As much as one may like the idea of treading a fairly harmonious path in a life that seeks to engage with other plants and animals, any vegetable grower is typically involved in some spiteful battle or other with insects throughout the year. Not all of them, but certainly a loathed few. At the moment, it being summer in Sydney, my most recent nemeses have been Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni). They have put an end to my tomato crop (Solanum lycopersicum).
This year, there will be no big canning session filling jars of passata and no big colourful salads of tomato chunks strewn with basil leaves and light salty white cheese. Fruit fly has hit my two big frames of tomatoes hard and I have cut them down (even the cherry tomatoes). For the big toms, it was an ambitious idea from the outset, with neither pesticide nor organic control (I just can’t go for the poison of the former or the expense and effort of the latter) or dumb luck to aid me.
I first thought I was admitting defeat, but with a kilo of green tomatoes per sacrificed plant, I have found that I am able to take some solace in the idea that, to some extent, I am simply quitting while ahead. Cleaned up, through cutting out the infested fruit or parts thereof, I have at least salvaged the wherewithal for enough green tomato chutney to last a year (and a tomato hot sauce which isn’t too far off a mix of this chutney and previously described recipes for plum ketchup, crab apple jelly, and chilli jam, with a big bunch of extra chillies for good measure).
The lesson learned for next year: Plant early varieties of tomatoes; as early as possible; only small cherries and cherry romas; hope from some ripe ones before new year; and then on the first of January, harvest the lot and make another batch of chutney.
This recipe is a mix of fairly standard green tomato chutney recipes from Australia and New Zealand (and very probably Britain and elsewhere). It is scaled to 1kg of green tomatoes in terms of ingredients to be easily adjusted. The big room for movement is with chillies and garlic – if you like them, you could increase fivefold.
Green tomatoes (g) 1000
Onions (g) 200
Cooking apples (g) 200
Sugar (Demerara / muscovado) (g) 200
Vinegar (malt / cider / wine) (ml) 450
Salt (Tblsp) 1
Sultanas (g) 100
Garlic (cloves) 5
Chillies (hot, medium sized) 2
Ginger (grated fresh) (g) 12
Spice (all spice, turmeric, coriander) (g) 11
Heave it all in a pot and simmer, uncovered and free to reduce, for an hour or two. Ladle into scalded jars. If after getting most of the chutney out, the last couple of jars worth seem a bit runny, pile in a heap of chillies and garlic and keep cooking it down for a darker, fiery version. They say to leave it for a few weeks to meld, but I would call that optional.