, Gloucester, MA


September 18, 2013

Desperation leads to deliciousness

Green tomatoes' tartness stand in for apples in this pie

The Gothic beauty of a late September vegetable garden evokes so much: Moldy fruits speak of missed opportunity. Desiccated vines weave thatch, like a Cy Twombly drawing, around swollen zucchinis no one has the oomph to harvest anymore. Drought-shriveled leaves reveal a rising tide of pumpkins heaving themselves to the finish-line of plumpness. Green tomatoes droop, wishing for ripeness, verdant phantoms of their Big Boy brothers, from withered stalks.

Ah, those tomatoes: “You planted too late!” they parrot. Frugality and pride demand we do something with these misshapen orbs that stubbornly refuse to redden. Quick! Hide them in a brown, sugary chutney! Dredge them in flour and fry them! Pretend they are not just delicious, but sentimental!

“Do you know about green tomato and apple pie?” my Baltimore aunt asked me last week. I didn’t, but do now, and, thanks to her, offer a wonderful green tomato option that will make you feel not just thrifty but proud; here is a green tomato option scrumptious and seasonal enough to present at a dinner party or tote, chin high, to an autumn potluck.

Green Tomato and Apple Pie probably began as a “Desperation Pie” or a “Make-do” pie, pies that folklorist Joanne Raetz Stuttgen says ingenious housewives created when cherries were too expensive or the pecan crop had failed. Or when you have more green tomatoes than apples.

Choose larger green tomatoes if you can. Make sure to core out the entire white core, which stays harder than in ripe tomatoes.

Juices ran like rivers in the pie I baked, but I didn’t mind. How moist your pie is will depend on your green tomatoes’ juiciness. If you don’t like a sodden bottom crust, omit it. Put the filling into a buttered pie dish and top with one crust, which will become a crispy, golden comforter for your late September harvest.

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