Green and glorious: Unripe tomatoes
Not every tomato ripens.
As we move into autumn, with its less sunshine and cooler nights, the days of tomatoes turning heavy and red in the garden are numbered. (Readers in Seattle, I’m looking at you: 61 degrees and rainy.)
Like its tropical companion basil, the tomato plant gets cranky come fall. Generally, the advice is that before your first freeze — or before it gets so wet and miserable outside that you can’t stand it anymore — you should gather all your green tomatoes and bring them in to ripen on the counter.
This has both advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that on your counter, they will, in a sense, ripen — redden, soften, start to look like reasonable approximations of tomatoes.
The disadvantage is that tomatoes will fool you. Yep, they’ll look red and pretty. But left on the plant, they continue to get sweeter and more flavorful. On the counter, they’ll only get more colorful.
This is the heart of the problem with industrially produced grocery store tomatoes: They look red and shiny, but taste like not much at all. That’s because many growers pick their tomatoes when they’re just starting to blush pink, then keep them in cold storage until they’re needed, at which point they’re exposed to ethylene gas, which artificially “ripens” them to a facsimile of a tomato.
So I’d like to propose that we stop asking green tomatoes to be what they’re not, and encourage them to just be what they are: tart and green and fresh.
You’ve just started thinking about fried green tomatoes. Let me lead you one step further. If tomatoes + bacon = joy, why not this equation: Fried green tomatoes + bacon + sandwich = even happier. And, judging from the food blogs, this is an untapped trend: Go here and here for recipes. (Dinner Tonight and The Slow Cook)
Alternately, give your green tomatoes a South Asian twist (Indian-Style Green Tomatoes and Vegetables Over Rice from Cooking Light) or an Italian accent (a spaghetti recipe from Mario Batali).
Or just grill ’em up the way they are and top with a colorful salsa: Grilled Green Tomatoes with Red and Yellow Tomato-Basil Salsa
by Elizabeth Jardina, Sunset researcher