Fresh Green Tomatoes

As the growing season slows, the primary complaint I hear is “but my tomatoes are still hard and green!” The lament is loudest in northwest Montana, where our growing season is about 90 days. Tomatoes need 50–100 days to mature, so it’s easy to see why so many green fruits remain on our vines as the first frost approaches. My solution, as I explained last week, is to let most remaining tomatoes ripen indoors. But I always set some green tomatoes aside to eat fresh.

What comes to mind when you think of eating a green tomato? For many, it’s a plate of breaded and fried slices. Although Fried Green Tomatoes aren’t as Southern as you might think, they are delicious, easy to make, and suitable just about any time of day. Your mind may also turn to a Mexican salsa verde. The traditional recipes—and to my palate, the tastiest versions—are made with tomatillos, but green tomatoes are suitable stand-ins.
Learn to make Fried Green Tomatoes and Fresh Green Tomato Salsa

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Season Wrap-up

After a scorching-hot summer in Montana—literally, with more than 1 million acres burned—fall has come on fast and furious, with a chance of snow at my house this morning. The quick downshift from summer to practically winter instantly affected the garden. Overnight, cucumbers and snap beans stopped growing, apples began falling, and large leaves of self-seeded spinach reappeared in my overgrown and ignored spring cold frame.

Within the hoop house, plants are weathering the weather better, but it won’t be long before I’m forced to admit the final round of peppers and tomatillos won’t grow larger and the remaining tomatoes won’t turn red on the vine. Fortunately, unripened produce can still land in the kitchen instead of the compost. With the right timing, you can enjoy every last late-season vegetable.
Read more about wrapping up the garden

Chilies

You could call this week’s main recipe a food fail. A couple of years ago, I set out to make homemade sriracha. I had grocery bags full of hot peppers that season, and I thought some were destined to become chipotles for Grilled Tomato Chipotle Salsa and others would be fermented to replicate the flavor of the classic Thai chili sauce and paste.

Then we started smoking chilies and attempting to find the perfect balance of smoke and heat. Suddenly I had grocery bags of smoked chilies—which would not ferment. Even at the low temperatures used for smoking, the heat was high enough to kill off the natural bacteria in the peppers that are essential for fermentation. But I was too stubborn not to try. And although my chili paste never fermented, it was delicious.

So now I make Home-Smoked Chili Paste every year and have yet to miss that bottle sriracha on my shelf. I’ve since learned that adding a culture could allow me to smoke and then ferment, so expect more experimentation down the road. But for now, what could be called a food fail has turned into a favorite kitchen staple.
Learn to smoke chilies and make Home-Smoked Chili Paste

Beets

Root vegetables are ideal for roasting. Beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic—all take on a range of flavors missing from a raw or boiled preparation. The hidden sugars rise to the surface and caramelize, and the oven’s enclosed, indirect heat intensifies flavors. High-temperature roasting seals the surface, leaving the interior soft and moist, while low heat deters mushiness. Either way, the result is delicious.

Most root vegetables can be roasted in the same way: Cut them into pieces, coat them with some oil so that they cook rapidly and don’t stick to the pan, and spread them evenly and turn them occasionally for consistent cooking. Even beets and garlic can be roasted in this way. But I like to wrap these vegetables whole in foil, let this bonus layer and their natural skins seal in their juices and flavor, and then remove the skins and cut them down to size at the end.
Learn to roast beets and make Roasted Beet and Cheese Salad