Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What to Do With Green Tomatoes by Carol King

Lakewood Gardener, Jose Lara with his bounty of vegetables! Photo by Diana Roca.

This is the time of year when gardeners have a plethora of unripe tomatoes in their gardens.  If your garden is no exception, here are a few tips on dealing with all those green tomatoes.

To speed-ripen on the vine try these:
  • Stop watering. This encourages ripening.
  • Root prune the plant. Dig into the soil 6-8” deep and cut around a circle 12” from the stem. Shake the plant but don’t dig it up. This will stress the plant and the fruit will ripen faster.
  • Pinch off any flowers, small fruit, new shoots, and suckers. It’s too late for them to become anything. Do this now and all the plants energy will go toward ripening.

When frost is expected, try these
  • Cover the plant completely and anchor so the wind doesn’t blow it off. Use old blankets, thick plastic, or anything similar and make sure it goes all the way to the ground providing the plant with trapped warmth.
  • Harvest the tomatoes by pulling the plant from the ground and hanging it upside down in a garage or other shelter. Check often for ripe ones. 
  • Pick the pink ones and put them on the counter to ripen
  • Pick the green tomatoes and store them in a shallow tray lined with newspaper. They need 60-70 degrees and no light. The warmth ripens them not light.

  If all else fails, have a Fried Green Tomato Party! They are yummy, unhealthy, fried, and a real crowd pleaser. Here’s my recipe as taught to me by my Texas cousins. You know it’s good.

Emma Jean and Rita Jane’s Fried Green Tomatoes*

Ingredients: green tomatoes, eggs, milk, flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, vegetable oil for frying
Wash and dry the tomatoes.
Slice about ¼ inch thick.
Salt each slice on both sides and set aside.
Beat egg(s) with a splash of milk making a batter
Put cup or so of flour in a plate, pepper it a little and mix with a fork
Put cup or so of corn meal in a plate, pepper it a little and mix with a fork. I prefer Bob’s Red Mill medium or coarse ground.
Put ½ inch of good vegetable oil in skillet. An iron skillet is the best. Heat to 350 degrees or a good frying temperature. You may have to discard the oil and add new if you are frying a lot of the tomatoes.
Dip salted tomato slices into flour, then into egg mixture, then into cornmeal.
Plop in the skillet and brown both sides.
*Quantities in this recipe depend on the number of tomato slices you are frying. It’s a very forgiving recipe.

Good with a nice chardonnay or cold beer of choice!