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Tuesday, July 14, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pat Munts: High heat leaves little hope for tomatoes this year; start planning uses for green crop

With continuous high August heat and little hope remaining for tomatoes this year, Pat Munts says it’s time to plan uses for green tomatoes. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)
With continuous high August heat and little hope remaining for tomatoes this year, Pat Munts says it’s time to plan uses for green tomatoes. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)

Don’t get me wrong folks. Normally I am a person who looks for the positive in everything.

Being negative takes too much energy and really isn’t much fun in the long run. So what I need to say this week is said from a realist’s point of view.

We better begin finding ways to use up green tomatoes.

Here we are in the middle of August. The average daily high temperature has dropped two degrees since the beginning of August, and we are losing over three minutes of daylight every day. The temperatures are still warm enough but that could change quickly.

To ripen pale red tomatoes off the vine, simply pick them and place them in a single layer in a cardboard box. Set them in a warm, dry place and check them regularly. Set the box near your kitchen to facilitate “harvesting” them. Otherwise, as long as the temperatures are still warm, a garage works well.

For tomatoes that are turning from green to yellow, fried green tomatoes and a salad make a good summer meal. Cut the fruit into half-inch rounds, dredge them in flour, then egg and milk ending with a bead crumb and corn meal coating. Fry them in oil until they turn golden brown. Google this and the other ideas below for the details on some great recipes.

How about green tomato jam? Chopped green tomatoes are mixed with sugar, lemons and pectin to make a really unique topping for that winter English muffin or fresh sourdough bread. I even saw one recipe that threw in some jalapeno peppers. Wonder how that would be as a ham glaze?

At the weekly potluck at our community garden last week, someone brought a jar of green tomato pickles. They went really well with my barbecued sausage. Tomatoes are cut in bite-sized chunks – or whole cherry tomatoes – and packed into jars with a vinegar brine solution. Additions to this recipe could be whole cloves of garlic, heads of dill, several kinds of peppercorns and red pepper flakes. One even added curry to the mix. Another twist on the pickles would be a sweet and spicy green tomato pickle with sugar, ginger, celery and mustard seed and some onion.

Like Mexican food? Turn those green tomato gems into salsa verde. Mix in some tomatillos, another tomato relative, with jalapeno peppers, onions and lime juice for a tasty sauce to serve over chicken, beef or pork. This is particularly good on a cold winter day after you’ve been out shoveling snow or skiing.

Which of these recipes am I going to try? None. But not for lack of trying. One of our “lovely” deer found a weak point in the deer fence and crawled under it at the beginning of August. Once inside the “salad bowl”, she ate every green tomato I had as well as the cucumbers and the sunflowers. How she missed the carrots I don’t know. We fixed the fence but I don’t have much hope for tomatoes this year.

Pat Munts is co-author, with Susan Mulvihill, of the “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnw

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