The Underrated Swap To Boost Fresh Tomato Dishes

If you've spent any time in the South, then you may be familiar with fried green tomatoes. This wonderfully popular dish has a signature tart flavor that is quite different from that of a ripe red tomato. It's not as common to cook with green tomatoes outside of frying them, but we're here to tell you that this is a missed opportunity. If you're making fresh tomato dishes like garden salads, Caprese salads, bruschetta, or even a pasta salad, then you might want to consider swapping out your traditional red tomatoes for green tomatoes. 

When you think of green tomatoes, you might be thinking about one of two types of green tomato options, and spoiler alert: Neither is a tomatillo. The first option is the green heirloom tomato, a ripe tomato that has a green color. The second option is an unripe red tomato picked off the vine while still green. Both of these options are delicious and can be used in place of ripe red tomatoes, but they each have a unique texture and flavor.

When to use which

What you're choosing to make will best determine which type of green tomato you should use. If you are going to be frying green tomatoes, you'll want to use the unripe red type, which is the most common technique. These tomatoes are firmer, crisper, less juicy, and have a more tart, acidic flavor. Green heirloom tomatoes that have ripened are softer and more juicy, so they'll be harder to fry. But when it comes to swapping green tomatoes in your fresh tomato dishes, you get to pick which you want based on texture, flavor, and perhaps even availability. 

If you're going to be swapping green tomatoes for a simple Caprese salad, then you might be more inclined to use a ripened green heirloom tomato. This way, your tomato slices will be tender and juicy and will pair well with the slices of fresh mozzarella. If you're making a pasta salad with vegetables and want to add a bit of acidic crunch, then a green tomato is perfect since its texture is somewhere between a ripe tomato and a bell pepper. For garden salads, you could use either or both, depending on if you want a soft ripe tomato or a crisper, tart one. If you're growing red tomatoes at home, you can experiment with picking them at different stages of ripeness and see which you like best. Give green tomatoes a try, and you may never go back to the red ones again.