Fried Green Tomatoes (or not)

This Paul Robeson tomato could have stayed on the vine another day or two if the vine hadn't broken off.

A friend, clearly not a gardener, asked for this recipe in the summer.

“Are you nuts?” I said.

“No self respecting gardener sacrifices a good tomato to make fried green tomatoes in the summer!”

Fried green tomatoes are fall food. They are what you do with tomatoes that haven’t ripened by the first killer frost of the season.

This friend was an Eastern Transplant, not familiar with Midwest or Southern culture and cuisine. I also had to introduce him to tomato sandwiches this year. “You mean without bacon?,” he said with trepidation.

When vines are too heavy with multiple tomatoes, it is better to pick a few while still green, rather than risk a broken vine and losing all the tomatoes.

Prepare fried green tomatoes like you do fried Okra. Slice, dip in a milk and egg wash and then in cornmeal or flour.

Uncle Ed says, “Well you know how to fry catfish, don’t cha? Well it’s the same thing, dip the tomato slices in milk and eggs. Then pat fish fry mix (four, cornmeal, salt, pepper) on both sides”. Then deep fry, pan fry, or, oven “fry”

A heavy tomato vine, loaded with tomatoes, broke off in a storm.

The cafe in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is modeled after Irondale Cafe in Birmingham, AL. Novelist Fannie Flagg said her great-aunt operated Irondale Cafe for almost 40 years.

If it weren’t for the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, I believe this recipe would have remained a Southern delicacy. Just like fried pie.

There are two reasons a home cook prepares Fried Green Tomatoes.

  1. At the height of summer tomato production, some tomatoes are removed from the plant to keep the weight of the tomatoes from breaking the vine. (Not that I am bragging, but I had to do this twice this summer.)
  2. At the end of the tomato season, just before the first frosts hit the garden, all tomatoes are picked. Any tomatoes with a hint of color will be left to ripen slowly on the counter. Then, “waste not want not” happens. The most popular way of using up green tomatoes are fried green tomatoes, and green tomato relish.
sliced tomatoes

Insalata caprese (literally, the salad from Capri)

If I can have this: garden temperature juicy ripe tomatoes in a Tomato and Mozzarella Salad,

I’ll choose it everytime over fried green tomatoes.

These are heirloom tomatoes, Red: Paul Robeson and Yellow: Gold Medal

 

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