Since I started growing tomatoes in my home garden instead of the allotment I've had much better results and much less blight - being able to keep a closer eye on them means catching it earlier, and they're less exposed to the elements. Last year, I was fairly convinced blight didn't even matter to my favourite Angelle tomatoes, which suffered lightly all summer - a few brown leaves here and there, and just one or two small patches on the stems which didn't spread - but didn't start losing fruit until right at the end of the season. This year, after holding off through the whole rainy period, as soon as the sun came out three or four weeks ago it struck hard. Is it all down to the endless rain and high humidity, I wonder, or has the fact I've ditched Levington's seaweed-enriched-but-not-peat-free growbags in favour of homemade compost made a difference too? Seaweed is supposed to provide a measure of disease protection after all. I can only speculate. I managed to pick about three handfuls of good tomatoes, but the rest have been blackening before they ripened, and this weekend I gave in and pulled the lot up. A heartbreaking waste.
I saved some of the best-looking green tomatoes and put them on a sunny windowsill to ripen, but my faith in them turning red rather than black was low so I started to look at other options. Last year I made green tomato chutney, which was very tasty, but I don't eat all that much chutney... Then I received a tip via Twitter from Nate at AFK (thanks Nate!) - green tomatoes can be used in place of tomatillos in dishes such as green chilli. (Tomatillos resemble green tomatoes, but are actually more closely related to cape gooseberries, and have a similar papery husk and a slightly citrussy flavour.) It sounded better than chutney to me, so off to Google I went to investigate.
Green chilli, or Chili Verde, is a Mexican/American dish of pork stewed with chillies, peppers and tomatillos. Having never, to my knowledge, had either tomatillos or green chilli before, I didn't really have a clue what the difference would be or what I was in for, but in light of my love for slow-cooked melt-in-your-mouth pork and the enthusiastic reviews of this highly-rated recipe on food.com, I could hardly wait to give it a go. I made quite a few changes to the recipe to suit our tastes and the ingredients I had available, and it seemed right to add beans as well, like in other types of chilli, so here's my version:
- Roughly dice 600g-700g pork shoulder (or four pork shoulder steaks) and sear in a little oil, in a large saucepan or stockpot. Remove from the pan and drain all but a tablespoon of the fat.
- Saute one diced onion and gently in the pork fat until soft.
- Add 3 cloves garlic, crushed, to the pan and soften for a few moments, then return the pork to the pan, add 1 tsp cumin and 500ml chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add a green pepper, yellow pepper, one jalapeno (or more to taste), all finely chopped, and saute a few minutes until starting to soften.
- Add 500g-600g finely chopped green tomatoes (or tomatillos!) and a tablespoon dried coriander leaf (or 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander - I'm just not keen on the flavour of fresh).
- Bring to the boil, then simmer for two hours, uncovered, over the lowest heat possible. By this time the veggies should be mushy, the pork should fall apart on contact with a fork, and the stew should be reduced and thick.
- Check seasoning. Don't be shy - I think the slight sourness and acid of the green tomatoes absorbs a little more salt than expected.
- Drain, rinse, and add one can of white beans (pinto, cannellini, etc.).
- Serve in burritos/tacos, over rice, or with tortilla chips. Add other tasty Mexican-style trimmings as you feel led!
It was really, really good - the flavours were lovely, the pork was beautifully fall-apart tender, and the beans went perfectly. It could easily be adapted for vegetarians too, with or without adding extra veggies. I'm very happy to have, at last, a really good use for those green tomatoes that would otherwise go to waste, and I expect salsa verde, with its many uses, could probably be made with green tomatoes too, as well as numerous stews and soups. In fact, I'm a bit gutted I don't have any more green tomatoes until probably this time next year - I wish I'd saved them all, not just the biggest loveliest ones! I might just have to go in search of some tomatillos instead...