Not-at-All-Fried Green Tomatoes

green cherry tomatoes

My cherry tomato plants were late bloomers, so they aren't going to ripen this year.

Even though I grew up in California with a backyard full of navel oranges, Meyer lemons, loquats, pomegranates, and boysenberries, my family didn’t have an actual vegetable garden. So, the first time I ever heard of eating green tomatoes was when that charm-your-socks-off movie starring Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates came out, and I didn’t understand why you would fry a green tomato when you could eat a perfectly good ripe one.

Now I grow tomatoes on my balcony (which overlooks not lush citrus trees, but a vacant lot full of stray cats and a couple of rusted-out Oldsmobiles. Ah, the fabled charms of Brooklyn!) and I’ve finally encountered firsthand the anxiety of having vines full of stubbornly still-green tomatoes as the days get shorter and the temperatures sneak southward a little more every night.  Do I wait a little longer in the hope that we’ll have a few more warm Indian summer days that will coax a blush out of my tomatoes, or swoop in and pick them before the first frost ruins them?

green tomatoes in the food processor

A quick trip through the food processor and they're ready to be turned into jam.

When you decide it’s finally time to harvest the stragglers, there are some very nice ways to use green tomatoes, even beyond frying them. This year I decided to make a batch of green tomato marmalade.  A super-simple combination of just chopped tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice.

green tomato jam

Green tomato jam: a little bit tart, a little bit sweet. Try it on biscuits with ham, or on toast with ricotta.

I also saved a few green tomatoes for my favorite quick-and-savory preparation:  just dice them up, saute with bacon and garlic, and toss with Parmesan, cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

What do you like to make with your green tomatoes?

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