What To Do With Green Garden Tomatoes

Have a bunch of tomatoes that never ripened? Do like the Southerners do, make fried green tomatoes.

As a new gardener, I’m just not used to summer’s last dance. Sure, some of the veggies at my community garden plot have begun to leave the party, but others are arriving (peppers, a second crop of radishes). Why can’t the green tomatoes just lighten up?

They’ve overstayed their welcome, hanging out day after still-warm day, refusing to ripen.

We may deny summer’s over, but the garden always tells the truth: things are cooling off. I should have known when the basil bowed out that the days of wine and Caprese salads were through.

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Happily, there’s an after-party. And it involves seemingly risky behavior: eating unripe produce. It’s time to make fried green tomatoes, a dish my daughter and I have invited back to our table again and again.

Although it’s commonly thought to come from the South, food historians beg to differ. It’s been traced to the Northeast, the Midwest, and Jewish cuisine. There is also indication of global links via traditional recipes the world over: Thai green mango salad, Latin fried green plantains, Middle Eastern pickled green plums. Trendy chefs are cooking with green strawberries and green almonds and making green tomato pie. Pickled green tomatoes are a fixture at our farmers’ markets. So we’ll just roll with it, like a…never mind.

Pick them when they’re at or near full size, and cook them (see recipe below) as the first crisp air blows in. For food pairings, look to restaurants where their homey goodness is a canvas for savory sides: Westchester Burger Company, where they’re served with guacamole and spicy crab salad; Alvin & Friends, with rum-cured salmon gravlax and soft-baked eggs; and Savannah & Company, with smoked bacon, farmer’s cheese, and honey.

Photo Courtesy Alvin & Friends

Fried Green Tomatoes

Adapted from this recipe by Diana Swenson-Siegel on allrecipes.com

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(Serves 4)

2 eggs
½ cup milk or soymilk
1 cup all-purpose or whole-grain flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced
4 large green or under-ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying
Butter or butter substitute, such as Earth Balance (optional)

Whisk together eggs and milk.

Put the flour on a plate.

Mix the cornmeal and breadcrumbs on another plate. Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano (or other herbs from your garden).

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Dip tomato slices into the flour to coat, then into the egg mixture, then dredge in the breadcrumbs.

Fry in batches of 4 or 5 (do not crowd) in oil (and a dab of butter, if using) on medium heat; flip when browned. Drain on paper towels.

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