Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

A Vintage Year for Tomatoes

It’s safe to say it hasn’t been a vintage year for tomatoes and I think mine have fared worse than most. A late start, a dull, cool summer, and a decision to leave my bubblewrap up as shading (it seemed like a masterstroke at the time) have left me with an abundance of ripening tomatoes, but not a great many ripe. Autumn is now very much upon us and it is time to give up ripening hopes.

Chutney is the obvious way to go, but I have already made one batch this year, and I think one batch is enough (we are still working our way through last year’s batches two and three). And the only other thing anyone seems to do with green tomatoes is to make like Mary Stuart Masterson and fry them, southern style. I’ve always resisted this because – well – it sounded disgusting, and because every recipe I’ve ever looked up ends with ‘they really are nice’ which sounded more like plucky optimism than genuine observation, but in the spirit of not entirely wasting my growing efforts, I gave them a go.

Most recipes call for them to be dipped in egg then coated in fine cornmeal. I had neither but was reassured that just slicing and coating in flour and Cajun spice mix was perfectly acceptable. Fry in bacon grease for authenticity, or butter and oil if you’re doing this on a whim, like me, and dont have much bacon grease to hand. A few minutes on each side, until the coating is brown and crispy and the tomato soft, then drain on kitchen paper. And do you know what? They really are nice. Much more tomatoey than you’d imagine they could possibly be so unripe, but more vegetable and less sweet. I genuinely like them and will be making them again. And I know just how unconvincing that sounds.