by Charlene Burgi
This week we celebrated Halloween, and even our garden seemed to be getting into the spirit of “trick or treat.” We knew winter was approaching when the evening temperatures dipped into the 20s. Two huge plants remained heavily laden with green tomatoes, refusing to turn red and needing protection. We thought the trick was saving the plants long enough to reap the harvest.
We pounded rebar spikes into the ground and slid PVC pipe over the rebar to construct a six-foot-tall, framed shed over the errant tomatoes. Sheets of plastic enclosed the framed area and clamps secured the plastic to the PVC. A heat lamp was hooked up to a minimum-maximum thermostat and strategically placed inside to distribute warmth. Our booty protected, we were ready for the cold and wind. We were both feeling rather smug about this makeshift greenhouse, and I thought Marin gardeners also could construct something simple like this to protect tender plants from the frost.
A few days later, we woke up to a winter wonderland, but looked in horror as the plastic sheeting stretched and sagged under the weight of the new-fallen snow. The PVC was literally creaking and groaning under the weight. I failed to mention that in our short-sightedness we didn’t put a pitch in the roof of this fortress, so our construction failed miserably. We should have made one side higher than the other to provide a slide for the white wet stuff.
Donning down jackets and mittens, we crawled under the precarious structure hoping to salvage tomatoes—all 60-plus pounds of them. We filled buckets and boxes until the snowy roof collapsed on top of our emerald treasure. We managed to pull the PVC apart and drag the plastic away from the ruins. (Luckily we hadn’t glued anything together.) The remains were worse for the wear as we ripped the plants out of the ground and dragged them into the big greenhouse to hang upside down and salvage what little fruit remained.
The trick was on us. Mother Nature sent an early snowfall, and I still have to do something with a mountain of green tomatoes. Friends suggested wrapping them in newspaper, placing them in paper bags with apples, setting them on a windowsill, hanging the plants upside down in a covered area, and preparing fried green tomatoes. I tried all but the last, and sure enough, we witnessed the magic of some tomatoes turning into sweet rubies among the emerald orbs! We might still have our treats after all!
Summer gardens are coming to an end … even in Marin. If you find yourself with green tomatoes and are feeling ambitious, try a few of these recipes that I dug up! They provide an avenue for me to offset the loss of canned tomatoes this year. Who knows, these recipes could become an annual staple in our home and maybe yours.
Green Tomato Bread
1/2 cup canola oil
8 ounces nonfat yogurt, plain
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup Splenda (or use all sugar)
2 cups green tomatoes, puréed, juice drained and discarded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Combine oil, yogurt, eggs, sugar, Splenda and green tomatoes in a large bowl and mix well. Sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices and add to wet ingredients along with the whole wheat flour. Stir together just until combined. Divide evenly between two prepared pans and bake just until a toothpick comes clean from the center of the bread, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pans, then remove. To retain moisture, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. May be frozen.
Green Tomato Salsa
Yields: 3 1/2 cups
8 ounces green tomatoes, chopped
8 ounces ripe red tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
In medium bowl, gently stir tomatoes with corn, chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour to blend flavors, or up to eight hours. Drain before serving if chilled longer than one hour.
One More Treat
How about those Giants! World Series Champs! One of our readers gently reminded me that our champs play at AT&T Park, not Candlestick as this ol’ dog mentioned in the blog last week. Some things are just too deeply ingrained in my mind. Luckily I didn’t really show my age by suggesting the 49ers still play at Kezar Stadium!