Inevitably, gardeners are faced with the “green tomatoes in November” dilemma and inevitably the majority will attempt to defy the Laws of Nature (and in this case, those of a zone 7 climate) and hold on for them to ripen, but just as inevitably the first hard freeze, in November, will quash any sense of green-thumb megalomania and render the possibilities merely fantasy, or… with a sprinkling of corn meal, we can Bobby Flay them!
With the formation of the Junior Chefs this year, harvesting green tomatoes for the creation of salsas, pickles, and relish nudged us away from the temptation to hope for a warming spell and provided us with plenty of healthy, yet unripe, fruit to use, especially with many of the herbs still available.
Green Heirloom Tomato Relish
6 cups green heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tabasco peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup (2 stalks) celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. thai basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. African blue basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. salad burnet, finely chopped
1 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. winter savory, very finely chopped
2 tsp. freshly grated turmeric
1 tsp. lavender leaves, very finely chopped
Following the standard pickling procedure, everything goes into a non-reactive pot, is brought to the boil, simmered for 5, then jarred!
The question still remains as to how to dispose of the old vines. There is some debate concerning how to get rid of old, and possibly diseased tomato vines, with burning and trashing considered better choices than composting, however even though our heirloom vines probably do have the range of fungal diseases prevalent in tomatoes (septoria, alternaria, anthracnose, fusarium, verticilium, and phytophthera all common to mid-Atlantic farming), as we have a strict crop rotation plan, we’ve decided to follow our minimal-till protocol and use the old vines, well-chopped, as a compost layer knowing that we’ll not be planting any solanaceous crops in the same field for another 5 years.