Green tomatoes are familiar to southerners, but to others, they might just sound like tomatoes that aren’t ripe. So, what exactly are green tomatoes, how do they taste, and how do you utilize them?
What are Green Tomatoes?
In fact, that’s precisely what they are: unripe tomatoes.
There is another kind, which are heritage tomatoes that turn green when mature. They have a place as well, and they’re rather tasty. But for the most part, when you hear the term green tomatoes, it refers to the unripe versions of ordinary tomatoes.
Sometimes green tomatoes are intentionally picked before they ripen, but more often, they’re simply tomatoes that didn’t ripen by the end of the growing season. As a result, they’re most prevalent in late summer and early fall. Green tomato season begins when the temperatures decrease to the point that tomatoes on the vine no longer ripen.
How to Use Green Tomatoes
To begin with, it is feasible to ripen green tomatoes, although it is not always successful. You’ll need to keep them somewhere fairly warm, or at least not cold, and it helps to keep them in a paper bag along with some other fruit, like apples or ripening bananas, which give off ethylene gas, which helps accelerate the ripening process.
Still, all this gets you is an ordinary ripe red tomato, and it’s not like those are hard to come by. Green tomatoes are a whole other animal, and they are used in very different ways.
Green tomatoes may be cooked in ways that ripe tomatoes cannot because they are harder and more thick. Slicing, coating them in a corn meal breading and pan-frying, which is one of the most common methods of cooking green tomatoes, wouldn’t work with a ripe tomato—its soft texture and all that juice would just make it a soggy, clumpy mess.
In addition to frying, though, green tomatoes are wonderful in baked dishes, like casseroles, where their firmness allows them to hold up without turning mushy; as well as soups, chutneys, salsas, relishes, and pickles. They may also be used in a pie since the firm texture and acidic taste of green tomatoes are comparable to those of a green apple.
Green tomato pasta sauce, or pomodori verdi in Italian, is another popular dish. It’s simple to swap green tomatoes for red in your favorite homemade sauce recipe. Other variants on the “green” taste include mint, dill, or arugula.
And you should definitely use them in a sandwich, such as in place of ripe tomatoes in a BLT.
Regardless of how you use them, the most of the time all you have to do is slice them, however for certain recipes, such as the green tomato pie listed below, you’ll have to peel them as well.
What Do They Taste Like?
Green tomatoes are tangy, acidic, and often astringent. They have a hard, almost gritty feel and are far less juicy than ripe tomatoes. Heating them, on the other hand, significantly reduces the astringency.
Green Tomato Recipes
- Easy Fried Green Tomatoes
- Green Tomato Soup
- Sweet Green Tomato Pie
Where to Buy Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes are available in supermarkets and farmers’ markets throughout the late summer and early fall. But, be careful not to purchase heirloom green tomatoes, also known as green giant tomatoes, green tiger tomatoes, and emerald evergreen tomatoes. The green tomatoes we’re talking about should feel firm and solid, with a uniform pale green color—with no stripes or streaks like some of their heirloom cousins have.
Tomatoes are a fruit, and fruit will mature if given the chance. So if possible, use your green tomatoes right away, unless you don’t mind if some of them try to turn red. That may happen or it could not. Cold temperatures will interfere with the ripening process, so you can store them in the fridge for a few days before using them.