The Frost is on the Pumpkin

The frost is on the pumpkin and tomatoes are off the vine. Tonight we’re expected to have the first real freeze of the year. My cherry tomato vines have been by far the most prolific producers in the garden, but I grew them from seed and they got a late start.

That means the harvest began late. In August it started to pick up steam. Even today, you can see tiny yellow blooms mixed with a host of tomatoes. In anticipation of the freeze, I pulled most of the green tomatoes off the vines – 185 of them to be exact. Now the question is…

What can I do with green tomatoes?

While I didn’t want to leave them outside to freeze, I will preserve some in my freezer. If they were full size, I would wash them, remove the stem, and slice them before placing the slices in layers separated by wax paper or plastic freezer wrap. I can follow the same process for the smaller cherry size or I can quarter them.

Once they’ve been frozen, the tomatoes will be mushy and/or slimy. They won’t be suitable for a salad but they’ll be great for other things. If I want some for frying into a bite-size appetizer, it will be best to slice them. If I’m going to use them in salsa or pesto, quartering will work fine.

But before I begin the process of preserving, there’s no reason not to enjoy a few right away. Using a cup of quartered green tomatoes, a firmly packed cup of fresh arugula, a half cup of walnuts, a fourth cup of olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a fourth teaspoon of salt, I can create a scrumptious pesto. The lemony notes of the green tomatoes balance the peppery bitterness of the arugula. There’s no need to add cheese so this is a great lower fat, dairy-free pesto option.

Although salsa verde calls for tomatillos, it can be made with green tomatoes. They’ll need to be roasted, preferably charred slightly, and the rest of the ingredients remain the same – onion, cilantro, lime, salt plus some kind of pepper like jalapeño or serrano. My neighbor is willing to share the overabundance of serrano peppers she grew, so that will be my choice.

If the freezer is full, you may want to give some away. Pesto or salsa in a jar makes a great holiday gift. I like to include a card or label listing all the ingredients so it’s easy for anyone with a food sensitivity or allergy to identity a potential problem before they consume the gift.

For those with very sensitive tummies, green tomatoes may not sit right when eaten raw. They contain the toxic alkaloid tomatine. While you’d have to eat pounds and pounds of raw green tomatoes for the toxin to harm you, it could cause tummy upset and/or a headache for some.

Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family. Nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant can contribute to inflammation and make some people with autoimmune disease suffer with related aches and pain. If you can’t tolerate potatoes, you may also want to avoid tomatoes whether green or ripe.

On the flip side, if you can tolerate them well, green tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants and at least one study has shown they inhibit human cancer cell lines of the stomach, colon, liver, and breast. They also contain vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and minerals along with fiber.

While I’ve been talking about unripe tomatoes, there are some varieties that are green when ripe. These are not common in the stores or gardens I frequent but don’t be surprised if you run across one somewhere.

I feel fortunate to have so many healthy, tasty tomatoes at my disposal. I just learned that some of my crop will be used in pozole next door tonight. And I now have serrano peppers awaiting me on my porch. It seems like its time to retrieve them and get back in the kitchen so I can finish some salsa before there’s frost on the pumpkin tonight.

My Kitchen is a Sticky Mess

My kitchen is a sticky mess. Today my doorbell grandchildren showed up for a cooking lesson with soda and candy in hand. We’ve all learned a lot.

There was a simple plan in place. One of them had agreed to help me with a pork tenderloin recipe at 3pm. That plan went by the wayside when 3 of them showed up at noon. Of course they were hungry. After I shared my tuna croquettes and green peas with them, there was a flurry of activity in the kitchen.

The oldest brother mixed the glaze for the pork tenderloin while the middle brother chopped celery and red bell pepper for a white bean tzatziki salad. I sent the youngest to the back porch for some dill. Of course, he had no idea which plant that was. Not wanting to end up eating something ornamental and poisonous, I joined him on his search.
We started our exploration of back porch flora with mint. I had him smell each herb. We identified them by name and discussed what each might be used for. Of course no lesson is straightforward with this crew. We got interrupted several times with questions from the other two. Eventually, the conversation culminated in a pesto tasting.

Before we arrived at pesto, I had to demonstrate what 3/4 cup means. I had given one of the kids a 1/4 cup measuring cup and a recipe that called for 3/4 cup of tzatziki. He was at a loss for how 1/4 cup related to 3/4 cup. I must admit this had me shaking my head a bit. After all, these kids are 12, 13, and 14.

Anyway, that led to a more general lesson on fractions. We filled a one cup measuring cup with water from a 1/4 cup measuring cup, counting each time until it registered that there are four 1/4 cups in one cup. Eventually, that led to a recognition that 2/4 and 1/2 are the same. We tried doubling a recipe that called for 2/3 cup flour and it still took a minute for them to grasp that 4/3 equals 1 1/3 cups. Cooking is such a practical way to deal with fractions. A few bad batches of biscuits and you’re bound to step up your math game.

Then it was my time to learn. The oldest taught me how to make a drink he invented that combines orange soda with candy and ice. The drink was tart and tasty, but it’s going to require a real food processor or blender. Today, we made it using the larger of my food choppers which was up to the task in the beginning, but totally burned out before we were done. During the process, orange soda was transferred to every surface in my kitchen and half of those in the breakfast room. I still feel like I’m sticking to my computer and my phone.

I also learned about the risqué videos kids watch on Instagram – unfortunately, by seeing one with my own eyes. I learned that you cannot allow any cursing or it’s out of hand in less than a minute. I learned that Stewart sometimes likes to wear a little bling. Most importantly, I learned that every single one of you with multiple teenagers must have nerves of steel and astronomical grocery bills.
Now it’s the end of the day. I am tired. My kitchen is a sticky mess and we’ve all learned a lot. That’s often the way it goes in the kitchen.