How to ripen or use in green tomato recipes!
Got green tomatoes? You can either enjoy them in tasty recipes or ripen them off the vine. See how to do both and try some of our new green tomato recipes—including fried green tomatoes, salsa, pickles, chutney, green tomato pie, relish, Grandma’s Piccalilli, and more!
There are a number of reasons why you might have green tomatoes. Perhaps they got a late start and it’s now fall, nearing towards frost. Perhaps they got blight and it’s a matter of days before they die. Or, perhaps you intended to keep some tomatoes for green tomato recipes!
Harvesting Green Tomatoes
Let’s start by harvesting the tomatoes. There’s no point leaving them on the plant if frost is pending or they’re no longer ripening on the vine. If you’re completely done for the year, cut down the entire vine but be gentle in handling the fruits.
The next step is to check through our haul of fruits. Any fruits showing signs of blight damage should be removed and discarded. They won’t keep and won’t make good eating either. Any fruits that are simply damaged should be set aside for immediate use.
Now separate your healthy, clean tomatoes into two piles.
- Tomatoes that have are showing any hint of color, usually at the blossom end of the fruit, have a good chance of ripening indoors, off the vine. Full-sized, darker green fruits may also ripen but will take a little longer – up to several weeks.
- Our second pile of tomatoes are paler green. There’s next to no chance of these ripening to maturity, so we’ll be using them up in some green tomato recipes later on.
Ripen Green Tomatoes
So how do you ripen tomatoes without them being attached to the plant? One of the simplest ways to do this is to place them in a paper bag or lidded cardboard box along with a ripe banana. Most ripe fruits give off ethylene gas, which speeds the ripening of nearby fruits, and bananas are especially good at emitting ethylene. It’s a common misconception that tomatoes need sunlight to ripen – it’s actually warmth that does the trick!
Fruits already showing some color will ripen just fine simply left on the countertop at room temperature, out of direct sunshine. But again, adding that banana will help to speed things along.
If you have lots of green tomatoes, you can stagger ripening by keeping the bulk of your underripe tomatoes in a cool, dark and – crucially – dry place to reduce the risk of them going mouldy. Aim for a temperature of around 50 to 55 Fahrenheit, or 10-13 Celsius and then, when you need them, bring them up to room temperature to ripen up.
That’s our ripening hopefuls sorted. Now onto using up our other green tomatoes, starting with a Southern soul food classic: fried-green tomatoes. These firm, underripe tomatoes are perfect for this as they’ll hold their shape when fried.
Let’s get cooking! Start with three bowls: one filled with a quarter cup or around 30 grams of plain or all-purpose flour, one with two beaten eggs, and the third with another quarter cup of flour mixed with a half cup or 65 grams of cornmeal. If you can’t find cornmeal, polenta will do, and I like to add a good pinch of cayenne pepper to this mix for a spicy kick.
Prepare the tomatoes – this recipe uses three or four standard-sized fruits. Slice them into quarter inch or half centimetre-thick slices then season both sides with salt and pepper.
Now the fun part! Dust each slice in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip it into the egg. Allow any excess to drip off, then coat in the cornmeal mix. Repeat for each slice, keeping one hand for the dry coatings, and the other for the wet.
Pour a quarter inch or half-centimetre layer of oil into a frying pan or heavy-bottomed skillet. Heat the oil up so it’s nice and hot, then lay the tomato slices into the oil. Fry till the undersides are golden brown then flip them over to fry off the topside. Each side should take a couple of minutes. Fry in a single layer, in batches and remove the fried slices onto a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the excess oil. Enjoy your crunchy fried green tomatoes with a hot sauce, salsa, or as an accompaniment to other fried meats or shrimp. Just yum!
- See the Almanac recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with flour and cornmeal.
- Or, see another recipe option for Fried Green Tomatoes with flour only.
Green Tomato Chutney
How about something besides frying? Green tomato chutney is an old English classic. Pop it onto crackers, serve with cheeses, dollop onto curries or give it away as the perfect home-grown gift! It’s simple to make, because all the ingredients are simply boiled up in a single, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stockpot.
And here are the ingredients: four cups or approximately one liter of chopped green tomatoes, a diced green pepper, two chopped-up apples or pears, an optional hot chili pepper, chopped, one medium diced onion, three cloves of minced garlic, two tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced, the rind and juice of one large lemon, half a cup or 120ml of white or rice wine vinegar, half a cup or 120ml of sugar, a half teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of coriander seeds, two teaspoons of mustard seeds, and – almost there! – a quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice and turmeric.
Warm it all up on a medium to high heat, stirring continuously until it comes to the boil. Once it does, turn down the heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the chutney’s reduced to a pleasingly thick consistency. Don’t forget to stir from time to time so it doesn’t stick, especially as it thickens. Spoon the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and leave to cool. Keep the chutney in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or, to extend the lifespan of your chutney to up to two years, process in a water bath. See our guide on water bath canning if you’ve never done it before.
Green Tomato Salsa
A similar recipe is for green tomato salsa. Here’s a recipe that is simple and fresh tasting! It’s so delicious with chips, added to BLT or quesadilla, served with catfish or meat, served over a roasted sweet potato, with buttered cornbread, or atop cream cheese and crackers.
See the Tomato Salsa Recipe.
Green Tomato Relish
Use green tomatoes being used in chowchow or piccalilly, basically relishes consisting of cabbage, green tomatoes, and a whole variety of fresh vegetables. Excellent on burgers and with baked beans. These were great depression receipes where everything was used for something and meals could be far between.
Credit: Jamie Roger/Shutterstock
Green Tomato Pie
At the end of the tomato season, when frost nips the garden, make Green Tomato Pie! This old family favorite has a unique flavor that’s similar to a tart apple pie.
See recipe for Green Tomato Pie.
Green Tomato Pickles
Finally, don’t forget green tomatoes are fantastic as pickled veggies! This recipe is especially good when are left with lots of small (1-inch) green tomatoes on the vine.
See recipe for Green Tomato Pickles.
Why not give it a try or share your own recipes for using up green tomatoes in the comments section below!