Red is good. Yellow is even better. But by far my favorite tomatoes are green, as in not fully ripe.
In fact, farmers at my local market are often surprised when I negotiate with them early in the season.
“I’ll pay you red tomato prices if you’ll pick some for me when they’re green,” I say.
Tomatoes — from Brandywine to Cherokee purple to sungold cherry — are the summer’s biggest seller at my local farmer’s market. While some market vendors and even supermarket managers have started stocking the unripe fruits, most are loath to pick them green. That’s a shame.
To me, the fried green tomato is better than fresh tomato sauce, better even than the traditional tomato sandwich (white bread, Duke’s brand mayonnaise and thick slices of yellow or red tomatoes). In fact, green tomatoes served on a fresh buttermilk biscuit is one of the world’s best sandwiches.
But I didn’t always think that. The first time I saw my neighbor’s mom serve the green tomato biscuit for supper, I thought I’d stumbled into a foreign country. Cut me a little slack; I was 8 years old and for some reason, my family never served fried green tomatoes. Silly family.
Today fried green tomatoes served with greens or fried potatoes and some fresh cornbread makes one of my favorite summertime suppers. The tangy sweetness contrasted by the crunchy crust makes them irresistible and in my house we eat them from spring until late fall.
They became a staple in my kitchen in 1991, after the release of the movie of the same name. Go ahead and laugh, but I was so taken with the movie, I bought not only the companion novel, but also the cookbook. It’s actually a pretty good overview of traditional Southern cooking.
But, it like many other recipes you’ll find for fried green tomatoes, makes too big a production out of this simple dish, calling for an egg batter and sometimes even deep frying. My friends down at Universal Restaurant make them perfectly, although going to a restaurant, you will pay more than you would making them at home, none the less, you can get an idea of how they are meant to taste before hitting the adventure yourself.
So ask your local farmer, your tomato growing fanatic gardener neighbor or even your supermarket produce manager to get you some green tomatoes — better yet, grow your own and enjoy the bounty all season.