Much Ado About Green Tomatoes
by Rob Sproule
I bet I can guess what’s in your garage right now. I’m not talking about the piled up shovels or the old paint cans you don’t know how to throw away. I’m talking about those bins of green tomatoes, as unblemished as river rocks plucked from the stream, that you harvested in a panic when the weather forecaster heralded frost.
Picking green tomatoes, always with the best intentions, unfortunately often turns into watching the green tomatoes slowly wrinkle and rot in the garage, unloved until compost day. It doesn’t have to happen like that; you can get one last blast of tomato-loving before the wicked winter descends.
How to Ripen Them
Will this pile of green golf balls ever turn into the red, delicious fruit (yes, fruit) you’ve enjoyed all summer? The answer is an enthusiastic: probably.
The first step is to get some wide cardboard boxes, a bunch of newspaper and some shelf space. Anywhere between 12-21 degrees C will do it, though they’ll take a week in warmer rooms and up to a month cooler rooms.
Unpack them from the big plastic bins you’ve dumped them in. Heaping them will lead to bruising and, without proper air circulation, your tomatoes probably won’t ripen. Lay a generous bed of newspaper in your boxes and place your greenies inside. If you have hundreds, you may need to be realistic about how many you’re actually going to eat and give the rest away.
Head to the grocery store and buy enough green bananas for 1-2 per box (dependent on box size). They’re going to be ripening buddies, releasing ethylene gas in the process, which accelerates tomatoes’ blush. It’s similar to the process that importers use to ripen the green tomatoes they ship.
Replace the bananas if necessary (yes, there will be fruit flies so keep them in the garage). The more immature they are, the less they’re going to fully ripen so try not to expect a miracle. If they have some softness when you pick them you should be able to redden them up.
What to Do with Them
You can eat green tomatoes raw or cooked (including fried, of course). They’re firmer and more acidic than ripe tomatoes, and can carry a slightly astringent taste when raw. Cooking takes longer but softens the fruit and mellows the acidity.
While fried green tomatoes aren’t as popular in Canada as they are in the US, they’re still an easy to make crowd favourite with recipes and variations available online. You can use cooked green tomatoes in almost any dish with vegetables, from soup to adding it to roasted chicken breasts with green onions.
Cooked or raw, there are ample options for eating green tomatoes no matter your prowess in the kitchen. They’re full of vitamin C, A, and other vitamins and it’s a lot better than letting them go to waste.
To eat them raw, you can chop and add them to salads, any kind of salad, for a tangy, crunchy texture. I’d cut small cubes instead of slices; their acidity may be too dominating in large doses.
While traditional Salsa Verde is made with tomatillos, you can easily substitute the more readily available green tomatoes. Grab a bunch of green tomato and chop up a couple of red onions, add jalapeÃ±o or (if you’re brave and a little foolish) habanero peppers to taste, and throw in a generous amount of garlic. Li
me juice, cilantro, and cumin add some tangy southern flavour. You can eat the salsa raw or boil it down for canning.