Always a race against time
Fall has arrived, and with its arrival, the heat of the day is bookended with cool evenings and crisp morning temperatures. The garden that was so generous to us over the past few months is now winding down, with only the cold hardy vegetables asking to be picked.
At the beginning of the season, I always feel like I didn’t plant enough, so I sneak in a few more of our family favourites. By late September, I realize I went too far, and I have enough tomatoes and basil to feed a village.
Like every gardener at this time of year, I am mindful of frost warnings, and I find myself in a race against time with my heat-loving tomatoes and bushy basil plants. I’ve already made enough pasta sauce and pesto to last until next year, but there are heaps of green tomatoes still on the vines (and I cannot bear to lose even one), so it’s time to get creative.
Several years ago, I discovered a way to keep fresh ripe tomatoes coming well into November. (As for saving the basil, an easy transplant to an indoor planter will work.)
If you find yourself in the same race against the frost with your precious green tomatoes, here’s the solution. Harvest as many healthy, unripe tomatoes as you can. After cleaning them with fresh water and allowing them time to dry, begin individually wrapping each tomato in newspaper. Then, place the wrapped fruit carefully into a cardboard box. Somewhere in the box, tuck in a few fresh, ripe apples before closing the box and storing it in a room temperature dark cupboard. The ethylene released from the tomatoes in the warmth indoors will ripen the tomatoes. Adding the apples will simply speed up the process. Check the box every four or five days and remove any ripe fruit to enjoy right away and remove any spoilage. The process can be done without individualized wrapping of the tomatoes, but I found more spoilage that way, so it all comes down to personal preference.
It may seem like a lot of effort initially, but I assure you that when you are still serving up your home-grown juicy tomatoes well into the fall, you will understand that the effort was not in vain. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
One of my favourite appetizers to either bring to a dinner party or serve when hosting, is bruschetta. This is another one of those recipes that is a crowd pleaser, even more so when the ingredients are super fresh in late fall.
20-30 small cherry tomatoes (or about 5-6 medium) *
½ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
½ cup ribboned fresh basil
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 baguette (French bread)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or a moderate coating)
½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup butter
Thick (reduced) balsamic vinegar (Nonna’s is my favourite brand)
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Dice tomatoes and place them into a medium mixing bowl. Cover the fruit with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt (to taste).
- Make ribbons with your basil by stacking 5-6 leaves, rolling them lengthways, and cutting thin strips across the roll. Add the ribbons (chiffonade) to the tomato mix and combine.
- Slice the bread diagonally.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter, garlic and half the shredded parmesan cheese (be careful not to burn).
- Take the sliced bread and dip one side in the butter mixture, place buttered side up on the baking tray, and bake for approximately five mins. Keep a keen watch. Remove when sides are golden brown and starting to crisp.
- Remove the bread and scoop the tomato mixture on top of the bread, leaving the juices behind.
- Drizzle with thick balsamic vinegar and the remaining fresh parmesan.