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Ungardening and Pickled Green Tomatoes

Hi everyone! This is Emily from S.A.H.M i AM and I’m super excited to be writing a guest post for Justine today. Thanks Justine for letting me share a little bit of our life on your fabulous blog. It’s a privilege!  

Let me start by saying there is something that feels inherently wrong with digging up living, productive plants. I consider it ungardening.  

But that’s exactly what we did today. We dug up our winter garden.
And yes, before you ask, I still have a hard time believing that our “winter” garden included tomatoes. While many places still have snow on the ground I’m digging up my winter tomatoes and planning and planting our spring/summer garden. It’s weird.

Here’s our tomato looking sad and a little wind blown.

Anyhow, we’ve been debating for weeks whether we should try planting our spring/summer garden around our remaining winter plants or if it would be better to pull everything out and start fresh. After an 85 degree day yesterday, we decided our broccoli and tomatoes were so near the end of their productive lives that it would be better to start with a clean slate. Broccoli doesn’t like hot weather and it’s going to be hot. Soon. 

Still, the thought of digging up our wonderful plants has made me slightly sick to my stomach all week. But when it came down to it this morning I realized our tomato plant in particular was looking a bit sad. It’s been growing since last September and it’s getting tired. It’s time has come. 

The last few weeks have been warm and rainy and the weeds have exploded out of the ground. Our mesquite tree is starting to get new leaves which means (so the locals tell me) that “winter” is officially over. Planting time is here (just slightly earlier than last year) and we need to be ready.

This morning we started by harvesting what was left. We found a few small broccoli florets and one red tomato. We cut the broccoli greens and picked all the green tomatoes. My daughter was really excited about picking the green tomatoes. I think it must feel a little rebellious. After having to exercise restraint for so long and only pick the red tomatoes, she was able to let loose and pick everything in sight. 

No more plants.

Then I dug up the plants.

The good thing about ungardening is that there is no wrong way to do it. I’m still learning as I go with real gardening–always wondering if I’m doing it right and hoping my plants survive.

Ungardening was oddly satisfying and completely carefree.

And now it’s done. We have our blank slate. Hopefully we’ll get a little more rain today and tomorrow and we’ll plant on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to our new garden. I’m excited to see what another year brings.

In the meantime we’re pickling our green tomatoes. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest we ended up with a lot of green tomatoes at the end of every summer and I have wonderful memories of the pickled green tomatoes my mother made when I was a child. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make them myself. Since we don’t have any fresh dill right now I tried a new sweet and sour recipe today. I admit I’m nervous sharing a recipe when I haven’t tasted the final product. I’m crossing my fingers they turn out alright! Later in the summer when I have dill and more green tomatoes I’ll share my mom’s recipe.  

Pickled Green Tomatoes


Some of our last winter harvest.

Green tomatoes
1 quart water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup canning/pickling salt
1 tsp. celery salt
3 cloves garlic (minced)
3 hot peppers (cut into 1/2″ rounds)
Glass canning jar(s)

I filled one quart jar with tomatoes and would have had to double the amount of brine I made if I wanted to do two jars. So, adjust your measurements accordingly if you have more tomatoes than I did today.

Sterilize your glass jar(s) and lids in boiling water.

The final product!

Combine water, vinegar, pickling salt, and celery salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally until all the salt is dissolved.

Carefully remove your sterilized jar from the boiling water and fill with tomatoes, garlic, and hot peppers. Since I used cherry tomatoes I left them whole. If you’re using larger tomatoes, feel free to cut them into pieces.

Pour the hot brine into the jar until the tomatoes are covered.

Secure the lid tightly on the jar and let it cool. The heat from the brine will seal the jar. It may take a little while but you’ll know it’s sealed when you push on the center of the lid and it doesn’t go up and down. If you’re super paranoid about whether or not it sealed properly you can always keep your jar(s) of pickled green tomatoes in the fridge.

In light of Alice’s post yesterday about refrigeration, my own concerns about the jars sealing correctly seem slightly comical.

Set jars aside (in a cool, dark place or the fridge) for at least two weeks before eating. I’d store them in the fridge after opening.

I’ll be back in a few weeks to let you know how mine turned out!

You can follow all our adventures over at S.A.H.M. i AM

Have a lovely weekend!

Update 3/8/12: We opened our jar of pickles. Here is the verdict!  

Editor’s note: This post was shared on GNOWFGLINS Tomatoes Seasonal Recipe Round-UpSlightly Indulgent Tuesday, the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee, the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop, the Homestead Blog Hop, Monday Mania, Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Sunday SchoolFight Back Friday, FarmGirl Friday, and Simple Lives Thursday