Friday, September 25, 2009

grumpy old men/fried green tomatoes

I have a tomato cage in my back yard. Tony built it. It's a raised bed with chicken wire all around, to keep out the squirrels and neighborhood cats. I don't really have enough sunlight in my yard to raise produce; the plants grow just fine but they bear little fruit.

This year the tomatoes I planted were indeterminate heirloom varieties. That means they grow and grow and grow until they stick out the top of the tomato cage. Once there, they were actually tall enough to grab a little sun, and one of them threw out some late fruit--two large green tomatoes the size of softballs, just beginning to turn pink. I hoped there would be enough sunny hours left in the fall to let them ripen.

I came home last night to find two of my herb pots had been knocked off the fence-rail next to the tomato cage. The biggest terracotta pot was cracked, but still intact. That was annoying, but it could've been a cat, could've been a squirrel.

Then I noticed my two big green tomatoes were gone. I thought that was weird--squirrels don't usually go for tomatoes until they are ripe. And it was weird that the stems looked splintered, instead of chewed. I looked around for the tomatoes on the ground.

I found them inside the cage.

Somebody had climbed up on my fence, knocked my pots off, picked my tomatoes, and apparently felt bad about it and put the tomatoes back in the cage, on the soil, at the base of the plant.


I suspect one of the neighbor children. I'd seen her in our yard previously, last week when I was home sewing. I went over and knocked on their door, showed her and her mother the fruit and asked if she knew anything about it. The kid denied it, of course. Her mom was sympathetic but said she had seen an unfamiliar child's bike in our yard the day before.

I have no problem with the kids playing hide-and-seek in our yard, but when they start tearing up my stuff.... I may have to put down bear traps, tripwires with tranquilizer dart guns, attack bunnies....


I decided to make the best of it. I've tried to make fried green tomatoes several times before and failed miserably. Tomatoes are bitter when they're green, they turn to mush when you cook them, and they're so wet the breading doesn't want to stick.

But this time it worked. The tomatoes were very green and still hard, just blushed on the inside when I sliced them. I salted them twice, once with sea salt and once with Pensey's Seasoning Salt, which has a bit of sugar and herb flavoring. I also dusted on Herbs de Provence and some black pepper and let them sit on the cutting board for a bit while the oil heated. I used a 12-inch nonstick skillet and about 1/2 inch or less of Pomace olive oil.

When the oil was quite hot, I double-breaded the slices: first in masa harina (corn flour), then in egg/milk wash, then in a mix of masa and whole-wheat bread crumbs. They fried up quick and crispy and were startlingly good--light, mealy, and tomato-flavored without being bitter. EXACTLY what I'd wanted in a fried tomato--which is weird because I'd never eaten any but the lousy ones I'd made myself, years ago. We had them with ham steak and sauteed spinach.

I didn't offer any to the neighbors.

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