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Tomatoes

Food & Drink, Vegetable Garden

5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes & a Seasonal Salsa Receipe

August 21, 2014

5 Ideas for Green TomatoesGreen tomatoes? Here’s a few ideas that might help them to ripen

There’s been a sudden change of temperature over the past couple of weeks with a cool breeze and low night-time temperatures and it somehow seems too soon for autumn to be settling in. Surely the month of August is still summertime or is my memory of lazy, long school holidays as a teenager deceiving me? Is autumn on its way early this year or is it just a blip? We’ll have to wait and see but if, as a result of this cooler weather, you’ve started to look at your green tomatoes and wonder if they’ll ever ripen, there’s a few things you can try to speed them along.

1. Stop the tomato plants growth. Tomatoes need warmth to ripen and whether they’re growing inside or out, if you haven’t already, nip out the growing tips at the top of the stems to stop the plants growing any taller; remove any stray side shoots and remove any flowers or small fruit that are trying to develop.  At this time of year it’s wasted growth, there simply wont be enough heat in the sun to develop and form more fruit. Remove the leaves that are shading the tomatoes and if the cool weather continues, in a couple of weeks time you might want to consider removing all the leaves from the plants which will allow the remaining fruits to bathe in the last heat of the autumn sunshine and not nestle behind cold, dark foliage.

5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes2. Untie the plants and warm them up on a dark surface. If your plants are strung up, you could try untieing them and laying them down on black plastic or weed membrane (not something I’ve tried but have heard it’s very effective). The tomatoes will pick up the warmth from their dark underblanket.

3. Place the tomatoes next to ripe bananas. Placing green tomatoes next to ripe bananas (that emit ethylene, a ripening chemical) works to a certain degree but personally we’ve found that the skins toughen and turn blotchy and unattractive. 5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes

4. Ripen on a sunny windowsill. Pick the fruit and place on a paper towel on a warm, sunny windowsill to ripen. We’ve found this more effective than laying next to ripe bananas.

5. Don’t panic. Don’t try to ripen them, but use the tomatoes green. Our favourite chutney is the green tomato and chilli recipe linked here and nobody will ever know you’ve added them to your iced buns! And fried green tomatoes isn’t just the title of a film, they are a tasty accompaniment to a dish. I’ve successfully frozen small bags of green tomatoes too that I didn’t have time to do anything with.

Do you have any tips for speeding along the ripening process for your green tomatoes or do you take the laid back approach and let them be?

If you’re lucky and your tomatoes are ripening beautifully, here’s a very quick and easy salsa recipe. You may find you’ll never buy a jar again once you’ve tried it.

5 Ideas for Green TomatoesSalsa Recipe

Ingredients

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 large red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1-2 hot green chillies or to taste
450g/1lb ripe tomatoes
4 tsp chopped coriander
Seasoning

Method

Dry fry the seeds in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes, then crush using a pestle and mortar. Mix together all the ingredients, cover and stand for at least 30 mins or overnight to allow the flavours to develop

Vegetable Garden

How to Grow Tomato & Pepper Plants From Seed

February 25, 2014

Starting Seeds Indoors – Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomato Seeds

Tomato Seeds

Tomato and pepper seeds are some of the first that many of us will sow in the year and indeed, were the first seeds we planted in Callan Community Garden this week.

These plants need a long growing season if we are to harvest any fruit from them so February/March are often cited as the best months to sow them. However, tomato and pepper seeds need heat to germinate (between 15°C/68°F to 30°C/86°F for good results, the higher the better) so a heated mat, propagator or warm windowsill is essential for their success in Ireland.

Tomatoes and peppers are in the same vegetable family (Solanaceae) so their growing requirements are quite similar. Be very careful with your labelling if you’re sowing them at the same time as the seeds look almost identical and are very easy to mix up.

So what are you waiting for, would you like to have a go at growing your own tomatoes or peppers from seed? Here’s a step by step guide showing you how to sow the seeds.

Equipment Needed to Sow Seeds:

Seeds – Tomato / Pepper
Peat Free or Peat Reduced Compost
*A mini propagator with a lid (see image below for an idea – heated or unheated)
Watering can and an indelible marker and labels

How to Grow Tomato & Pepper Plants from Seed

How long will it be before I see any signs of life?

Germination, or the time it takes from sowing the seed to when you notice the first seed leaves bursting through the soil, should take less than two weeks, depending upon the temperature the seeds are grown at (the higher the temperature, the faster the germination).

Will I need to water the seeds/seedlings?

If you followed the steps above, you will have watered the compost before you sowed the seeds. It’s therefore unlikely the seeds will need any further watering whilst they’re covered as the propagator will act as a micro climate. However, after the seeds have germinated and the propagator lid has been lifted, keep an eye on the compost, ensuring its kept damp (not soaked) and that the seedlings aren’t allowed to dry out. The best way to test whether soil needs watering is to stick your finger carefully into the compost and feel how dry it is. In time you’ll learn how to recognise whether pots need watering by lifting them and feeling their weight. Watering the tray the modules are sitting in is preferable to watering the seedlings themselves as it causes less disturbance and a more equal distribution of water.

What happens next?

If you haven’t already, you might like to fill in the free email sign up form (on the side or bottom of this post, depending upon how you’re viewing it) to receive the Greenside Up blog directly into your email account. In a few weeks we’ll look at the next steps involved in growing your own tomatoes and peppers from seed and how you “prick the seedlings out and pot them on” into larger containers.

For a step by step guide for sowing peppers, take a look at the Greenside Up YouTube channel:

Happy growing!

Food & Drink

Spicy Salsa Recipe & Green Tomato Tips

September 17, 2013
Spicy Salsa made from food grown in an Irish garden

Spicy Salsa made from home-grown produce

September is one of my favourite months for many reasons, not least the continuing harvest and thoughts turning to next year’s growing season.

In the community gardens and at home we’ve started to write our lists of seeds to buy, we’re pondering over what grew well for us, what didn’t, what we liked and what we’d sooner give a miss to and we’re also keeping our eyes open for sources of well-rotted organic matter that can be added to the beds once we’ve cleared them of spent crops.

Olivia of Lavistown HouseFollowing a successful and enjoyable preserving workshop held by Olivia at Lavistown House in Kilkenny for the Goresbridge and Kilkenny gardening groups recently (funded by Kilkenny Leader Partnership), we’ve looked at recipe ideas for pickling and preserving many of the fruit and vegetables that are still growing.

In the next week or two we’ll be firing up the stoves and cleaning the jars in preparation for a couple of group preserving sessions where we’ll share the work and fun involved with pickle and jam making.

Ripe tomatoesI’ve made several colourful salads at home from food grown in our garden which I’ll share with you next week but in the meantime, one of our personal favourite dips is this quick and easy salsa.

Containing juicy, ripe tomatoes, coriander seeds, chillies and onions you can’t beat it for a burst of autumn flavour and colour.

It’s much tastier than the racks of jars you’ll find on shelves or cold cabinets in supermarkets that have been imported from sunnier climates and if you’re growing your own, you can’t get any more local and of course, it’s free!

Salsa Recipe Ingredients

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 large red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1-2 hot green chillies or to taste
450g/1lb ripe tomatoes
4 tsp chopped coriander
Seasoning

Method

Corriander Seeds

Coriander Flowers & Seeds

Dry fry the seeds in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes, then crush using a pestle and mortar.

Mix together all the ingredients, cover and stand for at least 30 mins or overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

Green tomato tips:

With nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, I’ve noticed lots of people seeking advice on ripening their green tomatoes.

Tomatoes need warmth to ripen so whether they’re growing inside or out, first nip out the growing tips at the top of the stems to stop the plants growing any further – at this time of year it’s wasted growth – the plants will not be forming any more fruit at this stage. Remove any flowers or small fruit that are trying to develop then remove all the leaves from the plants which will allow the fruits to bathe in the last heat of the autumn and not nestle behind cold, dark foliage.

If your plants are strung up, you could try untieing them and laying them down on black plastic or weed membrane (not something I’ve tried but have heard it’s very effective). Again, the tomatoes will pick up the warmth from their dark underblanket.

Placing green tomatoes next to ripe bananas (that emit ethylene, a ripening chemical) works to a certain degree but personally we’ve found that the skins toughen and turn blotchy and unattractive.

Green Tomatoes and Chilli Peppers

If all else fails you might like to try a couple of recipe ideas for green tomatoes – the first a green tomato and chilli chutney and secondly (I promise you’ll never know they’re in there) green tomato buns which are our son’s most  favourite of all the ‘vegetable’ cakes.

Happy harvesting!

Food & Drink

Green Tomato Buns with Lemon Curd Topping

November 11, 2012
Green Tomato Buns

Green Tomato Buns

I’m a reluctant cook. Having churned out meal after meal for my family for the past fourteen or so years, I can honestly tell you I get more pleasure from weeding a muddy vegetable plot in the rain than trying to think up and prepare yet another dinner. Mr G would be the adventurous cook in the kitchen here and I’m usually quite happy to leave him to it. (Particularly as he’s prone to making comments like “that tastes nice, where did you buy it…!?”)

That said I do enjoy preparing meals for friends and getting stuck into a bit of baking now and again (see yesterday’s post for some links and recipes to non vegetable/fruit containing bun recipes). It’s really just the day-to-day cooking that does nothing for me.

What does come with regular cooking however, is confidence. For several years I was an out and out recipe book girl, never veering away from the ingredients but as the years have past and the discovery of what works and doesn’t begins to sink in, I’ve become more adventurous.

Today was a case in point when I was looking for recipes for the basket of green tomatoes that’s been sitting here on the countertop for days. I came across two possibilities – one for bread and one for cake – both from US web sites. Every version I found was measured in cup sizes and to my mind much heavier on the butter and sugar than we would be used to here (two cups of sugar seems an awful lot, even for my sweet too). I therefore adapted a courgette cake recipe and added ingredients from the green tomato cake recipe found earlier. Voilà,  it worked. We now have 24 buns containing an ingredient I wouldn’t have thought to add to cake in a month of Sundays.

The result tastes a bit like carrot cake – moist with a hint of spice. You’d only really know there were green tomatoes in the buns if you came across a piece that hadn’t been chopped up small enough and (I think) had been told they was in there. Certainly both our girls enjoyed eating the buns and hadn’t a clue!

If you have a large quantity of green tomatoes left at the end of the growing season and have made as much chutney as you can manage, I’d recommend whizzing what’s left in a food processor, bagging the mixture into portion sizes ready to make lots more cakes throughout the winter months. Why waste and compost a perfectly good food ingredient. You could argue they’re healthy cakes too as green tomatoes contain almost as much vitamin C as red ones!

Green Tomato Bunds with Lemon Curd Topping

Ingredients for Green Tomato & Lemon Curd Buns

Makes 24 buns

250g diced and strained green tomatoes
2 large eggs
125ml rapeseed oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
50g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Whiz the whole green tomatoes in a food processor until diced without being liquidised. Place in a sieve and rest over a bowl to drain the moisture, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the excess. Meanwhile add the oil, eggs and sugar to a bowl and mix until creamy. Combine  the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with the creamy mixture and stir with a wooden spoon then add the drained green tomatoes, spices and sultanas until evenly mixed.

Spoon  into bun cases and bake for 20- 25 mins until cooked. Leave to cool on a wire rack while you make the topping.

Lemon curd topping

Makes 350ml:

75g butter, preferably unsalted
3 large free range eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml lemon juice (or approx 2 lemons juiced)
zest of 1 lemon

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add all the other ingredients and whisk to a custard over a gentle heat.  Let cool before topping the buns with it.  Keep any extra in the fridge as it’s lovely on toast too.

I’d love to hear how you get on with this recipe or if you adapt it to your own taste. The verdict here was a big all round hit. Two teenage lads were the initial guinea pigs and loved the buns, followed by our girls who didn’t know there were tomatoes in them and were mightily surprised when they were told afterwards!

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Food & Drink

Green Tomato & Chilli Chutney Recipe

October 22, 2012

Beech tree in all its glory

Autumn is the most vibrant season of the year with the full spectrum of orange, browns, yellows and reds shining out from the hedgerows and fields.

It’s also the time of year most associated with harvesting and preserving and I can’t help but wish those glorious reds (or even a hint of yellow or orange) had extended into my polytunnel and were now the main colour of my tomatoes! Instead, around two-thirds of this years tomato crop are still green. Healthy but definitely green, which has left me once again trawling through the recipe books so as not to waste the harvest. October is also the month for picking red chilli peppers and Bramley cooking apples, making this a deliciously seasonal chutney.

Green Tomatoes and Chilli Peppers

Green Belle and Celine Tomatoes and Mixed Chilli Peppers

When we blog recipes we often worry that we’re not crediting them correctly but given that I’m rubbish at following them and usually end up adding ingredients or leaving some out, making up recipes can come quite naturally as a result. On this occasion it appears to have worked as initial tasting is quite sumptuous (and most chutney recipes are based on a similar variety of ingredients anyway). The chutney is quite sweet yet because of the additional chilli peppers, leaves a fiery aftertaste (depending upon how many you add). The flavours can only improve over the next few weeks as they are allowed to blend.

The quantity given will make around nine jars of various sizes (I have a lot of green tomatoes!) so halve or quarter it to your own needs.

Green Tomato & Red Chilli Pepper ChutneyIngredients

1.6kg green tomatoes, diced
400g Bramley cooking applies, diced
600g red or white onions or scallions, diced
1-3 red chilli peppers to taste
4 cloves garlic
500ml cider vinegar
2.5cm piece root ginger, finely chopped or grated
160g sultanas
400 g soft brown sugar

Add all the ingredients to a large stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for around an hour or two or until liquid has a firmer consistency and isn’t as runny and the ingredients resemble a chunky chutney.

Empty into freshly sterilised jars and seal whilst the ingredients are hot. Leave for around three weeks to allow the flavours to blend and settle before serving.

Chutney makes a delicious accompaniment to cheese and freshly baked bread.

Tomato and Chilli Chutney

Green Tomato and Red Chilli Chutney

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Vegetable Garden

Sowing Seeds ? Paper Potter Product Review

January 16, 2012

Paper Potter Product Review

Last year I tried making newspaper pots for my seeds using a small plastic drinks bottle as a guide but found it quite fiddly, and could never quite get the base to sit correctly.

When I saw the Nether Wallop Plant Potter (great name!) online it was top of my Christmas wish list and I was therefore delighted to find that I had been a good girl after all when I was handed my presents from under the tree.

Some seedlings sulk if their roots are disturbed so they should either be sown directly into the soil (like parsnips and carrots whose roots generally won’t form) or into pots that will biodegrade (beetroot, beans, peas, squash and melons).

I’ve used cardboard tubes (from kitchen or toilet rolls) which work very well too but it’s questionable as to whether the glue used to stick them together is ‘safe’.

If you like to sow your own seedlings, making your own pots out of newspaper is a great money saver (even if you do have the initial small outlay of a wooden potter, better if it’s a gift) and you’ll be doing your bit to help the planet by recycling old newspapers too.

I really enjoy using my little potter. It’s made from FSC oak and beautifully turned, fitting into the hand perfectly. My eight year old made several pots too and loved helping mum – she didn’t want to stop! I was also impressed by the minimalistic packaging. Just a cardboard box with the instructions printed on it – no plastic and compostable – there’s a lesson there for other companies who over package…

There’s not much more I can say other than a great little tool that I’d recommend all gardeners have in their kit bag. These are available online for €11.75 plus postage… If you count up how much can be spent on seedling pots over the years, and the fact that once you have this tool you’ll never run out of them, I think it’s worth it.

If you’re not sure, or are just interested in how to make them, here’s a clip demonstrating how quick and easy paper pots are to make using the Nether Wallop Paper Potter.

Have you an essential piece of kit in your bag that you can’t do without in the garden?

Vegetable Garden

Sowing seeds in February – Tomatoes, Beans and Peas

February 25, 2010

As our 11-year-old was at home unexpectedly from school yesterday with a tummy bug, I had to cancel my plans and spend a day at home. Looking around the house I could see lots of jobs waiting to be done but none of them took my fancy. And then I remembered my seedlings. I’d taken four trays along to Tuesday’s spring workshop to demonstrate the different stages of growth, and they were all now well overdue for transplanting.

Despite having forgotten to pre-soak the seeds, the majority of Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) had germinated and all of the Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) and Marigolds (Tagetes petula). I’m really pleased that I got it together and sowed them early this year. Nasturtiums are a great companion plant – the colourful flowers attract predatory insects as well as deterring whiteflies and cucumber beetles. You can also add the edible petals to summer salads surprising your families. Last year I’d sown a packet of expensive Nasturtium seeds into pots and none germinated. This year I bought three packets from Aldi and am sowing them all!

Having moved all the seedlings from seed trays to pots I then had a root around my seed tin to see what else I could sow. I’ve been saving toilet roll inserts for the beans and peas so I squashed them until they were square-shaped (they fit in a tray easier), filled them up with a multipurpose compost (the instructions on the bag told me it was good for seedlings) and planted them up with peas (Pisum sativum). This year we’ll be sowing two varieties Kelveden Wonder – a 1st early wrinkled variety that we enjoyed last year, as well as a mange tout round seed variety (Oregon Sugar Pod) that I’ll be sowing directly into the soil sometime in April when it’s warmed up. By starting some of the seeds undercover I’ll be sowing successionally – hopefully avoiding a glut later in the year. The peas I started off in November in the polytunnel are starting to come up already, despite the snow outside.

I’ve also sown a few pots of globe artichokes – last year I sowed one from seed which produced four lovely heads but I didn’t cover the crown over winter and have lost it to the frost. These are spectacular looking plants that aren’t out of place in an ornamental garden. If you don’t eat the heads you can cut them and dry them as they make unusual autumnal flower decorations.

Those jobs done I had another look in the tin and I found my tomato (Lycopersicon) seeds. I hadn’t realised that I’ve been building up a collection of several varieties, thanks to magazine freebies and friends and am determined this year to keep better tabs on what I sow. In the past I’ve been guilty of planting and labelling lots of seed trays and then forgetting to label the individual pots they’re moved into. This only became a problem when visitors to the garden started asking me what varieties of tomatoes I was growing and all I could do was vaguely wave my arms around listing a few but not knowing which was which.

So this year I’m planting: Totem – a dwarf bush (determinate) variety (so they don’t need side shooting) that should give large trusses of crimson fruit. This is apparently one of the best varieties for growing in pots, tubs and windowboxes where space is limited. I’m thinking of planting up windowboxes full of salad veg this year rather than bedding plants!

Sweet n Neat – this is n ultra compact, bush variety that only reaches about 25-30cm (10-12in) in height. It should produce good crops of sweet cherry-shaped fruit for continuous picking. Again ideal in patio containers and mixed planters and due to its compact habit, can even be grown on a sunny windowsill.

Garden Pearl – (this tiny bush variety survived amongst the shrubs and flowers till around October last year). It’s a compact outdoor bush tomato that’s been especially bred for use in hanging baskets and patio pots, giving an abundance of sweet and tasty cherry tomatoes making it great for tubs.

Roma VF – another bush variety so doesn’t require support but should give us pasta type tomatoes that are great for cooking and bottling (I’ll try growing these in the tunnel and outdoors to see how they perform at our altitude).

Lastly Costoluto Fiorentino – a heavily ribbed, shiny red, full flavoured tomato. It should be ideal for sauces or making decent sandwich. This is an indeterminate variety (which means it will need strong staking and side shooting). I’ll be planting these in the polytunnel as they originate in Tuscany – a tad warmer than Carlow!

Twenty four modules have been sown in total with two seeds in each. I’m trying to restrict myself as I usually get carried away, sowing several packets and then giving them away to anyone I can persuade to take them. As we haven’t built the heated propagating bench yet (now expecting lots of family visits this year so funds have been re-directed to house decoration), I’m starting all my seedlings off in an unheated propagator that’s sitting on top of some thick corrugated cardboard in a south-facing window. Once germinated and transplanted I then move them into the tunnel.

Just a note on seeds: to have a strictly organic garden you should be buying and sowing organic seeds. However, this isn’t always possible when you’re on a tight budget and especially when you’re starting off. Where possible avoid sowing anything that’s been pre-treated with fungicides or pesticides – chossing F1 Hybrid varieties that have been bred for their resistant qualities instead.