Can You Eat a Green Tomato?

The answer is yes, and no. You can and should eat a green tomato, if it is ripe. There is a common misconception about green tomatoes. A green tomato is considered by many to be an unripe red tomato. This is true, but only when you confine the discussion to red tomatoes. If you go beyond the now widespread hybrid strains, then a green tomato can be a fully ripe fruit.

A ripe green tomato is usually an heirloom variety, also referred to as a purebred. An heirloom variety or purebred tomato is basically from a single genetic strain, bereft of crossbreeding and genetic modification or engineering. There is more than one variety of green tomato. All of these are delicious and nutritious. 

The Fascinating Hues ; Types of Tomatoes

Botanically, tomatoes are classified as fruits. Nutritionally and for the culinary applications, tomatoes are classified as vegetables. There is actually a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of classifying tomato as a vegetable, principally due to the many ways it is cooked. Tomato is such a fascinating fruit, or vegetable, if one has to avert being in contempt of court. It is only fitting that there are many other fascinating attributes of this popular food.

Most people think of tomatoes as ripe, red, juicy, soft but not squashy, delicious and nutritious. In reality, tomatoes can be green, yellow, purple, pink, orange, burgundy and also black. They could be neatly round, or oval. They may be a tad elongated. They can be tiny, medium sized or large. Tomatoes can have a perfectly smooth skin. They can also be textured, such as striped or streaked. Everything depends on the variety.

We have already mentioned the heirloom variety. It is not just one or a single purebred strain. There are many types of heirloom varieties. Any genetic variety of tomato that has not been subjected to any crossbreeding is an heirloom or purebred vine.

Popular heirloom varieties are Aunt Ruby’s German Green and German Cherry, Green Zebra, Ananas Noire, Cherokee Green, Amish Paste, Banana Legs, Brandywine, Big Rainbow, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Chocolate Cherry, Garden Peach, Costoluto Genovese, Gardener’s Delight, Hawaiian Pineapple, Marglobe, Hillbilly, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Red Currant, Three Sisters, Yellow Pear and San Marzano.

Heirloom tomatoes are the best if you are solely considering taste and nutrients. But they are not easy to grow and store. There is a good reason why hybrid varieties have become so popular in modern times, and not just in the case of tomatoes but almost all fruits and vegetables. Heirloom or purebred varieties are vulnerable to disease. They have a much shorter shelf life too. This brings us to the other types of tomatoes.

Beefsteak tomatoes are the most common variety grown in most parts of the world. These are usually red, often pink, and some varieties are yellow, purple or black. Plum tomatoes are another popular type. Roma tomatoes are a variety of plum type, also referred to as grape tomatoes. The plum tomatoes are used for pastes and many kinds of processing. They have fewer seeds and are typically cylindrical. Yellow tomatoes can be either hybrid or heirloom. These are not as acidic as red tomatoes. Then there are cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, Campari tomatoes and Cherokee tomatoes, among others.

Unripe vs. Ripe Green Tomato

For the purpose of specificity, let us now confine our discussion to unripe red tomatoes and ripe green tomatoes. Red tomatoes turn from green to the final color as the fruit, or vegetable, matures. You should not eat unripe red tomatoes, which are green in color. This type of green tomato does not offer much nutritional value, the taste is not pleasant and it is slightly toxic. There is absolutely no need to eat a green tomato that is basically an unripe red variant. Green tomato varieties are a different matter.

A tomato would be green when ripe if it is Aunt Ruby’s German Green or German Cherry, Green Grape, Green Zebra, Ananas Noire, or Cherokee Green. Ripe green tomato has a pronounced flavor. It is tangy and spicy. It is not as acidic as ripe red tomatoes. A ripe green tomato can be neon green on the inside. Some varieties are just green. A few have red interior. A ripe green tomato can be eaten raw, or prepped and cooked in a myriad ways.

Nutrients in Ripe Green Tomato

Ripe green tomatoes are rich in vitamins A ; C. They have potassium, iron and calcium. You would get a substantial dose of dietary fiber, to meet your daily minimum intake. There are other minerals in ripe green tomatoes, including magnesium. It should be noted that unripe green tomatoes, irrespective of the heirloom variety, do not have all these nutrients. Just as you should avoid eating an unripe red tomato that is green in color, you should also wait for a green tomato variety to fully ripen before you think of consuming it.

How to Eat Green Tomatoes?

If a green tomato is ripe, then you can eat it raw. You can use it in a salad. You can make a pickle, a relish or some kind of preserve. One of the simplest recipes of ripe green tomatoes is stir fried. Some people deep fry ripe green tomatoes coated with batter and breadcrumbs or panko. You can use ripe green tomatoes to make salsa, or salsa verde, a chutney, a jam, a marmalade, or as a filling ingredient.

You can chop or mince ripe green tomatoes and use in a plethora of recipes, for both vegetarian and meat dishes. You can use ripe green tomatoes to make soup, as the base for a curry or gravy, as garnishing for different types of foods, and in casseroles. You can also opt for the classic grill. There is no one right way to use or eat ripe green tomatoes. If you are an experimental and adventurous kind of cook, then there are literally scores of recipes with over a hundred variants you can try.


Charlie loves to garden with his family and friends. His favorite vegetables to grow are cucumbers, string beans and lettuce.

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