Traditional Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

I’ve been told that it is it possible to grow tomatoes in the springtime in Louisiana and then to plant another crop in the fall. I love ripe tomatoes and two crops a year seems like a gardener’s dream. But being somewhat an unbeliever, I decided to prove this for myself in September by setting out a large number of tomatoes seedlings. The experiment turned out to be partially successful. Here is some of my autumn tomato crop.I did grow tomatoes; but these were not the large, juicy, ripe summer tomatoes that I love so much. Instead I ended up with small red tomatoes and plenty of green tomatoes.

What can you make with green tomatoes? I’ve seen several appetizers for “Fried Green Tomatoes” on restaurant menus lately;  a true Southern dish. The appetizers are always very pricey; they are usually served with crab meat or sauteed shrimp and a sauce. I decided to make the recipe myself and I served my “Fried Green Tomatoes” with a traditional New Orleans’ Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

The fried tomato recipe turned out very well; I’m proud of it. The tomatoes are as good or better than any restaurant variation. The fried green tomatoes are tart, no sweetness whatsoever, just a pleasant taste along with the spicy cornmeal breading.

How to Grow Tomatoes in the Fall in Louisiana

After this experiment, I probably won’t grow tomatoes in the fall again. And I am sure that this topic is boring to most folks; so I moved this section to the end of the blog where you can see how I planted my tomato seedlings; follow the growth of my tomatoes and meet my dachshunds. In the meantime, here’s my recipe for “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  It is actually quite easy; especially if you follow these instructions. 

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

Although the recipe for “Fried Green Tomatoes” is a very traditional Southern one; I never ate it when growing up. Any left over green tomatoes were made into chutney. And I haven’t really seen this dish on restaurant menus until recently. It is a current trend.

“Fried Green Tomatoes” are made with unripened green tomatoes, very firm ones. They are thinly sliced and then fried in a seasoned cornmeal breading. The green tomatoes have a tart flavor and taste, totally different from ripened tomatoes.  Once picked, green tomatoes continue to ripen and turn red; perhaps adding to the restaurant menu item cost. It  just doesn’t work to use these partially ripened tomatoes or tomatoes with any red color. The taste is totally different–and I tried it, so I can attest to this.

I used one pound of green tomatoes or eight of these small ones; most recipes called for three large, green tomatoes. I doesn’t matter; use what is available (just don’t use the red ones). I sliced these tomatoes about 3/8″ thick. Some restaurants slice the tomatoes so thin that all you taste is the breading. At 1/2′ thick, the tomatoes won’t cook completely. So try to keep between this–it depends on the size of the tomato.

My cornmeal breading and breading technique is very simple. Nice surprise! I mixed equal parts of very fine cornmeal and all-purpose flour and added seasonings of salt, garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. And you don’t need a heavy batter of eggs and buttermilk. The breading for fried green tomatoes should be very “light”. We are not making fritters here.

I dipped the tomato slices (don’t use the red ones) in skim milk to dampen the tomatoes so the breading would stick. Then I dipped both sides in the seasoned cornmeal/flour mixture and let the excess slide off. The slices set on a wire rack for 10 minutes or so to rest.

Meanwhile, I added about 1/8 inch of oil to a very heavy skillet and heated over medium high heat to shimmering but not smoking. Use peanut, corn or canola oil — olive oil will burn. About 1/2 of the tomato slices fit in the skillet. You must adjust the heat of the oil; the breading shouldn’t burn and the tomato slices should nicely brown over several minutes. Turn the tomatoes over to cook on the other side; move them around in the skillet; if necessary turn the slices over again. Take the skillet off the stove for a few minutes if too hot.

IF you use a heavy skillet, once the heat is adjusted correctly, you shouldn’t have to turn the heat up or down too much. And using these instructions the breading should nicely stick to the tomatoes and the tomatoes should cook through.

After the slices are nice and browned, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Continue to fry additional tomatoes, adding more oil as needed and adjusting the heat until all are fried.

Arrange on a serving platter and serve. I placed the tomato slices on lettuce leaves and served with Remoulade Sauce, but a Ranch Dressing would taste great, too. Often seafood such as shrimp or crab meat is served with this appetizer.  Remember, green tomatoes have a tart flavor; no sweetness like a ripened tomato. They are very tasty and somewhat addictive. Surprise and impress your guests. Enjoy!

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 lb firm, green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup skim milk
  • oil for frying such as peanut, corn or canola oil
  • garnish such as shredded lettuce; dipping sauce such as Ranch or Remoulade Sauce

Method and Steps

  1. Wash and drain tomatoes; cut off stems and ends; slice into about 3/8 inch crosswise slices, depending on size of tomato. Set aside.
  2. In medium bowl, mix together the cornmeal, all purpose flour, salt, granulated garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
  3. Set up the breading station: Place skim milk in first bowl next to the tomato slices. Place the breading mix next followed by a wire rack.
  4. Using tongs, dip a tomato slice in the skim milk, then coat both sides with the breading mix; tap off excess breading. Set slice on wire rack. Continue until all slices are breaded. If desired, dip slices in breading a second time. Let set on wire rack about 10 minutes prior to frying.
  5. Heat 1/8 inch of oil in heavy skillet until shimmering (but not smoking), add tomato slices to cover bottom of skillet. Adjust and turn down heat if needed. If too hot, take skillet off heat for a few minutes. Fry for several minutes on first side until nicely browned, turn over and fry several minutes on second side. Move slices around in skillet as needed to avoid burning breading. Drain on paper towels. Continue to add oil as needed and cook remaining tomato slices.
  6. Serve on a bead of lettuce leaves and with sauce of choice such as Ranch or Remoulade Sauce.

Growing Tomatoes in Louisiana

And back to my experiment of growing tomatoes in Louisiana in autumn. Here’s what I did. First, I started a month too late. I should have planted the tomato seedlings in August. But that small point didn’t stop me. In fact, the seedlings had already grown a month in someone else’s care when I planted them.

I correctly started out by purchasing the best potting soil that money could buy–the mix had a lot aeration in it–and I added the recommended kind and amount of fertilizer (7-22-8). The three numbers are percentages of chemical nutrient component parts in the fertilizer: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in that order. This combination has lots of phosphorus for quick plant growth. 

I planted my tomatoes in pots which were large containers from the gardening store. The containers were plentiful, inexpensive and already had holes in the bottom. I added small rocks and sand for weight and drainage. Here’s one of the tomato seedlings. You can see that it was at the garden store for a long time because it is root bound.

The trick is to spread out these roots before planting so the roots will grow down and out and the plant will not be stymied in it’s growth. 

The biggest problem I have for growing tomatoes at any time of the year is not enough sunlight. I am told that tomatoes need at least six hours of sunlight daily. My backyard is shaded by my neighbor’s massive live oak tree. Planting my tomatoes in buckets and containers allowed me to move them around to get more sun.  Here are a few seedlings that I set in my front yard by my garage which is full sunlight.

Too hot. The black buckets over-heated. The tomatoes wilted and I got tired of dragging a hose across my yard to water them. Here are some of the seedlings on my deck. I kept returning to the garden store for more seedlings varieties–and then more containers; as I never could get the seedlings and tomatoes to match in numbers.

The tomatoes on my deck thrived in the warm fall weather with lots of blossoms. I watered them almost daily. Although there were no bees around for pollination, I was assured that breeze and proximity would do the trick and pollinate the blossoms.

As the days got shorter and the weather dipped into the 70’s, some of the blossoms turned into tomatoes. I gave them a second round of fertilizer. My favorite gardening store owner advised me that this was the best temperature for tomato growth–all I had to do was wait and “watch the tomatoes grow.”

Now there is more to growing tomatoes than this advise. Some tomato varieties–indeterminate ones–need to have suckers and branches pinched off. Determinate varieties don’t need pruning; they grow like a bush. All tomato plants need cages or tall stakes to grow upright. These tomatoes did not seem to have many diseases or insect problems; although that can sometimes be problematic.

I continued to move the tomatoes around to adjust for shadows, occasionally watered them and tried to stake the plants as they grew rather tall. My stakes fell over and at this point I realized I needed large buckets; not containers from the garden store. My three of my dachshunds liked to help out.

Here are the tomato plants that I moved from the front of the house and garage to my back yard. Their grown improved greatly and one actually had quite a few tomatoes — the cherry tomato varieties grew the best.Now in December, I think we are at the end of growing tomatoes. Over the several months, the plants probably needed more sunlight and watering–I didn’t realize that growing tomatoes was such a full time job. But I proved my point — tomatoes will grow in my backyard in the fall!

I have greater successful at growing other vegetable crops in autumn and winter in my garden. And in the future, I will wisely stick to those crops. But this fall, I enjoyed a few tomatoes–my favorite vegetable.

See my three lovely little dogs. They are introducing themselves to the neighbor’s new dog next door. A dachshund’s hunter instinct!

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