Monthly Archives: August 2012

Green Tomato Chutney

With the amount of rain and lack of sunshine this summer it looks like many greenhouse owners will have a glut of green tomatoes. Fear not, this tasty recipe transforms them into a delicious chutney that will see you through to next summer.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lb green tomatoes (1.25kg)
  • 2lb onions (900g)
  • 2 ½ lb cooking apples (1.25kg)
  • 1lb seedless raisins
  • 6 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 2 level dessert spoons ground ginger
  • 1lb 6oz soft brown or Demerara sugar (625g)
  • 1 oz pickling spice (25g) – optional
  • 3 pints genuine malt vinegar (1.75 litres)

What you will need

  • Small preserving pan
  • 8 x 1lb (450g) preserving jars
  • A mincer (or a food processor)
  • A string and some gauze

Method

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into quarters; peel the onions and quarter them; quarter and core the apples, leaving the peels on and keep them in water to prevent browning.

Using the medium blade of the mincer, mince the tomatoes and place them in the pan; next mince the onions, then the raisins followed by the apples, adding them all to the pan.

Now add the garlic, the cayenne, salt, ginger and sugar, blending everything thoroughly. Next, if using the pickling spice, tie it in a small piece of double-thickness gauze and attach it to the handle of the pan so that it hangs down into the other ingredients.

Now pour in the vinegar, bring to a simmering point, remove any scum from the surface, then let it simmer very gently for about 3 ½ hours without covering. Stir now and then, especially towards the end, to prevent sticking. It is ready when the vinegar has been almost absorbed, the chutney has thickened to a nice soft consistency and the spoon leaves a trail.

Pour the hot chutney into hot jars, filling them as full as possible and seal with a tight lid. Label the jars once the chutney is cold.

Store for at least three months in a cool dark place before using. This allows it to mature and mellow in flavour. It will be worth the wait!

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Finally, the 2012 inaugural tomato eating ceremony!

On the evening of Thursday 16th August 2012, Mr Mac and I were finally able to  pick our first tomato of 2012. It was one of the sungold variety and despite the appalling growing conditions it had, it did not disappoint.

It has become tradition that we share the first tomato each year. So the tomato was picked from the vine, taken to the kitchen, washed, sliced in half and sprinkled with a little salt. This year we contemplated some black pepper (I know – we are just crazy) but quickly changed our minds.

On the count of three we both ate our little half tomato. It was so sweet and delicious it probably did not even need salt.

Sungold really are the sweetest tomatoes I have ever come across and I have a challenge with fellow blogger  Carrot Tops that they are sweeter than his favourites, gardeners delight.

Unfortunately, I had to wait another 4 days before any more were ripe enough to eat and finally, in the middle of August, I was able to go down to the greenhouse and pick my first salad!

Batman had The Joker, Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, I have………slugs!

Yes my gardening nemesis of 2012 is the humble old slug. Until this year, a slug was a mild inconvenience to be kept away from brussel sprouts and hostas but our soggy summer has provided sluggy nirvana leaving my garden looking like the set from a horticultural horror film.

Caught red-handed eating the potatoes!

Followers may recall back in May (when we still thought the wet spring was just a blip) I blogged about home-made methods of deterring slugs…crushed eggshells, coffee grinds, beer traps, bran, human hair, citrus peel, sharp sand, copper tape….the list is endless. Looking back, I laugh at my naivity ha ha ha ha ha.

All that is left of the potato shaw!

However, I take some delight….sorry, comfort… in reading about many professional and celebrity gardeners who are also suffering at the hands of our slimy sluggy pals. The only people rubbing their hands with glee are the garden centre owners who have experienced a 74% increase in sales of slug pellets. Even a landscape gardener friend bemoaned the fact that this is the first year in 30 years of gardening he has had to use slug pellets.

Estimates indicate the slug population of the UK has increased three-fold and, if that was not bad enough, apparently now we are being invaded by a voracious, aggressive Spanish super slug which is breeding with our native slugs to create a powerful, highly fertile breed that will overrun the country…aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

This pot originally had 5 cosmos flowers in it. ironically I was worried they would be too crowded in one pot!

For me though, slug pellets are just not an option. We have cats, the neighbour’s two dogs (who frequently run through our garden when they escape!), numerous varieties of birds plus deer, foxes, squirrels etc.

I walked around the garden one evening. Now picture this analogy…a pod of hundreds of dolphins breaking the waves as far as the eye can see…now for the waves substitute my front lawn and for the dolphins substitute slugs. That is what it looked like.

This is all that is left of one of my dahlias. Originally I had 13, now I have 3!

I put my gloves on, got a 9″ pot and wandered round the garden picking up every slug I could find. Then I dropped them into a bucket of water thinking they would drown. I was sad but it was them or my veggies and I’m not giving up cauliflower cheese for anything! The next night I did the same but when it came to “bath time” I found 15 slugs that should have drowned the night before, climbing out of the bucket! They are indestructable!

In my desperation I turned to the font of all knowledge…Google. I came across this blog:

http://www.mysuburbanhomestead.com/how-to-get-rid-of-slugs/

This guy actually took the time to try all of the methods and prove (with photographic evidence) that none of them work. The only sure way to get rid of slugs is to slice them in half. Coincidentally, the next day I heard Terry Walton, BBC Radio 2’s allotment gardener, on the radio saying he goes out at night with his knife and cuts them in half. Brutally, if they are dead, they are not eating your plants!

So every evening, just as the lights fades, I dig deep (pardon the pun) and bring out my Freddie Kruger alter ego…Fifi the slasher princess…and I either jump on them with my wellie boots on and squash them or cut them in half with the scissors. It was horrible at first but I console myself with this comforting fact, gleened from a man who has dedicated his life to finding the best way to eradicate slugs…….slugs are high in protein and all that “green” that they eat is high in nitrogen. Better to reuse their resources and recycle the nutrients back into the garden.

I reckon by next year I will have the most fertile garden in the country!