After several nights of hard frost, tomato growers who didn’t cover their plants are finding green tomatoes falling from the now shriveled vines. The tomato season in Maine, it seems, has come to an abrupt and early close. But before you toss those unripe tomatoes in disappointment, know there are many ways you can use them.
How to ripen green tomatoes at home
If you simply must have sweet red tomatoes, you can encourage green tomatoes that have begun the ripening process, or started to “blush,” to finish ripening indoors. Leave the tomatoes in a relatively warm or sunny spot, or put them in a paper bag rolled or cinched at the top. This will trap the ethylene, a plant hormone naturally produced by ripening fruit, that will encourage ripening. You can even add a high-ethylene producing fruit like an apple or banana to the bag to make green tomatoes ripen even faster.
If your tomatoes are decidedly green and unripe, you can still use them in various (and delicious) ways in the kitchen.
From left (clockwise): Green tomato pie; fried green tomatoes; pickled green tomatoes. Credit: Sandy Oliver | BDN
Fried green tomatoes
Perhaps most traditionally, they are scrumptious fried and dipped in a spicy sauce. Fried green tomatoes can also be added to a sandwich — The Spruce Eats suggested turning your BLT into a BLFGT by doing just this. Fried green tomatoes can also replace eggplant in fried green tomato parmesan, like this one from AllRecipes.
Green tomato salsa
If you’re looking for something a little spicier, turn your green tomatoes into a punchy salsa verde using this recipe from NYT Cooking for tacos or nachos.
Green tomato chutney
For those who are into Indian food, make your green tomatoes into a tasty chutney with this recipe from Simply Recipes.
The Spruce Eats also has a recipe for delicious green tomato jam that will work especially well as an acidic balance to a sweet-and-salty cheese board.
Chow chow, a traditional Southern pickled relish, relies on tart green tomatoes. Taste of Southern has a USDA-approved chow chow recipe to can and use throughout the winter.
Green tomatoes can also be quick pickled in the refrigerator using this recipe from A Couple Cooks and used to top sandwiches or other dishes where you would normally use regular pickles or other pickled vegetables.
More green tomato condiments
If you are feeling creative, you can replace your regular refrigerator staple condiments with homemade varieties made from green tomatoes. Turn your unripe tomatoes into a relish with this recipe from A Taste of Home, or use this Better Home and Gardens recipe to make them into a tangy ketchup.
Main dishes with green tomatoes
Unripe green tomatoes can also be made into the centerpiece for a meal. This recipe for roasted green tomato basil soup in a sourdough bread bowl from Food & Wine magazine is sure to warm your stomach — and your soul — as the nights begin to cool. EatingWell magazine has a great recipe for shakshuka made with green tomatoes instead of their red counterparts. Try this recipe for pasta with green tomatoes, black olives and basil from Food & Wine magazine. For breakfast, perhaps enjoy this green tomato frittata from NYT Cooking.
Green tomatoes for dessert
Believe it or not, green tomatoes can be used for dessert, too. Unripe green tomatoes can be diced, spiced and cooked into a delicious pie . Serious Eats has a recipe for a green tomato cake, perfectly complemented with cream cheese frosting. Just like zucchini blazed the trail before it, green tomatoes can also be used to make a sweet and savory quick bread with this recipe from The Spruce Eats.
The end of the gardening season can be rife with disappointments, but the presence of green tomatoes should not be one of them. Cooking creatively with unripe green tomatoes will help you find new ways to enjoy the fruits of your labor.