— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

Green with delight and…envy

Nothing says summer to me like being able to pop out the back and pluck a couple of home grown tomatoes. There’s the initial satisfaction of nurturing the seedlings; the commitment to pinching out the side shoots and choosing the best possible place to insert the support stakes. When the first flowers appear, I love taking the time to mix up a solution of potash and water and tenderly watering around the base of each plant. And once, the fruit has ripened, I eat them straight from the plant, I like them in salads and diced roughly with basil on a hunk of bread. If I feel like cooking, I adore them baked with fetta and olives, drizzled with lemon juice. I could go on for days about all the ways I like to devour them but the joys of ripe tommys isn’t what I’m celebrating today. Today is all about the green, unripe tomato and green tomato chutney in particular.

tomatoes fresh from the vine

Like many plants, the Lycopersicon esculentum or common tomato, generate more fruit if they’re allowed to direct their energy into fewer places. All this means really, is that if you have a plant that’s laden with fruit that never seems to ripen, you need to eliminate some of the competition for the plant’s resources. For me, this means pruning back some of the vigorous growth that isn’t showing any sign of setting fruit and more importantly, removing maybe a third of the green fruit from each plant and leaving the rest to ripen on the vine.


The benefits are two-fold; I increase my chances of ripe fruit and with the remainder, I make green tomato chutney. I schedule a couple of sessions over the summer, with production reaching fever pitch as autumn commences and the chances of the rest of my crop ripening decreases. I aim to make enough to give away* but more importantly, to last through to Christmas of the next year. Even though my butcher Norm supplies proper baked ham by the slice and I recreate post Christmas sambos all year round, the feeling of cracking open a fresh jar of green tomato chutney on Christmas Day is a bit like a gift you give to yourself. Plus, the sense of achievement in knowing you’ve correctly rationed out your supplies over the year, has proven to be just as addictive as the chutney itself. I hate to think what I’d be like if preserving fruit and vegetables was the key to surviving a harsh winter. Either Martha Stewart’s pioneering predecessor or a complete nutjob.


With apologies to Martha, I digress. The recipe I use is very simple and is based on the one found in the Australian Women’s Weekly’s “Book of Preserves.” My copy was bequeathed to me by my husband’s aunt but you can purchase this treasure from all manner of online bookstores and would probably come across one at your local newsagents.

mise en place, ingredients good to go

Drum roll, please! To make approximately 3 jars, here’s what you’ll need:


1 kilo of green tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped

- feel free to throw in some ripe ones if you can’t quite make up the full kilo

1 large onion, red or brown, whatever’s in the pantry

1 cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup raw sugar

2 tsp freshly ground mustard seeds – AWW say to use dry mustard powder but I prefer to use freshly roasted mustard seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle.

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp tumeric

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp cornflour

green tomatoes floating in the pot

Throw all the ingredients, except for the last tbsp of vinegar and cornflour.

Bring to the boil and then simmer covered for 40 mins until the mixture is pulpy.

Then add the remaining vinegar and cornflour and stir until the mixture boils again and thickens.

While the mixture is still hot, pour into sterilised jars and then seal once cold. I use paraffin wax, which you can buy at the supermarket. Then I spend an embarrassing amount of time deciding which is the most attractive string to use, this makes yanking out the wax plug that much easier. For more information on sterilisation, check the internet. I cheat and use the baby’s steriliser in the microwave.


As a finished product, this chutney doesn’t look the prettiest. However, it is super tasty and loves to be served with any type of pork product, a sharp cheddar or the vegetable and lentil pie from Hominy bakery in Katoomba.


Please note: I am the queen of not necessarily following recipes to the letter. When I made my most recent batch, I forgot to ‘cover and simmer for 40 mins’ and instead I let it simmer, uncovered for hours on end. As the pot I used was extremely heavy, this took hours. If you’re dancing your own steps like moi, make sure you keep stirring as you don’t want the mix to burn and catch on the bottom of the pot. This recipe should make approx. 3 cups but I did a double batch last year and that’s why there are so many more jars in the final shot above. If I had such a bounty right now, I’d be well pleased with myself.


slops with jar detail

All that’s missing from this picture are the pinking sheared gingham jar toppers, tied with a jaunty twine bow! Note to self: must buy pinking shears…

And this is the postscript to this story… so far this year, there has been no marathon of green tomato chutney making, because there have been NO green tomatoes. This is an indication of this year’s pitiful excuse for a summer; a subject I shan’t go in simply because it saddens me so greatly. Just as well the Mountain’s are putting on a magnificent, autumnal show – I’m even beginning to hope that if I keep force feeding the remaining plants, there might still be time for fruit to set. In the meantime, if anyone knows of an organic tomato grower who’ll ship me green fruit, drop me a line.



* which is why, if I’ve given you a jar and you see me looking at you all squinty, it’s because I’ve run out and am mentally trying to work out whether you’ve got any chutney left and how I can ask for the rest back. Kinda takes the Martha sheen off me…



One comment on “Green with delight and…envy

  1. Rest easy scapers, a Christmas plethora has descended at magic garden. So chutNay is now chutYay!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.

    © COPYRIGHT 2011-2012