Last week, I murdered my Roma Tomato plants. It’s true. I have pictures to prove it.
But it was all in the name of that beautiful Pico de Gallo there. And in the end, it was worth it. I’ve included the recipe below, so you too can have a taste of the glory.
Frost has come to Montana. Or rather, it comes once or twice every week or two. For most everything else in my small garden of learning, like the greens and sugar snap peas and even my Early Girl Tomatoes, it’s not a big deal at this point. Not so for my Roma Tomato plants. They are (they were) a bunch of friggin’ sissy-lala’s.
I did a not so great job planning my garden this year. I started late, and let myself get rushed, got caught up in the excitement of purchasing rare heirloom seeds, and basically ran in so many different directions that I made a bit of a mess out of planning. Even though I started almost all of my seeds inside, and had healthy young plants at planting time, my desperate fear of frost kept everything out of the ground until June. Conversely, all my harvests have been waaaaaaay behind schedule.
Taking my cues from square foot gardening, I planted everything way too close together. Especially the Romas. Once they reached maturity, I couldn’t see jack sh*t inside those plants. They were thick and lush and gorgeous, but I could see maybe ten small tomatoes growing on them? Before the frost monster reared its ugly head, I harvested a whopping TWO red tomatoes off of my FOUR Roma Tomato plants. How embarrassing. I can’t even believe I’m telling you this.
So the frost came through, and even though the plants were all properly covered with frost blankets, the outside leaves on the tomatoes turned black and began to wilt. The plants were super thick, so there were still plenty of healthy leaves inside. I cut away the dead leaves, and the next time we had frost, I added bed sheets and quilts on top of the frost blankets. The outside leaves STILL blackened and wilted. Gah!
So I started doing some research about green tomatoes. I figured there would probably be a few hiding inside, and if the plants were done for, I would just cut them down and harvest the green tomatoes at the same time. For the most part, the recipes I found were cooked in some way. Fried, baked, steamed, roasted, etc. I really want to make them into a salsa, since that was one of the reasons I planted the accursed things in the first place. Good salsa is hard to find here in Montana.
Seeing all the cooked recipes and hardly any raw recipes, I started to wonder… wait… is in not safe to eat raw green tomatoes??? Turns out, there’s a substance in tomatoes called tomatine, which in large doses can be toxic. In an article I found on ScienceBasedMedicine.org, the author stated that, while solanine/tomatine poisoning is a real thing, the levels found in tomatoes are not dangerous. Another article I found stated that even the levels found in green tomatoes, which are higher than red tomatoes by around 70%, is not concentrated enough to be toxic, stating that the average size male would have to eat a few hundred pounds of tomato get a lethal dose. So I figured, what the heck. Let’s do this.
So I chopped up my beautiful tomato plants, piece by piece. I have to admit, the death of plants makes me sad, even when I know their purpose was to bear fruit and die, so I was a little tentative, cutting away at my first plant. Then I realized that I had a crap-ton of green tomatoes hiding inside, and I got a little taste of how a miner feels when he finds a tiny fleck of gold, and the demolition got a little easier.
By the time I was done, I had harvested EIGHT POUNDS of those tart little greenlings. (Oh, and ONE small red one.) Being my largest harvest so far this year (even in their non-ripe form) this was really exciting for me. Especially now that I knew I could safely use them. (As long as my salsa consumption didn’t get out of control.)
Anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE the flavor of raw tomatoes. I LOVE salsa, spaghetti sauce, marinara, sun-dried tomatoes, and yes, even their distant cousin, ketchup. But raw tomatoes… eww. These days, I can manage fresh, farmer’s market or home grown tomatoes on sandwiches, but my years and years of tomato hatred run deep. You would be amazed at how different an unripened tomato is from a ripe tomato. The fruit is firm, not squishy, and as a result, it’s much easier to chop or julienne or shred. The flavor is way different too. Between the texture and the taste, they tasted vaguely reminiscent of an extremely tart green apple, with the slightest hint of tomato flavor.
I decided to adapt my favorite Pico de Gallo recipe into a Pico de Gallo Verde, using about a pound of my green tomatoes. All you need is a sharp knife, a cutting board, a mixing bowl, and maybe some gloves, if you’re sensitive to jalapeños. You could also use a julienne slicer to cut down on your work time. My OXO slicer is my best friend. No joke. I LOVE this kitchen tool (almost) as much as my KitchenAid mixer, it’s that cool. Super compact, every part of it stows neatly into the base, making it the perfect multipurpose tool for the storage space challenged. It has a shredder, a zester, a straight slicing blade, and a julienne slicer, and cuts my prep time down by at least half.
I have a feeling most people go through life, never making their own salsa, but let me tell you, it’s the easiest thing ever. And it’s SO much better than what you get at the store. Literally, all you have to do is chop up and mix together all your ingredients. That’s it! This recipe produced a DELICIOUS Pico De Gallo. It was bright and fresh, and zesty, and tasted like summertime. The crisp flavor of the green tomatoes really allowed the lime and the jalapeño to sing. It was delicious on chips, and delicious on homemade burrito bowls. I even ate it on my mom’s chili a couple of nights later. So, so good.
You can find the printable recipe below. Click to open in a new window, then right-click to print.
Now, I know not everyone has green tomatoes lying around. This is definitely a recipe for people who garden. EXCEPT it isn’t, because SURPRISE! You can substitute the green tomatoes for ripe red store bought tomatoes, and it’s totally amazing. Two recipes for the price of one. You’re welcome.
The Green Tomato Journey Continues…
While out and about on the internet, I found some really spectacular looking green tomato recipes on absolutely beautiful blogs that I think I’ll have to try out as well. In case you have a giant surplus of green tomatoes, and my salsa just isn’t enough for you, I’ve included the list for your viewing pleasure as well. Enjoy!
2.The most wonderfully photographed Savory Green Tomato Cobbler by Drum Beets
3. An absolutely beautiful Green Tomato Pie by Sprout & Pea
4. A Spiced Green Tomato Bundt Cake by My Diverse Kitchen. What? A Tomato CAKE? This one I will definitely be trying.
5. Incredible (if intimidating) looking Fermented Green Tomatoes and Hot Peppers by Nourished Kitchen