Your Plan vs. Reality: Making the Most of Your Green Tomato Harvest

Your plan:

  1. Order organic heirloom tomato seeds online.
  2. Tuck tiny tomato seeds into a seed-starting soil mix indoors in the spring.
  3. Nurture them with a warming mat and a grow light over the next eight weeks until they’re big enough to plant outside.
  4. Provide plenty of water and fertilizer.
  5. Enjoy hearty, juicy tomatoes all summer long.

Reality:

  1. Realize in late July that tomato season is upon you.
  2. Snag the last remaining tomato starts at the nursery.
  3. Plant hastily, water liberally, cross fingers tightly, and hope for the best.

We’ve all been there. Timing is everything when planting tomatoes – especially here in the Pacific Northwest – and sometimes the clock (and the warm weather) runs out before all our tomatoes have had a chance to ripen. By early fall, we envision harvesting the last of a bounty of ruby red fruits bursting with flavor. Instead, we’re left with green globes hanging on tightly to withering stalks.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to put those unripe tomatoes to use.

  1. Ripen them indoors. The jury’s out when it comes to the success of ripening tomatoes indoors, but many swear by the banana-in-a-bag method. This post gives some tips for best results.
  2. Make a green tomato salsa. Bitter, you say? Not when you char your tomatoes first, like this recipe for Green Tomato Salsa Verde The end result is delicious served with tortilla chips, added to scrambled eggs or stirred into a spicy bean soup.
  3. Fry them up. Well, not really. We know how messy that can get. This Baked Fried Green Tomato recipe shows you how to get that fried green tomatoes taste by baking instead. The crispy rounds serve up nicely with a spicy aioli: this dipper gets its kick from sriracha sauce.
  4. Get pickled for the holidays. If you have the gear for canning, making these Sweet and Tangy Green Tomato Pickles (think bread-and-butter pickles) may be right up your alley. Canning takes time (and a little know-how when it comes to prepping the jars) but the payout is great: jars of preserves that you can enjoy well into winter – or give as homemade gifts this holiday season.

With frosty mornings upon us, it’s crucial to pick your green tomatoes soon. Tomatoes that have seen too many nippy mornings can become mushy and unusable. At that point, it’s time to cut your losses and send your vines – and those hangers on – to the compost bin.

But don’t worry. There’s always next year…

 

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Image by icefront

Sheila Cain

A lifelong Washingtonian, Sheila Cain writes about everything from technology and architecture to food and the outdoors. She lives in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood with her husband, son, dog and three cats.