With the height of your summer harvest finally dying down and the dreaded first frost looming, what do you do with all of those still-green tomatoes left on the vine? Here are a few ways to enjoy that homegrown goodness a little bit longer…

Fried Green Tomatoes

Can’t wait for your entire harvest to turn red? Fried green tomatoes makes a delicious fall treat!

Photo Credit: Jennifer D. Rizzo

Tomato Covering

When temps start to dip, covering your tomato plants with a sheet in the evening can help keep an early frost from damaging the plants and fruit. (Remove the sheet during the day.)

Photo Credit: Jennifer D. Rizzo

Greenies On The Vine

To increase the taste and nutritional value of your tomatoes, leave your still-green fruit on the vine as long as you can before temperatures consistently drop below 50 degrees F.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Tomato Reads Newspaper

Wrap your harvested green tomatoes in black and white newspaper and keep them in an ordinary cardboard box. Check them on a regular basis for ripeness, discarding any that show signs of rotting.

Photo Credit: Jennifer D. Rizzo

The easiest route is to give your “greenies” a little more time on the vine by covering the entire plant with a sheet or tarp at night and uncovering it for the sunny, warm fall days. This works best for those borderline tomatoes (the ones that are almost pink) until the temperature dips below 50 degrees F. When it falls under 50 degrees, the fruit will stop ripening altogether and it’s time to take another approach.

One option is to pull the entire plant out of the ground and hang it upside down from the ceiling in a room slightly on the cool and dark side (such as a basement) with the tomatoes still attached. Check the fruit every few days for rotting or spoiling as they ripen. If this method takes up too much space, or if you just don’t have a place indoors to ripen your tomatoes like this, all hope is not lost!

You can also pick all of your green tomatoes from the vine and wrap them in black and white newspaper. Place the fruit in an ordinary cardboard box and check their ripeness every few days. (I keep mine in the kitchen where it’s easy to take daily peeks.) I’ve had ripe tomatoes until Thanksgiving this way – and the best part is that many of my neighbors don’t want to bother forcing their fruits to ripen, so I get all of their green tomatoes, too! When you unwrap the fruit to check on ripeness, don’t just inspect the color – look for any signs of spoiling or rotting, and immediately throw away those that are starting to go bad. (They can go downhill fast.)

But the yummiest way to treat your green tomatoes is to eat them! A classic southern specialty, fried green tomatoes is a delicious way to enjoy the unripe fruits of your labor. My family makes ours a northern specialty by using Italian bread crumbs instead of the typical cornmeal or flour. Here’s how:

Northern Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • About 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of milk
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your frying pan)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

  1. Make an egg dip by beating the 2 eggs in a bowl.
  2. Pour the milk in a separate bowl.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. While it’s heating, slice your green tomatoes, then dip each slice in the following order: first milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs.
  4. Carefully fry your dipped slices on medium in the olive oil until the coating on the tomatoes is golden brown on each side and the tomatoes get a green translucent look. (Note: Always use every safety precaution when frying with hot oil, and keep an extinguisher handy.)

When they’re ready, remove the tomatoes from the pan and place them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and to cool. (They’ll be very hot!) Salt and pepper to taste and continue to enjoy your late harvest – while your neighbors go back to buying those tasteless tomatoes from the supermarket.