The tomato crop this year has been fabulous. Some combination of weather, a new raised bed and a generous quantity of spent mushroom compost has produced plants dripping with tomatoes the size of pears. I have three varieties this year: ‘Gardeners’ Delight’, ‘Tigerella’ and ‘San Marzano’. San Marzano is an Italian plum tomato, which the seed catalogue describes as suitable for ‘bottling, cooking or making puree’. They’re also great for just eating and they look beautiful. A late burst of September sunshine means that they might just ripen in my draughty Scottish garden but some nasty blight like thing is turning them brown. Worrying that I might lose the lot, I thought I’d better harvest some while they’re still green.
Gardening books and websites are full of recipes for things to do with green tomatoes – since they’re such a common problem in the UK at least. But far the best one that I’ve come across is green tomato marmalade. I discovered this about fifteen years ago and sadly I can’t remember where I found it so can’t give due acknowledgement. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Green Tomato Marmalade
2lb green tomatoes
A dash of green ginger wine
1 Wash and halve the lemons and squeeze out the juice.
2 Remove the flesh and reserve with the pips.
3 Cut the rind into thin strips and simmer in ¾pt of water for 20 minutes.
4 Cut the tomatoes into quarters and chop finely.
5 Measure the lemon juice and make up to 3pts with water.
6 Add the tomatoes, juice and lemon rind and ginger wine to a pan, with the lemon pips etc in a muslin bag.
7 Simmer for 40 minutes.
8 Remove the muslin bag.
9 Add the sugar and boil rapidly for 15 minutes or until setting point.
10 Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
11 Stir to redistribute peel, then pot and cover.
[makes about 8 1lb jars]
The lemons give it the proper marmalady taste and texture, while the tomatoes provide the bulk. The ginger wine is my own addition. It adds a little kick of ginger while helping to preserve the bright green colour. This quantity fills the pan I use for jam making. I added a note to my recipe book to remind me of this after last year’s clever idea of making double quantities and realising, too late, that it didn’t fit in the pan.
The perfect breakfast
What do you do with it once it’s made? It’s not some fancy drizzle that you put on your upmarket savoury dishes, like red onion marmalade. It is the real thing: something you eat on toast for breakfast. And you can’t beat it. So every year I grow tomatoes in the hope that I’ll have lovely red ones to eat raw in salad and most years I almost hope that the weather won’t be perfect and I’ll have enough left for marmalade. It looks like this is one of those years. So the first batch is in the cupboard, waiting for breakfast.