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Green Tomato Salsa Verde

September 10, 2009

The tomato crop has been bad, bad, bad this year.

Why? Well, first it’s been a cooler than usual summer. I start my tomato plants by seed indoors and then plant them outside, usually after Memorial Day. It was so cool and dry during the early part of the summer, the plants remained fairly stagnent.

But some slugs got to them. I’ve never had slugs get the tomatoes before and it’s pretty gross. I hate slugs. I try to save my eggshells, dry them out, crumble them up, and scatter them between the plants. I’ve heard it’s like glass to slugs and will keep them out, but I think my slugs (They’re on  my property, so they’re mine.) are secret Annie Lenox fans and enjoy walking/crawling on broken glass.

And then…Late tomato Blight. Farmer Michael of Trillium Haven Farm wrote about this in this week’s “Letter from the Field,” which I’ve partially reproduced here:

“A few weeks ago our worst fear about the tomatoes came true.  After significant rain, and hot weather, Late Blight ripped through the tomato patch.  We had been reading about it in the New York Times since July, and had braced ourselves.  We knew it was a possibility, and then it came. We are not unfamiliar with disease in tomatoes, and have always tried to plant them in new areas every year to reduce some problems.  This year we planted them in an area where we have never planted anything.  In effect it was land that was fallow for the past 8 years or so.  Initially the plants looked fantastic, and grew quickly.   We did get behind with the stringing and with mowing between the rows, but the plants still looked good.  Now, a few weeks after the Blight moved in, the plants are more or less dead, including all of the u-pick cherry tomatoes.  I have never seen anything so pervasive and complete.  The disease has even ruined unripe green tomatoes.  It almost looks like we had a hard killing frost.  How did this happen?  I don’t know if we will ever know for sure, but there are some guesses out there.

“Dan Barber, the chef at the Blue Hill restaurant at Stone Barns Farm in New York, wrote an editorial in the New York Times August 9 describing a perfect storm, so to speak.  He talked about how the weather this summer was perfect for blight, cooler and wet, how there are a lot of new gardeners this year, and that many plants purchased in the north come from southern greenhouses, supplying both farmers and big box stores like Home Depot, creating the potential for diseases to spread from the south more quickly.  No one in the northeast had seen Blight that early before, and places that had never seen blight were experiencing it.

“What about the Midwest?  I was at the Vriesland Farmers Co-op the other day and asked them what they knew about the outbreak.  One of the gentleman who works there told me he had put in 2300 tomato plants for the first time this year and they were completely wiped out.  He said that as far as they knew the Blight came in on a shipment of infected plants from the south.  I decided I had to dig a little more, and I found a few other articles on the issue, and one from a greenhouse industry website.  It turns out the Blight outbreak is being traced back to a shipment of plants from the Alabama farmers Co-op who grows a line of plants called “Bonnie Plants.”  It is all but confirmed that it came from them although the Bonnie plants spokesperson, in typical fashion, is in full denial, trying to distance themselves from the problem.  Yet, they put out a statement saying they would not grow heirloom varieties next year because they feel the smaller suppliers of heirloom seed are probably not handling their seed carefully enough.

“That whole line is tiring.  Again, industrial agriculture telling us that small production means higher risk for problems.  The way I see it, one huge corporation just ruined the tomato crop for the Northeast and Midwest in one fell swoop.  That sounds like risk to me.  If everyone had purchased plants from a small, local, reputable grower there would be no chance of a problem of this scope, and we could isolate a problem more easily.

“Blight, being a fungus, sends out spores as it matures, making it capable of spreading quickly, sometimes up to 40 miles from where it began.  This makes it even more difficult to determine the source, and very difficult to stop.  I have talked to several growers in the area and they are all seeing what we are seeing.  Some of these farmers are conventional growers and have used several different chemical sprays, and they still were unable to stop it.  It turns out there is no cure, it can only be slowed down.  The good thing is that it survives only on plant tissue, which includes seeds, but it is not a soil borne disease.  This means if we are careful to till in all the plants from this year before next season, we should be able to keep it from being a problem next year.  Unless of course Bonnie Plants strike again!”

Well, friends, if Blight has not yet stricken your small patch of tomatoes, I’d suggest that you harvest the whole thing (green tomatoes and all) and make Green Tomato Salsa Verde. It’s really easy and you can can it.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with green tomatoes. I’ve pickled them before, but we just don’t eat as many pickles as I like to imagine we will. So I try to stick to salsas. This one is good, easy, and easy to multiply. Just figure how many green tomatoes you have and then do the math.

3 green tomatoes

2 fresh jalapeno chilies (or other chili)

1 large red tomato

1 med. onion, chopped

1/4 C. lime juice

salt & pepper

1/2 C. chopped cilantro (optional, but yummy. You can also add it when you serve the salsa.)

Place tomatoes & peppers in a pot & cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until light green (about 15 minutes). Drain well, and peel if you wish. Place in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Chill or can in a hot water bath.

Next year, hopefully, we’ll have better and more tomatoes.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shannon permalink
    September 10, 2009 1:19 pm

    I have spent about 5 minutes on your blog and I am a HUGE fan great recipes!

    As for tomato blithe (I had a great year of tomatos for some unknown reason)… think it will be difficult next year to find tomato seeds since so many crops went bad this year?

  2. Joy permalink*
    September 14, 2009 9:17 am

    I don’t know. I don’t think the seeds are affected. There’s been an ongoing conversation about this on the Garden Web. See:

    As for me, I have some leftover seeds from last year. I think I’ll use those.

    Freezing does kill the spores left in the soil, so I recommend throwing the plants out and allowing the soil to completely freeze this winter. (As if you had much control about that anyway…)

    Thanks for reading!


  1. Oh, dear. What to can this year? « Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence

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