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Don't bemoan unripe tomatoes

Nov 5, 2013


By Nicole Montesano
Of the News-Register


Are green tomatoes lurking in your garden? You don’t have to abandon them there all forlorn; there are dozens of ways to use them.

I sometimes forget to check our website for comments and so I missed one in late September, pointing this out. The commenter had put up several quarts of green tomato mincemeat, which I’ve never tried, and said it was delicious.

I’ve meant to try it because it really does sound good, but the window of opportunity closed last year, with the discovery of brining.

Brining, as one does for pickles and sauerkraut — often called lacto-fermentation — has been enjoying a renaissance. As usual, I was late to the party and debated whether to go at all, being of a fairly anti-social bent.

Still, people kept talking, and writing, about how great a party it was, and how great the food was, and eventually persuaded me to go.

Specifically, I ran across a blog post singing the praises of salty, crunchy green tomatoes spiced with fennel and garlic and doused in olive oil. This was not to be passed up. We procured a pickling crock and commenced fermenting. Well, I did. My spouse raised his eyebrows and said something like, “Hmm.”

But the blog poster was correct. Brined tomatoes are good. Really, really good, and now running out is a sad occasion.

And so passed the days of thinking up ways to use up green tomatoes at the end of the season. Now, I start eyeing them well ahead of time, hoping there will be enough left unripe to make a good-sized batch. There usually aren’t enough left to do anything else.

A number of pickling recipes call for green tomatoes, with a wide variety of flavors and textures. My brined ones are not canned but are kept in the refrigerator to keep their texture crunchy. This takes up a lot of refrigerator room, but is well worth it.

But there are other ways to use green and partly green tomatoes — lots of them. For one thing, you can ripen them indoors. But it’s a shame not to use at least some of them green, when there are so many good recipes.

Fried, of course, is a classic, as is the above-mentioned mincemeat. There’s also salsa verde, usually made with tomatillos, but green tomatoes could certainly be substituted. In fact, Ball Preserving has a canning recipe doing just that, available at www.freshpreserving.com. Look it up, and make frugal, tasty use of that unripened garden produce.

Green and half-ripe tomatoes make a fine sauce as well, although because green tomatoes are more acidic than red ones, depending on your tastes, a sauce with a high proportion of green ones may want a pinch of sugar. Or two.

You can make them into green ketchup, or a tangy relish, or put them in a savory curry, or eat them in a boat, or eat them on a float — sorry, seem to be channeling Dr. Seuss. However, the point is that there is no shortage of recipes delicious enough to make you hope for a lot of green tomatoes in the garden. Enjoy.

Contact Nicole Montesano at nmontesano@newsregister.com.

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