If you're not a Southerner, fried green tomatoes probably crashed your consciousness in 1991, when the Oscar-nominated movie of that name charmed just about everyone. You might have been left wondering just what green tomatoes are. There's no mystery to it. They are simply unripe red tomatoes. (Actually, there are some types of tomatoes that are naturally green when fully ripe, like Green Zebras and Green Moldavians, but those are distinguishable from unripe red tomatoes.) Sometimes green tomatoes are intentionally picked before they ripen, but often, they are tomatoes that just didn’t ripen by the end of the growing season.
Some home gardeners who grow tomatoes for that fresh-picked, backyard-to-table flavor regard them as failed attempts at red tomatoes, but they shouldn't be sold short: There are many delicious uses for a green tomato.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Most everyone is familiar with iconic Southern fried green tomatoes. They're simple to make and have a lot in common with breading and frying chicken, another Southern specialty. Recipes might vary slightly, but here's a basic method:
- Mix together about a cup of milk and 1 egg.
- Set out a plate of flour.
- Place about 1 cup of cornmeal or breadcrumbs or a mix of the two on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
- Cut 4 large green tomatoes into thick slices and dredge each one in the flour to coat, then into the egg and milk mixture and then the crumbs or cornmeal until each slice is fully coated..
- Fry in a heavy pan coated with cooking oil until they are browned on both sides, just a few minutes on each side. Do not crowd the pan; cook in batches if your pan is not large enough to hold all the slices at once.
- Variations include substituting buttermilk for regular milk; omitting the egg; seasoning the crumbs with Cajun spices, cayenne pepper, garlic, or hot pepper sauce; and mixing all the ingredients together to make a batter to coat the tomatoes rather than dredging through the flour, milk and the crumbs separately.
As you’d expect, green tomatoes have a less mature taste than the red kind, with a hint of sweetness. Some people think they taste somewhat like zucchini.
Green tomatoes can be used pretty much anyway that red tomatoes are, but they give your dishes a different flavor profile. You can try a green tomato BLT, green tomato soup or green tomato pasta sauce. Make green tomato pickles, green tomato salsa and green tomato relishes and chutneys. You can even bake with green tomatoes – green tomato bread has a similar taste to zucchini bread.
If the end of growing season leaves you with a ton of green tomatoes, you could have a green tomato marathon with a three-course meal:
Appetizer: Green Tomato Soup With Country Ham
Main Course: Green Tomato Pizza
Dessert: Green Tomato Cake