Every summer, we grow tomatoes in our kitchen garden, with varying degrees of success. The summer of 2013/14 began cool and damp and most of the tomatoes we planted struggled to produce any fruit; it didn’t help that I underfed them – a lesson painfully learned!
This season we have done much better. We began, as for every year, with cherry tomato plants in pots, so we could move them around to gain maximum sunlight. Next, we put a couple of plants in a corner bed that gets plenty of sunshine from mid-Spring onwards. The next pair went into a side bed that is too shady until late in Spring and the last two – late-ripening varieties – were planted after we had dug up the last of our kipfler potatoes and refreshed the soil.
So far, we’ve had a wonderful crop of three varieties of smaller tomatoes, followed by an emerging crop of two larger varieties. However, as you know, there’s more to growing tomatoes than giving them a good supply of sunlight, nutrients and water. I’m talking protection from predators and, in our ‘hood, that means cabbage moth caterpillars, birds and possums. We manage the grubs using a natural pesticide and accept that we might lose a small amount of fruit; and damage from birds is minimised by daily harvesting and my efforts as a living, fire-breathing scarecrow. But defeating the possums – a nocturnal and protected native animal – is much more of a challenge.
Early last week, we discovered that our most productive large-fruit tomato had, in turn, been discovered by members of the local possum community. We considered using strings of battery-powered LED lights to deter them but, with a forecast of several days and nights of showers and rain, this didn’t appeal as a reliable strategy. So, we decided to cut our losses, harvest all the green fruit and convert most of it into Maggie’s green tomato pickle, a product that is VERY popular with family, friends and Maggie’s work colleagues.
We began with 3kg of green fruit and produced eleven jars of pickle, a condiment that goes particularly well with various cheeses, ham and corned beef.
3kg green tomatoes
small handful of salt
750ml white wine vinegar
½ tsp pepper
3 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp mustard powder
- Chop the onions and tomatoes into a bowl, sprinkle with salt, mix well, cover and leave to stand overnight.
- Next day, rinse and drain thoroughly and tip the solids into a large saucepan. Add 600ml of the vinegar, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the sugar, bring back to the boil, stirring, and cook on a high simmer for one hour, stirring often.
- Mix the remaining vinegar with the dry ingredients, add to the pan and stir until well combined.
- Boil for 5 minutes, then bottle and seal. Stored in a good fridge, the pickle will keep for 18 months, possibly longer.