The weather is cooling down as we approach October, which brings the first frost and cooler temperatures that keep tomatoes from developing flavor and ripening to full loveliness. You already know you’re not supposed to put tomatoes in the refrigerator—so why would you leave them out in the garden when it’s as cold as the fridge?
It’s time to start thinking about what to do with all of the green tomatoes that aren’t going to make it outside.
Ripen them indoors
If you have a basement, insulated garage or other cool-but-not-cold space, rip the plants up by the roots and let the tomatoes continue to ripen on the withering vines. This is supposed to help preserve and develop flavor. I’m too lazy to do this even if I had a basement, but if you don’t mind the mess, what do you have to lose?
Wrap it up
Another option is to take your green tomatoes and wrap them individually in newspaper and put them in a few layers in a milk crate or cardboard box. Put the box in that cool place or a closet or wherever you can stash them inside. If you nestle an apple in the box there it will help the tomatoes ripen. They’ll keep this way for weeks, sometimes months, and you’ll have miracle tomatoes long after your neighbors are eating Ragu. I’ve done this with great success. They don’t all ripen and they don’t all taste great but they’re still your awesome tomatoes, which are always going to be better than anything you can get at the store.
If you don’t have tons of green tomatoes you can also just leave them on the counter where you can see them. Most of them will eventually turn red. Just be patient.
Variety is the spice of life
If you grew slicing tomatoes and paste tomatoes, try to eat the slicing ones first. Brandywine tomatoes you pull out of your garage in November may not look pretty enough for a BLT but Romas will still make a killer sauce—even if you add green ones, too!
It’s easy being green
Green tomatoes have a remarkable ability to taste like almost anything else. Think about making a green gazpacho, putting red and green tomatoes in ratatouille, adding green tomatoes to your panzanella or any kind of salsa.
Green Tomato Jam
Makes 5 half-pints
If you haven’t canned before, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation online for great advice, including adjustments for altitude. You’ll have to boil everything longer, and try not to kill people with botulism since it would put a real crimp in your canning future.
You can make this jam plain, just with the lemon, but it is improved with something a little sexier, like vanilla, ginger, cinnamon—and/or roasted, peeled and chopped green chile.
- 3 pounds green tomatoes
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds and pod (optional)
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger (optional)
- 2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
- Core and dice the tomatoes. In a large mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla, ginger or cinnamon. Let the mixture sit on the counter for a few hours.
- In a big, heavy bottomed pot over low heat, cook the tomatoes until they’re translucent and the juice has reduced and thickened.
- Fish out the vanilla bean if you used it. Then ladle the mixture into sterilized jars and process according to the recommendations for your altitude.
Green tomato pie
- 1 double pie crust
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons instant tapioca
- 4 cups thinly sliced tomatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup milk
- Prepare the pie crusts and chill the disks of dough for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and tapioca.
- Add the tomatoes, lemon zest and lemon juice and toss to combine.
- Roll out one of the disks of dough until it’s a little less than 12 inches in diameter. Gently lift it into the pie plate.
- Fill it with the tomato mixture.
- Roll out the second disk and arrange it over the top of the pie, fold the edges of the top crust over the bottom, tuck them in and crimp them. Cut vent holes in the top crust.
- Put the pie on a baking sheet that will catch any stray drips.
- Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar (if desired).
- Bake the pie 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes longer, until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.
- Allow the pie to rest and cool before you slice it. Try to pretend it’s not a weird green inside.