How To

It’s Green Tomato Time!

Green TomatoesIt’s currently the best time of the year: when you start finding green tomatoes on grocery store shelves, in market stalls, and, if you’re lucky enough, in your very own garden out back. Firm and shiny and gorgeously green (seriously, I’d paint a wall that color), underripe tomatoes are probably my favorite part of early summer. We all know we should fry green tomatoes, that that’s their ultimate form, and yes: brightly, greasily delicious. But there are other directions you can take your piles of green tomatoes, from more familiar to totally wild. Check it out:

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

If you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter than regular fried green tomatoes, but still have a taste for tradition, this is the perfect choice. Slice your tomatoes thinly. Beat a couple of eggs with a tablespoon of water and a few dashes of hot sauce. Mix whole wheat white flour with Old Bay seasoning and ground pepper. Dip, dredge, then lay out on a baking pan coated with non-stick spray. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, flip, and bake for 15 more. They come out both surprisingly crisp and meltingly tender, last a bit longer at room temperature than fried ones, and they don’t sit in your stomach like a lead ball when you’re finished eating.

Chow Chow

If you’re in a preserving sort of mood, this pickled mess of vegetables is the way to go. Traditional from the Deep South up to Nova Scotia, the best sorts are made with green tomatoes, which lend a bright and sour note that plays well with pickling. Bonus: Cook up and properly can a bunch of chow chow, and you can enjoy the zippy flavor of green tomatoes well into winter.

Raw, as a Sandwich Topping

Most treatments of green tomatoes involve cooking them, which makes sense. Heat draws out the sweetness alongside the acidity. But over the past few years, I’ve grown quite fond of eating green tomatoes raw, particularly on sandwiches. Bringing the brightness of a ripe tomato along with an incredible crunch, green tomato slices are especially perfect on black bean burgers and other heavily-spiced sandwiches that could use a cool, tart crunch.

Green Tomato Cake

I haven’t done this yet, alas. The first batch of green tomatoes went to frying, since that’s only proper. The next batch, though, is going straight into some damn cake. I can imagine how strange it could be, but also how delicious, with the sour tomatoes playing very nicely with sweet elements. I haven’t decided yet whether to make a recipe from a recent issue of Cooking Light, which has figs and cream cheese icing, or to go straight to trashy decadence with a Paula Deen recipe for a green tomato cake with browned butter icing. I’ve hearted them both in Food Riot Recipes, and now it’s definitely an angel-on-one-shoulder-devil-on-the-other situation over here. Perhaps I’ll just have to make both.

Green Tomato and Fig Cupcakes. Photo by Jonny Miller, from Cooking Light.


Green Tomato and Fig Cupcakes. Photo by Jonny Miller, from Cooking Light.

So what’s your favorite thing to do with green tomatoes?

About Derek Attig

Derek Attig writes and teaches about book culture, technology, and history. When he's not working on a book about bookmobiles in American life, you can find Derek cooking or spending way too much money at restaurants. He blogs at Follow Derek on Twitter: @bookmobility

  • raych

    Are green tomatoes just straight-up underripe tomatoes? Because there’s a variety of mango called the ‘crunchy mango’ that is NOT JUST an underripe mango. So I’m wondering.