Before we moved out of our home in Southern California, we had a long list of garden chores that included clearing out the “weedy” tomatoes that had volunteered freely in our lower yard (weeds that I’m deeply missing now that we’re in Central Oregon, and tomatoes don’t volunteer in early spring anymore).
I harvested over a hundred pounds of ripe fruits for tomato sauce and sun-dried tomatoes (that I made in the oven), then tossed the spent plants into a big pile to be broken down and taken to our compost heap.
But there were still some unripe tomatoes lingering on the vines, so I decided to rescue the green ones, as it seemed like such a waste to let them go.
By that point, I was all green tomato pickled out (especially since I was still working through a few jars of green tomato pickles from last summer), so I wanted to experiment with a more savory recipe.
Green, unripe tomatoes (like tomato leaves) are perfectly edible. They don’t have the nutritional density of fully ripe tomatoes, and are usually more acidic than mature fruits, but they’re still delicious given the right recipe.
In the early stages when they’re firm and pale, green tomatoes have hints of tomatillo flavor on my taste buds — tangy, almost citrusy.
Eaten straight off the vine, green tomatoes aren’t all that inspiring if you’re used to juicy, summer-ripened tomatoes. They’re certainly not juicy, and if they were hit with frost right before you picked them, their texture turns mealy or mushy rather quickly.
But they easily take on the flavor of whatever they’re cooked with, so I thought… Why not substitute green tomatoes for tomatillos in one of my favorite condiments, salsa verde?
In my version of that traditional recipe, I roast my tomatillos to deepen the flavor and add some smokiness as a counterpoint to their sour profile.
I tried the same broiling technique with my green tomatoes, then prepared the salsa verde exactly as I have countless times before with jalapeño, onion, cilantro, garlic, and cumin. (These ingredients are the basis of my tomato salsa as well.)
The result: a new end-of-season staple for me!
Roasted green tomato salsa verde is bright and tangy with a little heat, and goes down easy with a bag of chips and an ice-cold beer.
I like my salsa a little chunky for dipping, but for pouring over meats, vegetables, and enchiladas, I prefer to blend all the ingredients together to make a smoother sauce.
What other ways do you like to use salsa verde?
Green Tomato Salsa Verde
Makes 2 cups
1 pound green, unripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1/2 lime
Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them in a baking dish. (If using smaller varieties — say, 2 inches or less in diameter — you can leave the tomatoes whole.)
Add a generous drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Spread the tomatoes across the baking dish and broil for about 15 minutes until the skins are nicely charred on top and the fruits have started to collapse. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and set aside to slightly cool.
Add the tomatoes, jalapeño, and garlic to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, then stir in the onion, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice. If desired, add salt to taste.
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on November 18, 2017.