Tomatoes can be a perennial plant in tropical South America. Yet, around here, they turn to slimy mush when you leave town on a cold day.
Before leaving town for a visit with Dad, I snatched three red, ripe cherry tomatoes, which would turn out to be the last for the year.
When I returned from my family holiday feast, 3 pounds heavier, I knew the time was overdue for tackling the tangle of tomatoes.
Looking over plants that were once mighty is a source of sadness. My tomatoes had a triumphant run. I grew large, cherry tomatoes, planted as seeds in January by my third-grade students. In mid-winter, I helped the garden gurus keep the plants cozy in our school greenhouse. When the weather suddenly turned warm, I drove to the school on weekends to offer them water.
They grew and grew until we proudly sold them at our school’s harvest festival.
Over the summer, the plants produced so well in my yard, I was inspired to dry not one but two full loads in my dehydrator. My guess is that I’ll have dried tomatoes on hand from now until 2021, even if I share a few with select friends.
Yet, even heroic tomato plants can take a quick dive to death’s door. By the time the snow and rain swept through the valley, my tomatoes were so wearied, they looked like Jon Snow after battling the white walkers.
When I returned from the weekend of ice cream and Edward’s key lime pie, I had only one hour of daylight remaining in my weekend.
I snipped off the gnarled leaves of the once-stellar tomato plants and discovered an overabundance of green goodness. Green tomatoes. So many green tomatoes it seemed like a waste to toss them in the compost pile. Of course, I had no intention of eating them.
I had learned my lesson years ago. Once, I had been filled with curiosity, and had more time on my hands. I sleuthed out seldom-used green tomato recipes. I tried frying them, and made some type of green tomato fritters. I even made a small, experimental green tomato pie.
However, when you can buy chocolate, ice cream and French fries easily, these vintage Southern recipes for green tomatoes lose their appeal.
I concluded those quaint recipes stemmed from hunger. If you had a farmhouse filled with growing children, you’d find a way to eat every last twig grown in the garden.
Maybe some sort of nostalgia for a better time came over me. I decided those green tomatoes were too beautiful to waste.
I decided to pick the fruit and at least give folks a chance to eat them. It didn’t take long to gift them to a coworker and my really cool neighbor, Del.
I kept a few and will decide this week if my palette has changed. I could eat just about anything that is drenched in batter and deep fried, perhaps even cardboard.
Some recipes seem fairly straightforward: About four green tomatoes, salt and pepper, oil, 1 cup cornmeal, 2 large eggs.
Slice the tomatoes ¼ inch thick, season and pat dry. Dip the slices in beaten eggs and drag through the cornmeal. Fry and dip in your favorite dressing. One friend suggested adding Cajun spices.
I’ve had trouble with fruit flies recently. However, I’ll try to ripen a few of my green goblins indoors.
I found a video online, https://bit.ly/2Le3MEk, which suggests wrapping each tomato in newspaper, then placing the batch in a cardboard box. Adding some apples will help speed up the process. The trick is to check them once a week and see if there’s anything that needs to be tossed. Choose a cold closet or garage, because temperatures need to be 50-70 degrees. Or you can add a bit of apple and stuff the green tomatoes in a paper bag.
Undoubtedly, the tomatoes will taste like those mealy, pinkish-white tomatoes we find in the grocery store this time of year, but hey, they probably still contain high amounts of Vitamin C.
A few more notes
If you want to torture yourself with other tomato possibilities, I found some information about starting new tomato plants with suckers, found between the tomato’s main stem and a leaf branch, www.agardenlife.com/long-tomato-plants-live-need-know/. This video is worth watching, simply to listen to the guy’s Southern accent.