What to Do with Green Tomatoes – 3 Options with 5 Recipes

Many gardeners pick tomato season as their favorite time of the year. For some of us, our prized tomatoes are the primary reason we go out day after day and work so hard in our gardens. But the bitter end of every tomato season must eventually arrive. And when it does, there’s a fair chance that you’ll find yourself holding a big basket full of green tomatoes – the last few fruits of the year.

At first glance, these green tomatoes are more than a little bit disappointing. As a tomato gardener, you’ve grown accustomed to plump and juicy tomatoes that ooze flavor when you slice into them. But these little green tomatoes are firm – almost hard – to the touch. The flavor ranges from bland to sour to inedibly astringent. After a long summer of sweet and delicious red tomatoes, you might be tempted to toss these last few into the compost pile.

Figure 1 - Photo credit: Nathan Gray: A Culinary (Photo) Journal via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Wait! Tossing these little green beauties aside would be a major mistake. Check out the collection of wonderful seasonal recipes below. Try your hand at a few of these dishes, and you just might find that the end of tomato season is actually something that you will look forward to each and every year.

Pickling and Canning Your Green Tomatoes

Before we get to the main event, let’s take a look at some lesser-known ways to put those green tomatoes to use. Everyone knows about fried green tomatoes, but there are some much easier methods that produce results just as delicious as the frying pan. (And they’re a little healthier, too!)

One great way to make use of unripe green tomatoes is to use them in canning recipes that help to soften their flesh and bring out their tangy flavor.

Figure 2 - Photo credit: willsfca via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

If you’re not an expert at home canning, don’t worry. These green tomato “quick pickles” don’t require a lot of special canning equipment. These pickles will remain refrigerated until you eat them, so they won’t ever be “put up” in dry storage.

Green Tomato “Quick Pickles”

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green tomatoes, sliced or quartered
  • 2 quarts distilled water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 large onion, yellow or red
  • 2 hot peppers (optional)

Directions

  • Place tomatoes on a rack, over a baking sheet, and sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup of salt. Place in refrigerator overnight or for 6-8 hours. 2. Sterilize jars*.
  • Sterilize jars*.
  • Mix water, vinegar and ¼ cup of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir until salt has dissolved entirely.
  • In the bottom of each empty jar, place 1 crushed clove of garlic and ½ teaspoon celery seed.
  • In a colander, toss the salted tomatoes with the onion (peeled and sliced) and the hot peppers (seeded and minced).
  • Pack the tomato/onion/pepper mixture into the jars, leaving ½ an inch of clearance at the top of the jar.
  • Add hot brine to cover. Fasten jar lids. Allow to cool before moving to refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate at least 2 weeks before serving. These quick pickles will keep well in the refrigerator for several months.

*Sterilize jars by submerging in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Handle hot jars with extreme care. A set of jar grips is recommended.

These easy pickles are a fast way to preserve some of your green tomatoes. If you’re an experienced canner and you’re comfortable with putting up jars for long-term storage, you will have many more options available.

Recipes are available and easy to find for green tomato chutney, green tomato relish, dilled green tomatoes and more. You can also can green tomato slices in a simple saltwater brine so that you can make fried green tomatoes all year round.

Oven Options for Green Tomatoes

Baked green tomatoes? Yes, it’s a thing. There are several popular recipes for baked green tomatoes, which follow the same approach as the traditional fried green tomatoes but use the oven instead of a frying pan. The result is a healthier, lighter green tomato which boasts a similar flavor to the original recipe. If you’re interested, you can follow the recipe for fried green tomatoes below. Instead of dropping the slices in the frying pan after breading, bake them on a lightly greased baking sheet for 45 minutes at 325 degrees F.

But that’s not the only way to work your green tomatoes in the oven. Chopped tomatoes make an excellent addition to baked cakes and muffins. If you like zucchini bread, this one is right up your alley.

Figure 3 - Photo credit: yummysmellsca via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Two cups of chopped green tomatoes is a good amount to start with. Salt the tomatoes and let them sit for 10 or 15 minutes before rinsing them in a strainer and draining all of the liquid.

Prepare a simple cake batter with cinnamon and nutmeg. For additional flavor add raisins, walnuts, dried dates or dried cranberries. Add your drained tomatoes last – the batter will be thick, much like zucchini bread batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. You can use the same technique to add chopped green tomatoes to your favorite muffin recipe.

The Obvious Solution – Fried Green Tomatoes

Last, but not least, the infamous fried green tomato. Many of us think of fried green tomatoes as a Southern delicacy, but evidence suggests that this dish actually originated in Ohio. Regardless of the location where the first green tomato was battered up and dropped in to a pan to sizzle – the result was undoubtedly delicious.

At their worst, fried green tomatoes can be heavy and bready – a poor treatment for your precious homegrown fruits. But with a few tricks, any home cook can whip up a plate full of wonderful fried green tomatoes that will please even the most spoiled tomato aficionado.

Figure 4 - Photo credit: healthserviceglasses via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The secret is in the breading. You’ll find many recipes that specify a traditional egg wash and a flour batter. But you’ll get much better results if you incorporate buttermilk into your egg wash and also add cornmeal to your flour batter. Don’t hold back on the salt and pepper on this recipe – those hard green tomatoes can use all the help they can get. Add in a pinch of cayenne for that authentic flavor, and you’ll crank out fried tomatoes that would make Kathy Bates turn green with envy.

And as you’ll see below, this is one dish that you can take in several different directions. So don’t despair if you end up with a boatload of unripe tomatoes this season – after you share these recipes with your friends and family – you’ll be out in the garden looking for a few more green tomatoes!

Fried Green Tomato Recipe (Serves 4 as a Side Dish or 2 as an Entrée)

Ingredients

  • 6 green tomatoes, medium-sized, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp coarse Kosher salt
  • ¼ - ½ tsp ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of powdered cayenne pepper, optional
  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil to fill pan ½-inch deep

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place it, empty, in the oven to warm.
  • Place flour on a plate. Mix salt, pepper, cayenne, cornmeal and bread crumbs together on a second plate. Whisk eggs and buttermilk together in a bowl.
  • Pour vegetable oil into frying pan or skillet so that the oil is ½-inch deep, heat over burner at medium heat.
  • Place tomato slices in flour, coating both sides. Next, dip the slices into the buttermilk and egg bath, coating both sides. Finally, place the slices in the cornmeal and bread crumb mixture, coating them completely on both sides.
  • Place breaded tomato slices into the frying pan in batches – as many as the pan can accommodate at one time. Slices should not touch each other while frying. When the tomatoes are lightly browned, flip them and fry them on the other side, 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the cooked slices to the warm baking sheet to keep them warm in the oven while you finish the rest of the slices.
  • Serve warm, with the dipping sauce of your choice.

Fried green tomatoes are a crowd-pleasing dish all on their own, so no embellishment is necessary. This traditional comfort food is always welcome as a side item or as the main dish. If you decide to serve them as a side dish, common pairings include pork ribs, barbecued brisket, and catfish.

Figure 5 - Photo credit: dusty_pen via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Dipping sauces flavored with seasonally available herbsare a great compliment. Dressings and sauces based on mayonnaise or buttermilk, or both, are popular. Common flavorings include basil, dill, goat cheese, and garlic.

Some years you may end up with more green tomatoes than you know what to do with. Check out the creative variations below for a way to mix up your menu and keep the whole family fired up about eating fried green tomatoes.

Creative Uses for Fried Green Tomatoes

If you love fried green tomatoes, but you’ve already had your fill for the season, don’t despair. There are several ways that you can incorporate these tasty tomatoes into different dishes where they make a great ingredient.

Here are three different sandwiches to get your creative juices flowing. Each of these uses the fried green tomato recipe above. And these are only the tip of the iceberg. With a little creativity, you’ll find that there are limitless possibilities to work fried green tomatoes into other dishes where they make a great fit.

Fried Green Tomato BLT Recipe (Makes 4 Sandwiches)

Ingredients

  • Fried green tomato slices (as prepared above)
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked as desired
  • 8 large lettuce leaves
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 6 drops hot pepper sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 8 slices bread

Directions

  • Prepare fried green tomatoes as above, keep warm
  • Cook bacon to desired level of crispiness, keep warm
  • In a bowl, mix together sour cream, goat cheese, basil, lemon juice, hot sauce and salt
  • Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium-low heat, toast 2 slices of bread on both sides. Repeat for remaining bread.
  • Slather sour cream/goat cheese spread on one side of all 8 pieces of bread
  • On 4 pieces of bread, layer 2 slices of fried green tomatoes, followed by 2 slices of bacon, followed by 2 leaves of lettuce. Top with the remaining slices of bread.
  • Slice in half and serve warm.

Fried Green Tomato Po’ Boy Recipe (Makes 2 Sandwiches)

Ingredients

  • Fried green tomato slices (as prepared above)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 French baguette, halved and split
  • ¼ cup remoulade (substitute mayonnaise)
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • ¼ cup sliced red onions
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Hot pepper sauce to taste

Directions

  • Prepare fried green tomatoes as above, keep warm
  • Melt 1 Tbsp butter in pan over medium-low heat. Lightly toast one half of the baguette in the melted butter. Repeat with remaining butter and bread.
  • Spread 2 Tbsp remoulade or mayonnaise on the bottom of each half of the baguette.
  • Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium-low heat, toast 2 slices of bread on both sides. Repeat for remaining bread.
  • To assemble the po’ boys, stack 4 fried green tomato slices on each half of the baguette. Garnish with lettuce, onions, dill pickle slices, and several drops of hot pepper sauce to taste.
  • Serve warm.

Figure 6 - Photo credit: alanosaur via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

And the List Goes On…

These recipes should be enough to keep you busy for a while, but there are even more green tomato recipes that you can look forward to in the future. There’s a green tomato and basil salad that many people love. There are some green tomato sauces that you can experiment with. There are even some recipes for green tomato tarts and puff pastries if you want to work them into your plans for dessert.

Fried Green Tomato and Cheese Open Face Sandwich Recipe (Makes 4 Sandwiches)

Ingredients

  • Fried green tomato slices (as prepared above)
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked as desired
  • 4 thickly sliced pieces of sourdough bread loaf
  • 4 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 cup spinach microgreens (substitute arugula)
  • ½ cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

Directions

  • Prepare fried green tomatoes as above, keep warm.
  • Preheat oven broiler.
  • Cook bacon to desired level of crispiness, keep warm, retain rendered bacon fat.
  • Lightly toast one side of each bread slice in the bacon fat over medium heat.
  • To assemble the sandwiches, spread 1 Tbsp mayonnaise on the toasted side of each piece of bread. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and top each slice with 1 slice of bacon (cut in half), ¼ cup greens and 2 slices of fried green tomatoes. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp shredded cheese over each sandwich.
  • Place baking sheet under broiler just long enough to melt the cheese, approximately 1-2 minutes.
  • Serve warm.

Figure 7 - Photo credit: David Lee King via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

You can also work on the other end of the spectrum and experiment with green tomato appetizers. They work great in many guacamole recipes, and many people rave about their favorite recipes for green tomato salsa verde.

The end of tomato season is always a sad time. But, with a little creativity, you can make the most out of every little green tomato your garden has to offer.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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