AgriCulture: Green Tomato Ketchup

Part of our green tomato bounty Photo by Eric Rouleau

I am savoring this Columbus Day weekend as a time of reprieve. Nuclear war has not yet begun. We can continue to live in the hope that perhaps it will not. Maybe the Russians who are threatening it will realize that the consequences for them would be even worse than defeat in their war to annex some mineral-rich and agriculturally productive provinces in Ukraine. “I hope the Russians like their children too,” said Eric, recalling one of Sting’s songs (“Russians”) that was quite popular in the 80’s; it resonates today and echoes that dreary time.

The feeling of reprieve derives also from less cataclysmic matters. After predictions of November-like cold earlier in the week, Columbus Day weekend in this part of the Hudson Valley has passed without frost. Cool and crisp, but lovely. This reprieve, however, we are sure is just temporary. Frost is an axe that we know is going to fall some day.

Regardless of its inevitably, the delay in frost has been a great source of joy to me. It increases the likelihood that there will be some local second cut hay on the market this fall, after a summer of drought cut production drastically. It gives my escarole, spinach, beets and daikon radish in the garden a fighting chance of getting to decent size this month. It postpones my turning off the outdoor water, allowing me to continue showering in the open air as I have exclusively done since May.

Nevertheless, knowing that the reprieve is not forever, I am taking the opportunity to anticipate the end of growing season, and enlisting whatever help I can in that process. Old friends Craig and Rosemary from Washington, D.C., on their way to a brief New England vacation, came prepared for the weekend with farm duds. This morning, they picked almost all the remaining quinces, roughly 30 pounds of them. We enjoyed a Turkish lamb and quince stew for dinner last night. Now I will process the newly picked quince into quince paste, quince jam, and some poached quince in syrup as a dessert.

This afternoon, I enlisted Craig in a long postponed barn project: removing a metal wire mesh we had installed in the manger in a futile attempt to prevent the sheep from pulling large quantities of hay from the manger onto the barn floor and wasting it. They demolished that flimsy wire, but twisted remnants were still attached. We installed in its place hard metal feeder panels which the sheep will be unable to take apart so readily, which gives me less trepidation about keeping the herd fed this winter.

While we were doing all this, Eric was engaged in another key end of growing season task: taking care of the bonanza of green tomatoes which will no longer ripen well on the vine, but which should not go to waste. We put aside those of a certain size for fried green tomatoes, but for the rest Eric had a clear plan, a traditional québécois green tomato ketchup.

It’s no surprise that the québécois should have a great solution for green tomatoes. They have a season that closes down early, likely to leave them with a lot of unripe tomatoes. And it’s also not such a big surprise that the solution might involve something called ketchup. Canada is the only place I’ve ever been where you can buy ketchup flavored potato chips.

Ketchup has a venerable history. Many sources agree that the name derives from East or South Asia, either a Chinese or Malay word or the name of a specific concoction called keh chap from the island of Amoy, combining soy sauce and fish essence. English sailors brought Asian ketchup home with them in the 17th century, and the English in the next hundred years changed the recipe to include such ingredients as anchovies, lemon, shallots and mushrooms. It is thought that tomatoes first entered the ketchup picture in Nova Scotia in the 18th century.

In 1837, a New England farmer, Jonas Yerkes, started bottling tomato ketchup commercially. The Heinz company followed later, and fixed on its contemporary ketchup recipe in 1872. The rest, they say, is history. Ketchup became America’s favorite condiment until replaced by salsa in the last couple of decades. In 1981, the Reagan Administration’s Agriculture Department even proposed counting ketchup as a vegetable in determining whether school lunch programs were meeting their nutritional requirements. And in one of those ironic circularities of history, tomato ketchup similar to standard North American fare is now sometimes used in Chinese recipes.

There are, of course, non-tomato ketchups. I myself have experimented, in years of particular plenty, with cucumber and plum ketchups. The essential feature of ketchup in North American usage is now that it contains vinegar. And so does Eric’s green tomato ketchup.

The recipe is one which he tells me is very close to his Mom’s. He has already salted a large quantity of finely chopped green tomato and onion to extract moisture and add iodine. When he then removes the salt he’ll cook the combination with vinegar, sugar, a combination of whole spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and mustard seed all wrapped in cheesecloth) and cook it. He’ll then remove the spice packets and can the ketchup. Voilà, the productivity of the garden saved from the ravages of the coming frost. I can’t wait to taste it.

eric green tomatoes 2
Eric processes the green tomatoes, Photo by Mark Scherzer


Coming soon: fall crops, beets and daikon radish

On hand now: 
Quince: $4/lb 
Zucchini: pale green or dark green, small 3 for $2, medium $2 each,

EGGS: $5/doz Less plentiful (flock has been decimated by predators) but still available 
Lamb chops $14/lb, riblets $10/lb., shanks $12/lb 
Garlic: $2/head 
Mint, $1/bunch 
Fresh horseradish root: $4/lb. 
Garlic chives (flat leafed): $1/bunch 
Rhubarb $4/lb 
Sorrel $3/bag 
Shiso leaves, $1 for 10


Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.


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