When You Have Green Tomatoes


Just dug and cleaned baby ginger

When I have green tomatoes and baby ginger, I make Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger. Because, I have pickled green tomatoes and made green tomato relish in the past… but we don’t eat that much of it.  So the pickles and the relish languish on the shelves. Jam, we eat.

The first frost was early this year: on October 12, the thermometer dipped to 31F (-0.5C). How fitting for a year of yo-yo weather, when daily March temperatures were in the 80s, with not a frost in view, strawberries were ripe in April… a cool month where we did see frost AFTER the strawberries ripened… Agro-fabric to the rescue!

As it turns out, the October 12 frost was light, and as frosts do, it rolled down the slope to settle in the lower garden, where the remaining basil and sweet potatoes, and the top layer of chayote leaves blackened. Most everything else made it through (beans – also very cold sensitive – and the late planing of summer squash were covered with agrofabric)– all the more so since the weather has been warmish since and we actually had rain. Another year of dryness was 2012 – that and of record high temperatures. It was not an easy gardening year.

Anyway, on October 12, I picked as you pick before a frost. With a sense of unfairness, since it was an early frost, and with the hope that the frost would be light, spare a lot of things that only wanted a few weeks to mature, and that  the weather would warm up for another 2 weeks to grow whatever I wasn’t going to pick.

Still, 2 bushels of peppers, 1/2 bushel of green and half-green tomatoes, lots of basil, a peck of green, wax and asparagus beans, a few pounds of rhubarb… processing the harvest is another full-time job!

This is also the time when I start to harvest baby ginger; its only a few weeks’ window – October, really. We do not have a long enough growing season in the Northern Virginia Piedmont to grow mature ginger, but we have one long enough and hot enough to grow immature ginger (baby ginger). I have been doing it for several years now, and really enjoy the assertive freshness and juiciness of the crisp, plump, fiber-free roots. So baby that there is no skin to talk of — sort of like true just-dug baby potatoes! Since it is the newest trendy crop in Virginia, chances are you can  can find it at Farmers’ market near you.

If you don’t have any, use the freshest plumpest regular ginger you can find.

Because the tomatoes should be seeded, I prefer to use green plum tomatoes as there is less cleaning, trimming and shopping. But you use what you have. I save the large green tomatoes for frying or to preserve sotto’olio, a la Calabrese, something I learned to do in Rosetta Constantino’s book “My Calabria”.

Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger

Yields 4 8oz jars

  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cleaned green tomatoes, i.e. cored, seeds and white hard inside removed – from about 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) whole tomatoes, preferably plum
  • 700 g sugar (3.5 cups)
  • the juice and the zest, finely grated, of 2 organic lemons
  • 1 tablespoon of impeccably fresh minced baby ginger.

Slice the tomatoes in 1/4″ (1/2 cm) thick slices. Put into a large non-reactive thick bottom dutch oven (or jam basin), add half the sugar, the lemon juice and the zest. Mix gently. Let rest overnight (in a cool place).

Add the remaining sugar. Bring to boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Cook at a brisk simmer about 45 minutes until juice is syrupy, stirring often to prevent sticking. You need to stir more towards the end as the jam get close to done. It can easily get scorched the if you do not pay attention.

Ladle in jars and process 10-minutes in a boiling water-bath for long-term storage. Or refrigerate the jars once cooled.

Locavore Log: tomatoes, ginger

2 thoughts on “When You Have Green Tomatoes”

  • Sylvie,

    I am so impressed with your baby ginger! I didn’t know you were growing that. There are indeed several growers in the Valley who have tried their hand at it this year; we’ve been buying ours from Susan Roepke of Flower Fields. Have you written about growing it before? I’d love to learn more. I have fallen in love with its tenderness and aroma, and I’m searching out all kinds of ways to use it. Our tomatoes are a thing of the past- will have to save your recipe for next year. Right now I’m adding the ginger to fig jam, mmmm!

    Enjoy this lovely fall weather!

  • I have been growing ginger for years – with years off. It’s a spice of my youth that I just love. Really did not think much about it – just did it. But – hey! – looks like it’s the next food craze, so I am touting it a little. But truly, it’s a different spice from mature ginger isn’t it? I am betting you are going to grow it next year… I know your chefs would welcome it

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