A long and bountiful summer garden it has been. Plucking off the last of the producing plants fruit and vegetable stems before yanking out the assorted roots and shaking off the clumps mixed between flying specks of rich, dark soil has a certain finality to it, one too, not without a bit of sadness. Still, clearing the soil bed for next year’s preparation makes one look toward new possibilities in another season ahead.
While there is a certain freedom in having a bit of a break in consistent tending of the ground, there is a loss of freedom too, that of spontaneously picking what you like fresh anytime, and preparing the most simple of meals, to now, transitioning back to a greater dependence on the market.
One filled metal wired garden basket of ingredients remains, except deciding on something special to prepare, a final batch of round stemmed green fruits easily fallen off of the well- worn twisted branches whose leaves had begun to brown and crumple like cracked old parchment, with these we have Green Tomato Chutney, final picks of the seasons garden.
One fruit I shall never tire is the tomato and so I will miss those plants the most. Green tomatoes early on or late in the season provide some tasty options but I happened upon this recipe from Bob’s cousin Pat visiting from Florida a few weeks back.
The conversation on our days gathering was ripe with gardening stories, mostly due to being at the vacation home of Bob’s sister Maryann, and her husband Joe, who for years, having a lot of ground set on an old farm house in Chester county, are sort of unofficial master gardeners on extensive fruit and vegetable varieties. Earlier in the week, Joe had made a harvest visit from the shore house returning back with what appeared like bushels upon our arrival, all decoratively set upon the wood dining table and light colored counter-tops filling assorted sized glass bowls and trays. Chatting over plates of sliced and whole assorted picks accompanied with dip inspired the topic of possibilities for using up the final green tomatoes, with Cousin Pat encouraging today’s delicious Green Tomato Chutney using a recipe that she “didn’t make up” but had been happy to pass along upon her return to The Sunshine State.
Similar to many recipes passed along there was no author named, but it worked out in its ease of adaptability as there were other fresh picked ingredients and changed out spice combinations that I preferred to use, including the addition of a few remaining jalapeno peppers off the deck planter, and from the back garden, one sweet red pepper, and two golden yellow varieties. I also used a cinnamon stick, Chinese five spice powder, and a type of spicier ground red pepper from the Indian market nearby. I’ve also changed out the recipe amounts due to having a bit more volume but you can halve the amount or pretty much be creative with your own final garden pickings. This combination is delicious. The relish is versatile and I’ve used it here topping the final piece of sea trout from the field hockey dad’s annual fishing expedition in Maryland, but Cousin Pat indicated the Green Tomato Chutney was great with pork or chicken. Ladled into ball jars tied with a bit of raffia also makes a nice fall gift for neighbors to use up as well. You might also decide to ‘can’ preserve the mixture, but for this route, I always recommend seeking out the advice of the canning experts, in this case, mainly just to insure the proper acidity balance. Marissa McClellan or Ball Jars website are both good sources in this genre.
I couldn’t help but hold back a few final green tomatoes that I thought would make a nice little snack lightly coated and fried with some spicy roasted red pepper sauce which we can share on another day. A sort of way on extending the final summer treasures, after all, there is a bit of sadness at the end of the garden picking season, but then there is always plenty to look forward towards in simple delights of the seasonal cycles ahead.
- 2 pounds green tomatoes, cored, chopped fine
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded, chopped
- 1 red pepper, seeded, chopped
- 2 golden yellow peppers, seeded, chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2-3/4 cup packed brown sugar, more or less to desired sweetness
- couple pinches coarse kosher salt, or to taste
- few grinds cracked black pepper
- Add ingredients into a large nonreactive saucepan, bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue simmering for around an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, until chutney is well cooked together resembling a relish.