Thursday, October 9, 2008

What to Do With Green Tomatoes

Forecasted low for tomorrow night is 25 last I looked, so I was out in the garden again today trying to pick/dig/store most everything that a hard freeze will harm. One of my local readers emailed, asking what to do with all her green tomatoes (a very likely occurrence around here - forget growing Brandywine or Beefsteaks; we're lucky to get vine-ripened Early Girls). I picked just about all my tomatoes five days ago. I break away all the stems as I pick them, as those can puncture the other tomatoes, leaving holes and bruises that will rot instead of ripen. I leave the hard, little green ones, with an almost frosty white look to them - they won't ripen and aren't big enough to do much else with (don't really care to pickle them). But any green tomato close to full size, especially with darker green shadowing on the top part, is easy to ripen indoors.

The paste tomatoes I want to ripen quickly, so I can get them processed and out of my way. Some say to pull up entire plants and hang them upside down (say, in the garage) to ripen green tomatoes. That's too messy. When the tomatoes get ripe, they'll fall and splatter. And forget the old-timers advice to wrap each green tomato in newspaper - too time-consuming and too hard to see when they're ripe. The best way I've found is to spread out an old shower curtain or other piece of plastic, then spread the green and orangy ones out in one layer. Then, cover them all with a couple layers of newspapers. This traps the ethylene gas, same way the old-timers' wrapping method did, but it's so much easier to just lift the paper to pull out the ripe ones. Top photo shows my paste tomatoes five days ago, on the table that just fits over my guest room bed. Lower photo shows them today, after five days under the newspapers. The red ones, I'll can whole in a day or so; the orange ones will be ready for a batch of sauce in a few more days, and the ones green now will be ready for second batch of sauce not long after that. Within two weeks, I've got my sewing/crafting table back, and a full pantry!

The green Early Girls I want to ripen slowly, so I can have fresh slicing tomatoes as long as possible. I've got them on a tray down in the cooler cellar. It's about 50 degrees down there now - cooler than in the house, but not as cold as the refrigerator. Refrigerating fresh whole tomatoes wipes out just about all the taste, so I never do that, but the cellar is cool enough to let them ripen slowly. I can eat fresh tomatoes until early December. Maybe your house has a cooler closet, or a spot under the bed that would work for you.

Of course, you can always make Fried Green Tomatoes (firm red ones will work too). Slice tomatoes, 1/2" thick, and dredge them in flour with a bit of salt and sugar added. Brown the slices in a bit of butter or oil until crisp (to be authentically Southern about it, you'd use bacon grease), turning them only once. Keep cooked slices warm in a dish in a warm oven. When all the tomatoes are cooked, gradually pour some milk into the frying pan, stirring constantly to make "gravy". Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the cooked tomatoes. Serve right away, before the tomatoes get soggy.


Nancy M. said...

Wow! That's a lot of tomatoes you have! Thanks for the advice about how to ripen them.

By the way, your bed is so pretty!

Kathi D said...

This is exactly the advice I needed today! I picked all my tomatoes on Saturday, and separated the green, the ripe, and the coloring-ups, and since then they have been sitting on my kitchen table while I wonder what to do with them.


Carolyn said...

I made pickled green tomatoes and green tomato hodge podge with our green tomatoes.

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