Updated: Oct 1
This summer has been excellent for growing tomatoes. However, I have to admit for the first time ever I had to purchase some green netting to prevent the leaves and flowers of my tomato plants becoming scorched in the greenhouse. I grew 'Marmande' and 'Mucha Miel' ( a lot of honey) beefsteak varieties; saved seed from last year's crop. These are healthy, reliable plants which grow with little fuss, especially the Marmande which should not have its side shoots pinched out. Cropping throughout the summer I have used them for gazpacho soups, tomato salads, courgette bakes and of course frozen many pots of tomato sauce for the winter.
As neither of these seeds is an F1 variety they grow true to their parents and so I have been able to save their seed for some 15 years now. Both are heritage varieties and I choose the absolute best specimen each year from which to save the seed, to ensure the variety has the best chance of flourishing. A fascinating book, 'Back Garden Seed Saving' by Sue Stickland outlines the importance of keeping our heritage varieties and thus our diverse genetic plant line alive in the face of future drastic climate change. She argues that the fertile varieties old gardeners keep going which suit their particular soils & conditions, ensures that we have a range of seeds which can adapt to future needs. They may have unique qualities such as disease resistance and drought tolerance vital to future crops. However, we are rapidly losing them in the face of a few multinational seed companies who chiefly develop F1 seeds for agricultural farming, not for local growers in the sandy soil of Surrey or a windswept plot in Derbyshire, the London clay soil of my old New Forest home or the greensand of our local Fovant soil. If you find a variety of pea, bean, or parsnip which suits your soil and it is not F1, do try to save it this year and keep our genetic plant heritage alive. You will also save yourself some pennies.
So now to this month's recipe, 'Red Tomato Chutney' . My husband refuses to eat green tomato chutney as he had to suffer it in his sandwiches when he was a young boy and has never forgotten!
2 lbs Red tomatoes, chopped up ( no need to take off the skins)
1 lb onions, chopped
1 lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
10oz sultanas ( or dried figs or whatever you have available)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 chillies (chopped with seeds)
3 cubes of preserved ginger ( plus a little of the syrup)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2 tsp ground mixed spice
3/4 pint white distilled vinegar ( results in lighter colour chutney) or use malt vinegar ( darker results)
12oz granulated sugar
Place all of the ingredients in your preserving pan apart from the sugar.
Simmer the mixture for approx 15 minutes until the fruit and veg have softened.
Add the sugar and stir to ensure it has dissolved.
Simmer the chutney mixture until it has thickened and resembles a loose jam. This usually takes about an hour.
Pot up immediately into sterilized jars.
Beware, you will have to keep an eye on the mixture and stir regularly especially towards the end of the cooking time to prevent the sultanas sinking to the bottom of the pan and 'catching' or burning. The mixture also tends to spit a bit, so be prepared.
Remember chutney tends to sink in the jars once cooled so do fill the jars close to the top, and it also thickens a little as well so even though it looks a little too slushy and not exactly like 'jam', you'll have to make a judgment call in the final stages and go with it. Best to be a little runny than dry.