Tuesday, 24 August 2010

What Can You Do When Black Bottom Strikes?

As well as growing a bountiful supply of fruit and veg down our beloved 'lottie', I do also like to nurture some bits and pieces at home in the garden. Nothing too fanciful, mainly herbs really. There's nothing better than trotting out to the patio in just your pinny with wicker trug in hand and snipping off some stalks of rosemary or picking some fresh basil leaves. Very Felicity Kendall. For the last couple of years, we've also taken to growing tomatoes at home. Again there is nothing like a plucking a fresh, glistening tommy straight from the vine and walking back up the garden path, bringing the fruit to your nose to get a good whiff of that strange but enticing odor. I did this just the other day, smiling to myself as I walked over to the sink to rinse the first batch that had changed from emerald green to a warm red. Rolling the beauties around in an antique cream colander and letting the cool water splash over them, I kind of lost myself in thought, dreaming wistfully of passata, tarts and salsas. Then as I turned one over, a hammer blow of sirens, horns and smashed crockery resounded violently in my ears. Holding one large bulbous specimen up to my eyes, I stared incredulously at this insipid, grotesque, leathery stain on my precious. And then looked down and I turned all the others over and noticed that all my other precious's had similar marks on their undersides.

"WHAT THE FUCK HAS HAPPENED TO MY TOMATOES?!" I screamed.

Black Bottom

It seems, my good friends that my beloved tommys had succumbed to that deadly affliction known as 'Black Bottom'. Or Blossom end rot as it is more commonly called (I made Black Bottom up). But what is Blossom end rot? And why did it strike down my crop? Well it's very simple. BER occurs when there is a calcium deficiency due to dry conditions at the plant roots inhibiting it's uptake. A lack of calcium will cause cells to collapse and discolour thus so and also a very acidic growing medium will increase the problem. To take preventative measures and control the situation you should ensure that the plant gets an adequate and regular water supply. If BER does develop, remove all affected fruits and improve irrigation.

I didn't know this by the way. I read all this from my copy of The Royal Horticultural Society Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, trying to find out what the problem was. I should pick it up more often really as my approach to growing fruit and veg does steer towards the lackadaisical side sometimes. I just stick it in the ground, water it, feed it, watch it grow and then scratch my head when it all goes wrong*. And boy can things go wrong. At the back of the compendium there is an A-Z of plant problems, all of which sound very malicious. These include 'Clubroot', 'Manganese deficiency', 'Thrips', 'Fusarium Wilt', 'Phytophthora' and the terrifying 'Badgers'. (Which is basically 'When Badgers attack!'..........your sweetcorn, courgettes etc etc). So after reading up on BER, I marched straight back out into the garden, taking the advice of removing all affected fruits. Unfortunately I was a tad overzealous in my mission and soon discovered that I had taken a fair few decent 'unaffected' tomatoes that really could have been left on the plant to ripen. After realising what I had done and left clutching a large bowl, the black bottom situation was lurching from bad to worse.
Luckily, the light bulb switched on and I suddenly remembered that I also had a copy of New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown. She has a cracking recipe in there for a Green Tomato Curry.  

I tested this recipe for her by the way, got an acknowledgement in the back and everything. Whenever I spot the book on the shelves in Waterstones, I'll often grab a copy, accost a member of staff and make a point of getting them to read my name out after which I'll punch both fists in the air and shout "That's me!" It's very boorish and immature but I can't help myself

Anyway, I have had Celia's book for a while now and haven't delved into it for some time but after scrambling around for the curry recipe, I was reminded of all the fantastic vegetarian dishes that were in there. For the coming months and with produce from the allotment, I am definitely going to be cooking her Giant Pumpkin Pasty and chopping up her Hot and Sour Swede Cabbage Salad. Speaking of allotments, I think I would do well do continue flicking through Urban Farmer as the main thrust of the book is simply that, growing seasonal fruit and veg. Even though she takes a fairly straightforward, structural approach to the growing year, Celia's advice is friendly, witty and down to earth. As it is also part journal, the book also delivers a nice personal touch, highlighting the highs and lows of allotmenteering (or trials and tribulations as I like to say). Which is a bit more freshing and appealing than dull academic droning tone of The Royal Horticultural Society, I can tell you that.
So if you are suffering from Black Bottom at this time of year and find yourself with a glut of green tomatoes because you've gone into manic overdrive, I suggest you try this gutsy curry out. It certainly ain't coy. But remember, in future, you only have to pick the 'affected' ones.


Celia's Green Tomato Curry
serves 4-6

1 tsp fresh or dried coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

4 cloves of garlic

pinch of sea salt

4 tbsp virgin rapeseed or sunflower oil

50g raw cashew nuts

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 large onions, finely sliced (about 400g)

600g green tomatoes, cut in medium wedges

2cm piece of ginger, finely choppped

1 tsp turmeric

3 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut

3-4 small fresh red chillies, halved from stem to base

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

250ml plain natural yoghurt

boiled rice and coriander leaves to serve
method
Place the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and salt in a mortar and crush to paste. Set aside.

Get a small plate ready with crumpled kitchen paper for draining the chashews. Heat a wok or large wide pan over a medium high heat. Add the oil and then the cashews and stir until golden (this may take only a matter of seconds). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.

Return the pan to the heat and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add the onions. Fry briskly until onions are soft, golden and nicely caramelised.

Add the green tomatoes and fry for 3-5 minutes, until lightly coloured. Then add the gingerm turmeric, coconut, chillies, salt and pepper. Stir, then add the garlic mixture. Stir for a couple more minutes until fragrant, then remove the pan from the heat. Quickly stir in the yoghurt until evenly combined, then cover the pan and let it stand for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then serve the curry over rice, topped with the fried cashews and decorated with coriander leaves.

Getting a workout in the wok

Green Tomato Curry
*And it only goes wrong sometimes I should add here

9 comments:

Kavey said...

Dear lackadaisical Daisy, your approach is like ours, along with similar teeth nashing and screeching skywards in a mockery of our atheism, and only then, retiring inside to read all about what we should have done to avoid said problem in the first place!

Thus far we have avoided your black bottom, but have experienced a fair few other problems along the way.

Green tomato curry looks good.

Can I also recommend green tomato ketchup, there is a recipe on me blog, so there is.

:)

gastrogeek said...

What a beaut of a recipe - I love a good tomato cuzza. Shame about your black bottom problem though!

Lisa said...

I look at that collection of fruit, and just think Fried Green Tomatoes. Or green tomato chutney. Mmm...

So sorry you have the black bottom affliction. One of ours had it, but the others haven't even ripened. :(

Dan said...

I've got Celia's book and it is indeed cracking. Especially liking the rhubarb curry recipe in it.

As for you and your black bottom/green tomato failure curry mate - I don't know what to say, except commiserate in a smug fashion.

Wendy@The Omnivorous Bear said...

Now I am definitely liking the look of that green tomato curry... only problem is, I have no green tomatoes. I must go and be pleasant to a colleague who has lots of tomato plants!

Country Gourmet Traveler said...

What a lovely Blog and very informative, loved to read about all the tomatoes and the green tomato curry is just delightful

The Grubworm said...

Sorry, I only got as far as picturing you in "just your pinny" and then had to lie down for a bit.

My gardening approach makes yours look rigorous and expert I suspect, consisting as it does of putting a few plants on the balcony and forgetting about them. Still, i do have the hardiest rosemary bush in Hackney.

Black bottoms aside, the recipe looks fantastic, i'd love to get hold of green tomatoes to play with. Are they really just immature tommies - not a special species?

Food Urchin said...

Kavey - I am glad you have avoided my black bottom, you should steer clear at all costs

Gastrogeek - it's a bloody laaaverly recipe, you should try it.

Lisa - the green tomato glut continues and I am aways on the lookout for uses for them

Dan - ahem black bottom failure yes, green tomato curry failure no!

Wendy - I have tons of green tomatoes at the moment, tons, want some?

Country Gourmet Traveller - thank you, the curry is indeed delightful, you should thank the delightful Celia for that though

The Grub Worm - I can some pictures of yours truly in that 'pinny' if you like but at a price mind.

Food Urchin said...

The Grub Worm - I can GET some pictures, I should say....doh!