Our tomatoes bit the dust. We planted them on the south side of the house in an area that gets some shade during the day, because last summer it was so depressing to see them fry in the hot sun all day long dying slow, tortured deaths. Last summer we ended up pulling the poor dried plants out of the ground about the beginning of July. We were hoping to make them last a little longer this summer by giving them a reprieve from the heat and the sun, but instead of frying, they caught blight. This year instead of the drought of last year we had a wet spring. Our tomato plants got plenty of water but probably not enough sun and we watched sadly as they withered with blight. We had to pull them out of the ground before mid-June.
Before our tomato plants gave up the ghost, they gave us a few Cherokee Purples and a several full handfuls of cherry tomatoes. The Cherokee Purples were perhaps the best tomato I have ever tasted - juicy and sweet and fabulous on sandwiches. Next year we'll try again, and plant them in the full sun. I'm thinking about making a little roll-up tent system to shade them from the 100 degree mid-day heat. Not sure if that will work, but it's worth a try. Setting up our garden system (complete with several Bunny Banes, or chicken wire attached to moveable frames) has been an investment of time, energy and money, but it's been a great learning experience. We learn something new each season. This year, I have not had to buy as many veggies at the store, so our garden is almost paying for itself. It's certainly helping with our grocery bills and next year, our garden will hopefully save us a lot of money.
But back to our tomato plants. They still had many green cherry tomatoes that would never ripen as the plants were so damaged with blight. I could not bear to throw them into the compost, so I looked for green tomato relish recipes. I didn't have enough to bother canning, so I looked for fresh recipes that would keep in the refrigerator. This recipe by Martha Stewart caught my eye. I modified it a little bit, cutting back the sugar by half and substituting chopped dried figs for the golden raisins. It came out really good! I think chopped dried apricots would be a good substitute for the raisins, too.
You can enjoy green tomato relish on crackers with cheese, in sandwiches, or anything your heart desires. I personally think it's tasty plain by the spoonful. This will keep in the fridge for a week or two, if it lasts that long. I like this relish so much that next year, I might have to plant many more tomato plants - some for ripe tomatoes and some solely for making green tomato relish, which I will can and give away as gifts. I think someday we'll need a bigger yard for a bigger garden, and I'll need a bigger kitchen for canning. I like dreaming big about the simple joys in life!
Green Tomato Relish
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup water
green tomatoes, deseeded and chopped, about 1 cup
3 dried figs, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Combine the cider vinegar, brown sugar, onion and water in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. To the saucepan add the green tomatoes, figs, mustard seeds, kosher salt and black pepper. Simmer rapidly for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato and onion are tender and the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.