When life gives you green tomatoes and apples … BAKE!
So … we had frost and … we have lots of green tomatoes. And our apple trees keep dropping apples. Fall is here! The weather is cooler, so turning on the oven is a pleasure. It’s a great time for baking.
These two fruits — yes, tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable — actually go very well together. The tomatoes add a tart bite to the sweetness of the apples. Combine them to make green tomato mincemeat. Bake them in a pie or crisp. Bake a cake, quick bread or muffins.
Green tomatoes have little resemblance to the sweet, juicy ripe fruit we add to salads of fresh greens and use for sauce. They are hard and tart. But cooking softens them and mellows their flavor.
Green tomatoes were a Southern secret until the 1990s. That’s when the movie, “Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” based on the book by Fannie Flagg, hit the theaters. Suddenly, everyone was making fried green tomatoes – not just folks in Alabama. Because they’re firm, slices can easily be coated with cornmeal or flour and fried. The sweet, crunchy coating moderates the sharp, tangy flavor.
This traditional side dish from the southeastern United States uses unripe tomatoes that are sauted with onions, garlic and other seasonings. It is usually served as a side with grilled meat, but you can add the fried green tomatoes to a salad of fresh greens. You can stir them into a flavorful soup with ham. Or add them to fritters for an extra bite — the tart tomatoes add punch to sweet corn, collards or okra.
It has always seemed strange to me that green tomatoes were a southern specialty. Down south the growing season is long … why would they have green tomatoes? In the north, on the other hand, frost kills off tomato plants each fall, leaving gardeners with lots of green tomatoes.
Like the ripe red, yellow or orange fruit, green tomatoes are rich in fiber and antioxidants. They contain vitamin C, vitamin K and beta-carotene, as well as important minerals: calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Unfortunately, some of the vitamin C is destroyed by heat when you bake them.
Be sure to cook them. Raw green tomatoes contain solanine, an alkaloid toxin. But you would have to eat lots of them at once to have adverse side effects.
Apples are a traditional fall favorite — and famous for their health benefits. We have all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” They’re high in fiber — so eating an apple as an appetizer can help you feel full and eat less. In addition to fiber, apples are a good source of important antioxidants and flavonoids — plant substances that help to remove free radical molecules, fight inflammation, and hold back cancer. Quercetin, one flavonoid found in apples, helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration. It is also effective in controlling asthma and acid reflux disorder.
Apples are traditional for baking: pies, crisps, breads, apple betty … nothing compares to the sweet fragrance of baking apples! So warm up the house and make it smell delicious — but add a few green tomatoes to your baked apple treats!
If you want a main dish rather than a dessert or sweet treat, try the gratin recipe.
Although the tomato seeds seem like a dead giveaway, no one I served this to realized there was anything other than apples in here.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup flour (I used 1/4 cup each whole wheat and all-purpose)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 – 1 cup rolled oats
3 medium apples (about 2 – 3 cups sliced)
Several green cherry or larger tomatoes (about 1 – 2 cups chopped)
1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375F.
Butter 9” x 9″ baking dish.
Melt the butter.
Make the crumble topping:
In bowl combine flour(s), sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted butter and stir. Stir in oats.
Peel, core and slice or chop apples and combine with tomatoes.
Spread fruit on bottom of prepared baking dish. Drizzle with maple syrup or honey and spread the crumble topping over the fruit.
Bake 35 – 45 minutes, until golden on top.
Cinnamon-Oatmeal muffins with apples and green tomatoes
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (regular or Greek-style)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup butter
2 / 3 to 3/4 cup chopped green tomatoes
2/3 to 3/4 cup (about 1 large apple) apples – core and wash, but no need to peel.
In bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Break egg into another bowl. Add apple cider and sour cream or yogurt (not a nonfat yogurt).
Combine dry and wet ingredients and still until moistened. Stir in the oats. Melt butter and stir in.
Wash and core apples; chop to make 2 / 3 – 3/4 cup. Wash and chop the tomatoes. Stir into the batter. You can add some walnuts or raisins, too, if you want.
Place in prepared muffin cups (butter muffin tin or use paper liners). Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Note: You can bake this in a loaf pan as a sweet bread.
Green tomato gratin
3 – 5 slices bacon
1 or 2 slices bread or rolls (1 cup soft bread crumbs)
1 large onion
1 or 2 medium or large green tomatoes (depending on size)
1 or 2 apples (depending on size)
1 – 2 cups diced cooked ham
1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Cook bacon to crisp. Remove to drain on paper towels.
In small bowl, pour 2 Tablespoons bacon grease over the bread crumbs; stir to combine and set aside.
Prepare round or square casserole dish by buttering with some bacon fat.
Peel onion and slice into rings. Add to skillet bacon cooked in. Cook 3 – 5 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Peel the apples. If you have a corer, remove and core into rings. If not, cut into quarters and slice.
Place half the apples on the bottom. Top with half the ham, then half of the tomatoes and half the onions. Sprinkle with about a third of the cheese. Crumble in all the bacon. Repeat layers in reverse: onions, tomatoes, ham, apples. Top with remaining cheese, then sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.
Bake about 40 minutes for tomatoes and apples to soften and cheese to melt.
Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.