When we speak about green tomatoes, we’re usually talking about unripe tomatoes, not varieties of tomatoes like Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato that are bred to remain green when ripe. You may have heard that unripe tomatoes are toxic and inedible, when in fact they can be eaten and have a unique flavor profile that you won’t get once the tomatoes are ripe.
It is true that green tomatoes contain alkaloids like solanine, atropine, and tomatine that the plant uses as a defense mechanism. These alkaloids add a bitter taste to the fruit to discourage any animals from eating the fruit before the seeds are fully mature and viable. However, these substances can actually contribute to the flavor profile of green tomatoes.
Unripe green tomatoes are safe to eat in reasonable amounts. An adult human would need to eat over a pound of green fruit for it to reach lethal levels. If you are someone that is sensitive to acidic foods, you may want to limit the amount that you consume, but otherwise, green tomatoes are safe to eat. They can be a source of quick nutrition while you wait for the rest of your harvest to be ready.
Of course, you can leave those green tomatoes to ripen on the vine or pick them and allow them to ripen on a sunny windowsill, but why not take advantage of the unique flavor of them while they are still green?
Fried Green Tomatoes
Most of you have probably heard of fried green tomatoes. This is one of the most popular and widely known ways to prepare green tomatoes. Frying them is also probably one of the easiest ways to prepare green tomatoes.
- 4 large green tomatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of cornmeal
- 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Slice tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices, discarding the ends
- In one bowl whisk together eggs and milk
- In another bowl add flour
- In another bowl combine cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper
- Dredge tomatoes in flour, then dip in milk/egg mixture, and then finally into the cornmeal/breadcrumbs
- Fill a frying pan with about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fry tomatoes in batches so that they do not touch each other. Fry until crisp on one side and then flip and fry until golden brown and crisp on the other side
- Drain on paper towels and serve warm with your favorite toppings like honey mustard, remoulade sauce, or some sour cream
Quick Pickled Green Tomatoes
Another way to take advantage of the tangy flavor of green tomatoes is to pickle them. This is a great option if you’re left with an abundance of unripe tomatoes as frost approaches. This recipe is for a “quick pickle” or “refrigerator pickle” which doesn’t involve canning, but you could take the additional step of using your canning pot to can the jars of pickles by covering them with boiling water and boiling them for 10 minutes before cooling and storage. If you don’t can the pickles, they will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
- 4 cups green tomatoes cut into wedges
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 1 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of dried dill
- 1/2 tablespoon of black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
- 1-quart wide-mouth mason jar - cleaned and dry
- Pack tomatoes tightly into the jar
- Combine garlic, vinegar, water, dill, pepper, turmeric, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the salt and sugar dissolve.
- Pour brine on top of tomatoes making sure they are completely covered with liquid. Add additional water if necessary.
- Tightly seal the jar and allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. These go great on burgers or hotdogs, in potato salad, or just straight out of the jar.
Even when the growing season is over, you can find red ripe tomatoes at just about any grocery store. Why not take advantage of the unique flavor of green tomatoes while you can?