In Season: Green Tomatoes - Modern Farmer

In Season: Green Tomatoes

In which we highlight what is seasonal, talk to those who grow it, and share a recipe (or two). This week: green tomatoes.

T&D Willey Farms care for 75-acres of farmland in Central San Joaquin Valley in Madera, California, where they’ve been farming since 1980, and have been certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers since 1987. They run a CSA with about 800 customers, as well as selling directly to organic food wholesalers. Denesse Willey was kind enough to answer our questions about why you want to pick up a green tomato right now — even if there may still be a few red tomatoes left at your local farmers’ market.

Modern Farmer: So why is this the season for green tomatoes?

Denesse Willey: Well, because there’s not enough heat to fully ripen tomatoes now.

MF: Not enough heat at night?

DW: Not enough heat in the day. [laughs]. Just not enough heat to fully ripen them, period.

MF: So when you bring these green tomatoes to customers, what should they do with them?

DW: Well the obvious answer is fried green tomatoes. But people also pickle green tomatoes. And I also have green tomato cake that is also quite good.

MF: What time of year do tomatoes just completely stop ripening. Is there a hard date you know they’re gonna go green?

DW: Well, in the olden days, before they had an extra round of baseball playoffs, you would traditionally eat fried green tomatoes for the first game of the World Series. But now the first game isn’t until November… [laughs]

MF: Major League Baseball really screwed that up.

DW: Actually, last year we did have green tomatoes in our November CSA boxes, but we had a warm dry autumn last year, and almost all the tomatoes were still ripening in October. But this year, we got a rain a couple of weeks ago, and that’ll really cool off the soil, so all the summer crops have slowed down pretty seriously on our farm. So now, tomatoes are pretty much green.

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

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