September 2013
Homeplace & Community

Green Tomatoes


Fried Isn’t Your Only Choice

If cooler temperatures are threatening the remains of your tomato crop, here’s good news. You can do a lot with tomatoes, even if they aren’t ruby red! Though tomatoes are best when they are vine-ripened to a dark red, you can salvage and enjoy them when they are only partially red or even when they’re still green. You also can extend the harvest season. Protect tomato plants against early fall frosts by covering the plants in the evening when frost is predicted. Cover with burlap, cardboard boxes or old sheets. Remove coverings during the daylight hours. You also can use plastic sheeting, but if the plastic touches the plant, injury will occur. A better alternative may be to construct a temporary plastic greenhouse over the plants. Support the plastic so it doesn’t come in contact with the foliage. Ventilate to prevent excess buildup of heat during the day.

Later, when frosts occur regularly, there will not be enough ground heat to prevent freezing within the shelter. During the fall when frost is likely, mature green fruit can be picked and will develop a red color when kept in a fairly warm, dry place. When you harvest, remove the stems from the tomatoes. Wash and dry them before storing. Be careful not to break the skins. Separate the green tomatoes from those showing red. Place green mature tomatoes in a room where the temperature is 60-70 degrees F. The tomatoes will ripen over a period of two to four weeks. Sunlight is not needed to ripen green-ripe tomatoes, so don’t bother to put them on window sills. They ripen satisfactorily in the dark. Generally, tomatoes store best at 55-60 degrees in moderate humidity and with good air circulation. Check tomatoes once a week to monitor the ripening. Remove the ripe ones and any that have begun to decay. Store ripened tomatoes in a basement storage room up to one month. You also can wash the mature green fruits in a weak solution of household bleach and then wrap in paper to store and ripen. Or, some people pull up the vines just before frost and hang them in the basement or garage to ripen. The fruit is in the "mature-green" state if the tissues are gelatinous or sticky when the tomato is cut and if the tomato interior is yellowish. Immature green tomatoes don’t ripen satisfactorily. To check your judgment of mature green, cut a tomato in half. If the pulp filling the compartments is jelly-like, it is mature green. The seeds are dragged aside easily by a knife and not cut through. In immature green tomatoes, seeds are easily cut through and the jelly-like pulp has not yet developed.

Usually you also can recognize the mature green ones by their glossiness and more whitish green color. "But what do I do with green tomatoes?" If you’re near the Whistle Stop Cafe, fried green tomatoes may be the order of the day. But for a more heart-healthy approach, try some of these suggestions.

Broiled Green Tomatoes with Cheese

Celery salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Bread crumbs, finely ground

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten well and diluted with 2 Tablespoons water

Wash green tomatoes. Drain and dry. Cut tomatoes crosswise into halves and slice a small piece off the tops and the bottoms. Sprinkle with celery salt and pepper. Combine bread crumbs and cheese. Dip tomato halves in bread crumb mixture. Dip in egg-water mixture. Dip again in bread crumbs. 

Place breaded halves on a greased pan in a moderate oven, 375 degrees and bake until they are nearly soft.Place under broiler, turning once, until they are brown.

Green Tomato Pie

In many American homes the beginning of fall is heralded by a green tomato pie. Made with the fruits saved from the first frost, it is a delightful dessert.

4 or 5 really green tomatoes (2½ cups coarsely grated)

Pastry for an 8-inch 2-crust pie

1½ cups brown sugar

3 Tablespoons flour

Rind of l lemon, finely grated

6 Tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup golden raisins

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ cup candied ginger, minced

Put tomatoes through a coarse grater or a food processor’s large shredder. Put in a colander and let drain overnight. Prepare double pie crust. Line 8-inch pie pan with half. Roll out second half and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients with tomatoes. Place in pie shell and cover with top crust. Prick holes in crust.Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden brown.

  Green Tomato Salsa

Green Salsa Dressing

A variety of Mexican salsa, this dressing can be used as a topping for beans and rice, or mixed with beans to make a salad. Makes 1 2/3 cups.

1 cup green tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 fresh jalapeno pepper or

chili pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 scallions, green and white parts, cut into l-inch lengths

1/3 cup water

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine green tomatoes, pepper, garlic, scallions and water in a 4-cup glass measure or small microwave safe mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave at High for two minutes. Let stand one minute. Pick plastic to release steam. Remove from oven and uncover carefully. Scrape into a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Green Tomato Salsa

A good way to use unripe tomatoes at the end of the season.

5 medium green tomatoes

2 jalapeno peppers

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Stewed Green Tomatoes

Delicious as a side-dish when served with a hearty meat entree. 4 servings.

2 Tablespoons onion, minced

2 Tablespoons vegetable margarine

2 cups green tomatoes, sliced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped(garnish)

Sauté onions in margarine in sauce pan until light brown. Add green tomatoes. Stir and cook tomatoes slowly until tender. Season with remaining ingredients except parsley. Garnish with parsley.

Jane Frobose is with Colorado State University Extension, Denver County.