A vote for green tomatoes

I did not expect so much reaction to this week’s feature: “What Now?”.

The story idea came from a reader who said she, like many others in Southwest Colorado, had green tomatoes to spare. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to tell readers what they could do with them? Shirley Ivey had recipes to share, she said.

One of the comments I received the day after the feature ran was from a retired Mississippi college professor. Here’s what he wrote:

In Praise of the Green Tomato

[Prompted by the “Now What” article by Karen Brucoli Anesi Oct 24, 2012, The Durango Herald]

I, too, have a problem getting my tomatoes to ripen, but for a very different reason. They simply don’t have a chance! As soon as they are large enough, they are picked and fried! Fried green tomatoes are an art. Why else would they have been immortalized by having a novel named after them Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café: A Novel by Fannie Flagg. My reaction to Janet Kenna’s comment in your article is a typical Southern one: Bless her heart, she just doesn’t know what she is missing – but then Illinois – she is a Yankee!

I grew up on fried greens in Southwest Missouri, but when I found myself teaching at a university in Mississippi, I discovered I was in fried green tomato heaven! There are as many recipes for fried greens as there are cooks and I think I found the best in Mississippi. It was there that I fashioned my own recipe, which is very similar to Elsa Siapno’s. However, while I also don’t measure with preciseness, I generally follow a 4 parts corn meal to 1 part flour – the flour helps the corn meal to adhere to the tomatoes. I then add a very healthy handful of Cajun Seasoning – probably about 2 tablespoons, a bit of salt and a bit more of black pepper and mix. The sliced tomatoes go into a heavy egg mixture (with just a bit of milk to break down the eggs) and then into the hot grease – not too hot to cook quickly and burn, but hot enough that the tomatoes begin to turn golden in just a short time. Again, don’t crowd your pan – a big, black cast iron one, of course!

If company is a comin’ then I serve them on a lettuce leaf and sprinkle generously with crumbled feta cheese – a trick I learned in New Orleans. One of the greatest compliments that I have ever received was from Mrs. P of Columbus, Mississippi. Mrs. P is the epitome of the gracious, old fashioned Southern lady. I decided to pack up my skillet and take it to a church supper and prepare my fried green tomatoes there so they could be served hot. After the event was over, Mrs. P came up to me and said: Dahctah Seney,[southern for doctor] Ah do declare, Ah do believe tha’ yur fried greens are better than mine! A moment in my life that I will never forget.

While fried greens are stock and trade, it is not unusual to be able to order at the more discriminating restaurants in the South fried yellows, fried oranges, and even fried reds. But for my taste, the more ripe they become the more mushy and in my opinion less taste. I am currently experimenting by freezing sliced fried green tomatoes to satisfy my craze for this delectable treat when the winter snows come, a hint just recently received from a friend.

I was happy to see the other uses for green tomatoes listed in your article. In the South, the substitution for green apples is very common from pies to jams and in fact, I love green tomato pie. There is a restaurant just outside of Beaumont, Texas that has a fresh pickled green tomato relish on their salad buffet. They won’t share the recipe and so far my efforts have not matched their goodness, but I keep trying. In addition, there is an Arkansas company, Old South, producing Tomolives. These are small pickled green tomatoes that are processed very much like olives. They are great on the relish tray and especially good in place of an olive in a martini. Think I will go pop one in my mouth now.

One last anecdote. Upon my retirement from Mississippi University for Women and my subsequent move to Durango, hungering for fried greens, I was in one of our grocery establishments. A young man was stocking tomatoes in the produce department. I asked him if he ever stocked green tomatoes. He looked at me with a funny expression on his face and responded: Why? That poor deprived young man! Thanks again, for your article. Hope we hear more about green tomatoes. Perhaps, we should have a “fry-off!” Hope to meet you sometime.

Bob Seney

Professor emeritus

Mississippi University for Women



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