When life gives you late blight, make fried green tomatoes

As a novice gardener, I have signed up for many farming and gardening newsletters. Not coming from any real agricultural experience I am always blown away by the wealth of knowledge and resources online. We've already been able to fix and accomplish so much by leaning on the online community. So it was not unusual to see multiple emails in my inbox with the subject lines like “Fix issues Affecting your Tomatoes”. Just a polite heads up to let me know tomatoes are prone to pests and illnesses and listed ways to identify and manage the issues. I, of course, ignored the helpful links and refused to acknowledge that anything could possibly go wrong. So when I saw a plant or two with some yellow leaves around the base I brushed it off as harmless and proceeded deep into denial. Those couple yellow leaves spread to the entire row with what I later learned was late blight. It's a common disease when weather conditions have been hot and wet which is all what we've seen up the Hamilton mountain. If it wasn't 30+ degrees it would be raining. I had to cut down the whole row. 

My father grew tomatoes in the backyard of my Toronto family home. He would beam with a quiet pride when he brought in his tiny harvest. I would not have classified myself as someone with any sort of skill for keeping plants alive but growing up I got to reap the benefits of my father's somewhat green thumb. The seed of my desire to grow food (for profit or otherwise) comes from a grief garbled memory of my father hunched over his tomato plants. Since then, I've found many, many reasons to transition into the farming business but in behind all that ambition is a little girl watching her father in the backyard. When Sean and I bought the three acres, the first thing I wanted to grow were as many tomato plants as I possibly could. So in went one hundred and forty tomato transplants we started from seed. Not realizing that my father's small cherry tomatoes were my only frame of reference, I was surprised when giant four foot plants sprung out of this years seeds. They were mammoth by comparison. I figured buying the three-foot bamboo sticks from Rona would be a sufficient method of staking the one hundred plus plants but my system quickly became irrelevant.

Not my father's tomato plants (can see late blight all along the base of the plants). 

Not my father's tomato plants (can see late blight all along the base of the plants). 

The combination of the small stakes and massive plants with blight, which weakens the plant, left tomatoes keeled over on my dahlias and habenaro peppers. So the row had to go before it spread to my other two rows of tomatoes. 

Being the frugal and sentimental hack that I am, I couldn't just walk away after cutting down the row. I picked the largest tomatoes, in part to see if they will ripen indoors, but also to put the unripened tomatoes to work. We may have lost a row but we gained Fried Green Tomatoes. 

Fried Green Tomatoes 

  • Large unripened tomatoes
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Cream 
  • Corn meal 
  • Corn flour 
  • Paprika 
  • Salt 

Admire your unripened tomatoes. They are equal part success and failure. Celebrate both. Using a frying oil like vegetable or canola pour enough to cover the bottom of a deep pan. You will be shallow frying the tomatoes. Slice tomatoes width-wise to desired thickness, we liked 1/4 of an inch. Put enough flour in a bowl to dredge the slices of tomato. Whisk egg(s) and add a dash of cream in a second separate bowl. Mix corn meal, corn flour, paprika and salt in a third bowl. Dredge tomato slices in the flour, then egg mixture and then corn mixture. Carefully place tomatoes into hot frying pan. When the sides begin to golden, flip over to finish. Place fried tomatoes on a plate with paper towel to soak up excess oil. Serve with aioli. If you don’t feel like making mayo, use fridge mayo, add lemon, dijon, paprika, and pickled jalapeños for some kick. 

JJ Davis