We arrived home late from an evening spent with friends on Thursday, October 27 to the realization that several plants and crops would be spoiled or dead by the morning if we did not act fast. So it was in a panic that we bundled up and headed outside with flashlights and bowls to collect as many of the remaining green tomatoes as we could manage, along with pots of tender perennials that were meant to be overwintered inside. I’m so grateful that we got home when we did because some of the most exposed plants were already covered in frost and others were slightly frozen!
The kitchen was a disaster for days afterward. Every large bowl in the house was filled to overflowing! The basement and fridge doors along with the coffee machine were inaccessible. Guess which hurdle was tackled first?
With a heavy heart, I pulled up and composted the roselle plants (Hibiscus sabdariffa) this weekend.
They were done. The cold had become too much for them. Their leaves were turning crispy and dropping rapidly. Amazingly, the false roselle is still going and has not suffered the same damage. It seems to tolerate the cold better so I have left it in for the time being.
I had hoped to make sorrel (the drink) this winter using my own homegrown flowers, but alas none of the hibiscus plants made it that far. The two sabdariffa plants did produce tiny flower buds, but the cold came on and stopped their development before they could reach a mature size.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) has been making a yearly appearance in my garden in some way or another for some time now, but never like this. My new yard’s sun and sandy, well-draining soil turned out to be the perfect place to grow the sort of plant I have only seen in the tropics. Until now.
I need some colour today and came upon this image when randomly perusing my photo archives. Doesn’t it look like fallen Autumn leaves?
I took this photo in Thailand, at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhon Herbal Garden in Rayong. Tropical trees are not my strong suit; however, I am pretty sure that what you are looking at are the discarded stamens of a Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) tree. I suppose they could also be fallen Red Powder Puff flowers (Calliandra haematocephala), but the close up photos I took indicate otherwise.
Looking back at the photos I took during our short visit to the garden, nearly all of them are of strange and unidentifiable oddities that were either up in the trees or fallen on the ground.
Later, at the gift shop, I bought some corn milk (one of several interesting beverages that I sampled on the trip) and was gifted a tomato face mask by a fellow garden writer also on the tour.
I’ve just added several photos of things I bought in Thailand to the You Grow Girl Flickr stream.
The tomato season is ending quickly. As of today, I don’t foresee many more ripe tomatoes coming off of the vine. I’ve had a good run: 110 lbs of ripe fruit in all! This was my first year weighing the harvest, so while I can’t make an accurate comparison to previous years, I think it is safe to say that it was my best year, ever.
It’s time now to focus on the unripe, green tomatoes. In an attempt to squeeze a few more ripe fruit from the harvest I’ve been nestling those that are nearly there inside paper bags. This sort of treatment isn’t exactly necessary, but with fruit flies still around, I find it easier to keep them off of the goods this way.
In my experience, not all green tomatoes will ripen by this method. The fruit that is really young and underdeveloped tends to go wrinkly and rot rather than ripening, so I reserve this process for the tomatoes that have a blush of colour and save the darker green fruit for eating fresh and preserving.
Eating & Preserving
My favourite way to eat green tomatoes straight off of the plant is batter fried. They are also delicious roasted in the oven. When it comes to preserving, my go-to is green tomato chutney. Everyone loves this condiment, and there is never a lack of friends available to take the surplus off of my hands. If you’re not interested in canning or only have a small batch to work with, you can cut the sugar (and some of the vinegar/acid) from my recipe and store it in the fridge short-term. My no-sugar added, short shelf-life, small-batch version is available in my first book, “You Grow Girl” (see page 154).