What to Do with Green Tomatoes (Ripening, Cooking, Baking, and Canning!)

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Hopefully, you got lots of vine-ripened tomatoes over the summer, but now as cooler weather comes in, perhaps your tomato plants have little more than solid green fruit. If lots of rain is coming (and with it splitting and disease) or if frost is predicted, you can still make excellent use of all those green, unripe 'maters! Here's how.

Ripening Green Tomatoes Indoors

Did you know that you can easily ripen green tomatoes indoors? Just harvest them off the plant, then lay them in a single layer in a dark location. (It is temperature, not sunlight that causes tomatoes to ripen.) 

I put them inside cupboards or in shallow boxes (the type canning jars come in are ideal) in a dark room or closet. Slowly, the tomatoes will ripen. In fact, you may be even have fresh, ripe tomatoes for Christmas! These tomatoes won't taste as wonderful as vine-ripened tomatoes, but they are still much better than store bought.

Cooking and Baking with Green Tomatoes

There are also many recipes that will use up a glut of unripe green tomatoes. Here are just a handful of green tomato recipes I think are worth trying. You can find many more by visiting your favorite recipe websites:

* Green Tomato Pie (which tastes just like apple pie!)

* Green Tomato and Corn Slaw 

* Green Tomato Enchilada Sauce

* Green Tomato and Bacon Soup

* Roasted Green Tomatoes

* Green Tomato Stew

* Green Tomato Catsup 

* Green Tomato Chili

 * Green Tomato Casserole 

* Green Tomato Cake 

* Green Tomato Cornbread

* Oven or Air Fried Green Tomatoes (or traditional Fried Green Tomatoes

* Green Tomato Bread 

* Green Tomatoes Parmesan 

* Salsa Verde 

* Green Tomato Jam (not for canning; keep in the freezer or refrigerator) 

* Lacto-fermented green tomatoes

Green tomatoes ripening in a single layer.

Canning Green Tomatoes

You might be surprised to learn that there are some excellent tested safe canning recipes for unripe green tomatoes. Here are some you can find online:

* Pickled Sweet Green Tomatoes

* Green Tomatoes Mincemeat

* Green Tomato Slices

* Spiced Green Tomatoe

* Kosher Style Dilled Green Tomatoes

* Green Tomato Pie Filling 

* Green Tomato Relish  (Also Fall Garden Relish and Rummage Relish)

* Picalilli 

* Green Tomato Salsa  (See also this recipe, which was tested with unpeeled green tomatoes)

* Pickled Green Tomatoes 

* Green Tomato Catsup

Green tomatoes, fresh from harvesting.

In addition, The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving has a recipe for Thai Green Tomatoes and Green Tomato and Hot Pepper Pickles, while The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has recipes for several green tomato relishes, several green tomato pickles, green chili sauce, green tomato chutney, and salsa verde.

According to the University of Wisconsin extension office, it's also safe to substitute green tomatoes for tomatillos in tested safe canning recipes.

While millions of people have eaten green tomatoes without negative side effects, and while neither the USDA nor the Extension offices have expressed concern about canning or eating green tomatoes, Ball points out that unripe green tomatoes can contain something called solanine, which, if eaten in large quantities, can be toxic. If you want to be extra careful, Ball recommends only eating darker green tomatoes, saving pale green ones (which, they say, are higher in solanine) for off-the-vine ripening.

Finally, while not all the Extension offices tout this idea, the University of Wisconsin Extension office tells us to avoid canning tomatoes ripened off the vine because "the proper acidity may not develop." On the other hand, the USDA recommends that vine-ripened tomatoes are "preferable" for canning

Large and small quantities of unripe green tomatoes make wonderful food!


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