Green tomatoes are one of those garden products that you wouldn’t think has much use. They don’t look appetizing, and they aren’t ripe, and they haven’t developed all their best nutrients, so what do you do with them? I had no idea until this year, and this year I’ve got a few ideas for using green tomatoes up my sleeve!
One super cool thing about living in Southern California is that we don’t only have one growing season between first and last frost. We can keep growing things, and the time between the frosts is pretty short. This means that plants like tomatoes will produce for much longer than in most other areas of the United States.
Why Use Green Tomatoes?
If you are gardening in Southern California (zone 9) or an area that has a longer growing season, you may notice that there are times in the season when plant growth virtually explodes with new foliage and fruit. When that happens, what often comes with it are hornworms, which can easily hide in the branches of all of that lovely new growth and make very quick work of decimating all that new, lovely foliage.
To avoid that, pruning back tomato plants is a good bet, and sometimes that means removing whole branches laden with fruit. It can feel scary to do that because the logic is to wait until all the fruit ripens so that that all those green tomatoes will not be going to waste. Nope! You don’t have to worry, prune away! We have plans to make these green tomatoes stars on our plates with just a few ingredients!
What Are Some Ideas for Using Green Tomatoes?
There are lots of things you can do with green tomatoes! Brilliant people all around the internet have created and shared recipes for us to try using our early harvested green tomatoes! Here are a few examples of what is out there:
Exciting, huh? I think so, especially with the boatload of green tomatoes I harvested this year!
Pickled Green Tomatoes with Garlic and Jalapenos
This is one of the recipes that I am making this year to use up my green tomatoes. It’s basically a riff off my fermented garlic dill pickles recipe that I was using back when I was knee-deep in cucumbers, and oh man, was it good to have nice, cold, crunchy pickles in my fridge whenever I wanted them. Not to mention, they are so healthy! Here’s how what you’ll need, and the instructions to make them.
quart mason jars, as many as you think you will need
lids and bands, or plastic mason jar lids
glass fermenting weights, or you can use regular mouth lids (if you get the fermenting weights, it comes with a free silicone fermenting lid you can try)
green (or other colored) unripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, or 2 tsp. minced
1 Tb dill seed, or 2-3 fresh dill heads
3 Tbsp. fine sea salt (I actually use pink himalayan salt)
1 quart water (filtered is a better choice, but tap will work)
Make salt brine. Add 3 Tbsp fine sea salt to a qt. of warm water. Stir until dissolved. I like to make this the day before, but if you can’t, warm water will help the salt dissolve. I sometimes make a quart and save what I don’t use in the fridge for next time I make pickles.
Pack tomatoes in jars. I am packing mine whole, but if you’d like to use them like hamburger dills on your burgers and sandwiches, you can slice them up before you pack them into your jars.
Fill the jar with tomatoes, leaving 1″ headspace. Leaving the headspace is important especially if you use a glass weight, but it is best practice to have space for the water to cover the tomatoes completely, and have room to add a jar lid to keep them under the water.
Add the dill seed and garlic. I usually use 1T dill seed and 2 crushed garlic cloves (or 2 tsp minced) per pint jar, but you can experiment with these amounts according to your family’s personal preferences.
Add the salt brine. How much you actually use really depends on how much space is left in the jar. Add enough to cover the vegetables, then set the regular mouth lid on top of the veggies, unless you are using a glass weight. Check every day to make sure the vegetables aren’t poking out of the water, because mold could form and ruin your whole jar of pickles. This is where using a glass weight is super convenient.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Leave the jar on your kitchen counter for 3-7 days. Don’t be concerned if bubbles form, and if your tomatoes do not remain those beautiful vibrant greens, yellows, and oranges that they are on the first day. Their colors will dull, which is normal. Usually the fermentation time is 3 days for me in the summer, but now that we are into cooler temperatures (but not cold), I’ll do 5 days. I the winter time, when it’s much colder in the house, I’ll do 7 days.