, end of term present so I told the staff they should keep them and enjoy the tomatoes.
Mrs Naysmith, one of the teachers, wanted to know if they should wait for the tomatoes to ripen or if they could use them green.
While I think just picked, sun-ripened tomatoes are absolutely delicious when eaten about 30 seconds after picking and while still warm from the sun, I also think very few people get to enjoy the delights of green tomatoes.
I gave Mrs Naysmith the URL for this blog, and told her I’d put a recipe here for pickled green tomatoes—although it sounds rather more swanky in Italian when it becomes pomodori verdi marinati.
Pomodori verdi marinati
- 3lb green tomatoes
- Salt (preferably a good sea salt)
- White wine vinegar (the best you can afford)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peel and finely sliced
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 4 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried oregano)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 green chillies (the larger, moderately hot ones), coarsely sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil (absolutely must be a good quality one)
- Rinse the tomatoes, slice thinly and pour off the juice into a large bowl as you go.
- Place the sliced tomatoes in the bowl in layers, sprinkling salt over each layer. Don’t skimp on the salt.
- Place an inverted plate on top of the tomatoes and then a heavy weight on the plate. Leave the tomatoes to marinate for about six hours.
- Drain the tomatoes. Cover the tomatoes with white wine vinegar, place the plate and weight back on top, and leave to marinate for a further four hours.
- Drain the tomatoes again.
- Layer the tomatoes into sterilised jars (wash in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water, dry in the oven at 80C), sprinkling the layers with slices of garlic, a few fennel seeds and a few drops of balsmic vinegar. Spread the chillies evenly through the jar.
- Pour olive oil into the jars, rocking them from side to side to eliminate air pockets, and the adding more olive oil. Allow half an inch headspace, while ensuring the olive oil is at least an eighth of an inch above the final layer of tomatoes.
- Screw the lids on hard to ensure a good seal and store in a cool, dark place. The tomatoes can be eaten after a week, but should last for several months.
- To serve, toast slices of bread on a lightly oiled griddle and then spread a layer of tomatoes on the toast.