He eyed green tomatoes, then, when time was ripe, fried those that didn't fly


I have jumped off the "save the green tomato" bandwagon.

There was a time when, at the first sign of frost, I would wrap my garden-grown green tomatoes in newspaper and put them on the basement ping pong table to ripen. Three things would usually happen. First, some of the tomatoes would turn red. Secondly, some would spoil, leaving a foul smelling juice on the table. And thirdly, the tomatoes, even the red ones, would end up tasting like newspaper.

Once, I tried to lengthen the tomato harvesting season by hanging an unrooted tomato plant upside down from the basement rafters. Somebody had told me this move would give me red tomatoes all winter long. What I got were some dead vines dangling from the ceiling.

Friends have tried to get me to embrace green tomatoes. They have told that if I made a pie, substituting green tomatoes for green apples, I would be smitten. They have also touted the joys of green tomato chutney, green-tomato pickles, and lately green tomato salsa.

I'm sure these dishes are capable of providing pleasure to many folks. But so far not to me. Making them requires a dose of passion that I haven't been able to work up for something green and hard. But I do like to fry them. Not every green tomato in the garden, just a handful of them.

The other day when it came time to shut the garden down for the winter, I took along some helpers, a trio of 10-year-old boys.

The boys were interested in flying green tomatoes. As we pulled up the withered plants, the boys grabbed the hard, green orbs and conducted several flying-tomato contests. Who could throw a green tomato over a distant fence. Who could hit a distant washtub. Who could throw a tomato through a nearby basketball goal.

I was able to save a few green tomatoes from the clutches of these hurlers. Later, my wife sliced them, dipped them in flour and fried them. Green tomatoes taste best when they are fried in lard, or maybe bacon drippings. Being fresh out of lard and bacon drippings, we used olive oil and had the tomatoes for Sunday supper.

It was a good meal, a fitting, if restrained end, to a good tomato season.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon corn meal

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 green tomatoes, unpeeled

1/4 cup oil

4 tablespoons butter


freshly ground black pepper

Mix flour, cornmeal and salt. Wash and core, and slice tomatoes. Coat slices with flour mixture.

Brown on one side in mixture of hot oil and butter, sprinkle with sugar. Using a spatula, carefully turn each slice over to brown the other side. Sprinkle the brown side with pepper. Serve immediately.

G; -- From Craig Claiborne's "The New York Times Cookbook"

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