Late Harvest

A succession of Atlantic depressions with accompanying heavy grey skies, squalls and westerly gales have done little to enlighten the short days of November. So I have had to admit defeat, cut down the tomato vines and gather the remaining crop of hard green fruits. Although I usually produce a good crop of tomatoes, some years the plants seem reluctant to flower and slow to set and ripen fruit. This summer was good by Hebridean standards, so I must admit at least partial culpability, as I was late in sowing my seeds.
I have already turned 4kg of green tomaoes into chutney and at least an equal amount into soup and pasta sauce. So what now? For the past month the window sills have been festooned with bowls of tomatoes. Not exactly prize winning specimens, but too good for the compost.

A surprising proportion have ripened, turning from acid green to pale yellow and eventually to a glowing orange, but never aspiring to the deep rich red of an Italian plum tomato. Roasting with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and a gulg of good olive oil, concentrates the flavour and transform the insipid flavour of a slightly under ripe fruit into a lumpy pulp with an interesting piquancy. It does not have the sweetness and depth of flavour of a fruit ripened in the sun on the vine, rather a delicate citrus acidity. This is perfect for balancing the earthy flavours of lentil or bean soups or cutting the oiliness of fish such as mackerel.

As for the rest, I think they are destined for another batch of chutney. For a little variety, I might change the spice mix, add some grated ginger, a soupçon of Aleppo pepper or light sprinkle of Urfa chilli flakes. Whilst I’m chopping vegetables and fruit, I must give some serious consideration to reducing the number and varieties of tomatoes plants I grow. After all there are only so many jars of chutney we can eat and a limit to how many I can give away. 2017 was a vintage chutney year, which is a good thing as we are still eating it! The store room shelves are groaning under the weight of the 2018 and 2019 editions, not to mention the red currant relish and the marmalade. Perhaps it is time to cut back, or maybe try something new – pickled fennel, beetroot relish and I’ve never tried making sauerkraut!

Now if the harvest is over, And the world cold, Give me the bonus of laughter,

A Nip in the Air – John Betjeman

8 thoughts on “Late Harvest”

  1. I have never had green tomato chutney, and luckily almost all my fruit ripened this year, but I am cutting back too as the freezer was bursting its seams in August with soup and sauce!

  2. I think green tomato chutney is a very British way of coping with large numbers of under ripe tomatoes! This year winter could be very difficult with COVID and Brexit adding to the winter weather, we are all preparing for interruptions to the ferry service and everyone’s freezer and store is overloaded with preserves, vegetables, soups and casseroles.

  3. Good to be prepared. My pantry has also been stocked up, but living on an island is a completely different kettle of fish, isn’t it.

  4. I thought they were peppers at first! (Red) tomato chutney is a huge favourite of mine and fortunately there have always been enough ripe tomatoes to make a supply for the following year as I have learned not to overdo it and run out of cupboard space! I can’t imagine what green chutney would taste like but I guess it would be a very different kettle of fish – could you describe the flavour? Redcurrant jelly is another of my staples but I am intrigued by the idea of a redcurrant relish – what are the other ingredients in this? Hoe you don’t have too wild a winter this year…

  5. They are San Marzano, an Italian plum variety with a firm flesh that is perfect for cooking.
    Green tomato chutney is less rich in tomato flavour, slightly more citrus flavour, but it really depends on what else you add in terms of fruit and spices.
    Red currant relish is one of my favourites – recipe: https://croft.garden/croft-kitchen/redcurrant-relish/. You could replace the garlic with some grated ginger or fresh chilli.
    Still blowing and pouring with rain!

  6. I think I shall stick with my red chutney, but will definitely trial the redcurrant relish. It did occur to me after I asked the question that you might have the recipe on your blog. Thank you for remembering that some of us don’t like garlic! Lovely morning again here, after our first proper frost, but the temperature has dipped again this afternoon.

  7. Considering that I’ll hardly seen the sun for last 3 weeks, the tomatoes are ripening. It looks as if we might be spared another batch of chutney and have some more tomato sauce!

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