Green tomato chutney

Yesterday my daughter walked out of her violin lesson, looked up at the sky and said, “I love it when there’s a light rain and everything’s so bright. Look! The dandelions look like small suns.”

She was right. The late afternoon light was making the colors stand out from one another. The overgrown lawn was a series of crazy, green mohawks. Grape leaves on a trailing stem hung gold and red from a trellis in a neighboring yard.

Because of her moment of optimism, I thought about the short walk between her violin teacher’s studio and our car for the rest of the day.

I’m observing the way optimists think these days and noticing that the more I’m around people who are curious and funny and daring, the better I like my life and myself.

So it was a buzz to be in a room full of optimists at Sustainable South Sound‘s food summit this past weekend. Attendees heard from local politicians and experts then broke out in groups to brainstorm possibilities for our local food system. These were big thinking sessions that covered topics such as fairness, farms and food security. “What would it look like if…?” we were asked. “And how will we get there?” At the end of the day, I was saturated, happy and ready for a cup of tea and an early bedtime.

During one of the breaks I got into a conversation with a local farmer who dismissed my plans to write about winter squash this week. “You’ll have them all winter,” she said. “Do something on green tomatoes. The plants are all out now. Everyone has a ton of them.”

I couldn’t deny that my lone Sungold tomato plant was still in the garden, heavy with fruit that would never have a chance to ripen. And who’s one to argue with a farmer at a food summit? A couple of days later, I dug it up.

Green tomatoes are a versatile crop, if not a glamorous one. Some exquisite ways to use them up can be found here. But none of these recipes are staples in my house quite yet. We’re pretty much a two-stringed fiddle when it comes to the green ones. Fried green tomatoes – yes. Green tomato chutney – yes again.

My new farmer friend saves hers for chutney, too. She told me the recipe she waits all year to make is a combination of green tomato and lime.

Green Tomato and Lime Chutney
adapted from this recipe from In Kitchen and Garden by Leslie Land

2 ½ c white vinegar
1 c honey (keep the jar out to correct for sweetness at the end)
2 organic limes*
3 ½  lbs green tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I left my cherry tomatoes whole)
1 ¾ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
½ lb shallots, minced
10 oz golden raisins
¼ lb crystallized ginger, diced
3 T mustard seeds
2 tsp sea salt

*When using zest or rind in recipes, be sure to choose organic to avoid pesticides that are mixed in with the wax covering many conventional citrus crops.

Combine vinegar and honey in a large pot. Halve one of the limes and squeeze in the juice.

Cut the remaining rind and pith into matchsticks. Put the lime sticks in a small, deep saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Simmer over low heat until they’re soft enough to be cut with the edge of a fork. Mine were soft in about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Add lime to the pot along with all other ingredients.

Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until tomatoes and apples fall apart and the chutney is thick. This will take one to two hours.

Taste and adjust for more sweet or sour and add more honey or lime juice, accordingly. To avoid refined sugar, I opted for honey and started with one cup (the original recipe calls for two cups of white sugar). I added quite a bit more honey in the end, maybe another half cup or so. When I make this again, I’ll omit the lime rind and start simply with the juice of one lime and add more for flavor later. I found the rind too bitter and the honey unable to take off the edge.

Store in the refrigerator or can in a boiling water bath and give away to friends.

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