A homegrown organic tomato (technically a fruit) contains almost everything Southerners love about summer veggies – newly harvested, delicious, and abundant. Maybe it was the usual superabundant amount of produce that inspired someone many years ago to cook a green tomato without waiting around for it to ripen. While we will most likely never know who it was that first sliced a fresh green tomato, dredged it through seasoned cornmeal, and tossed it in a frying pan, we can be very grateful they discovered a delicious recipe for fried green tomatoes — one that has become a portion of tried-n-true Southern comfort food. This recipe for healthy southern fried green tomatoes will quickly become a welcome addition to your breakfast table, lunch buffet, or supper menu. Healthy southern fried green tomatoes also make great appetizers and healthy addition to tomato, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches!
Let’s first discuss some of the health benefits of fried green tomatoes, and then I’ll provide you with a few beneficial tips to help you serve up a great batch of delicious and healthy southern fried green tomatoes.
The natural health benefits of green tomatoes are many. Green tomatoes also provide many of the same vitamins as red tomatoes, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They are also an excellent source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, vitamin E, and even protein. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that green tomatoes have double the vitamin C of red tomatoes.
While red tomatoes contain a high amount of lycopene, an antioxidant pigment found in red fruits and vegetables, green tomatoes lack lycopene. However, a study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that a substance called tomatine in green tomatoes is possibly effective against breast, liver, and colon cancer cells.
The National Institute on Aging team found that C. elegans (lab workhorse roundworm that mimics many human aging molecular pathways) given tomatidine in their food lived significantly longer and had improved physical health than those with standard diets. The compound lessened the decline in cellular function that comes with age in C. elegans. Metabolomics data in tomatidine-treated C. elegans showed an increase in the production of critical genes associated with mitochondrial maintenance and health.
Green tomatoes are an excellent source of potassium. Your body requires potassium to help regulate blood pressure, contraction of muscles, and fluid balance.
Green tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin K. The daily requirement of vitamin K per day for healthy blood clotting is 90 micrograms. Just one cup of green tomatoes contains 18 micrograms of vitamin K, compared to the 11 micrograms in 1 cup of ripe cherry tomatoes.
Green Tomatoes: Simply Unripe, or a Different Variety
Great question! Actually, there is a green type of tomato, even when fully ripe. It will have vertical stripes or other variations in the coloring and will feel soft when you press it. It is an unripe tomato (green) that we use to make healthy southern fried green tomatoes. It will be a pale green all over and feel very firm and solid, which is essential for a successful batch of our healthy southern fried green tomatoes.
Add a Pinch of Sweet
After slicing the green tomatoes, sprinkle the slices with a pinch of sugar. Just a pinch, please. Green tomatoes are very acidic, and the sugar will balance the tartness and give them an excellent depth of flavor. Let the tomatoes sit for a few minutes as you prepare the other ingredients, and then lightly blot the top surface of the tomatoes with a paper towel. Don’t worry if you see a bit more moisture forming – this will help the organic cornmeal adhere to the tomatoes.
Steady High Heat Is Best
Make sure the healthy oil you use has reached the desired temperature, usually 360° to 375°, before putting the cornmeal-covered green tomatoes into the pan. A perfect temperature makes these healthy southern fried green tomatoes crisp and gorgeously golden. If the oil is not hot enough, the result is soggy-crusted, limp green tomatoes. If the oil is too hot, the outside will brown too quickly, and your fried green tomatoes will not cook all the way through. Also, keep the oil level in your pan shallow. Never completely submerge the slices in the oil.
Healthy Southern Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
- 2 – 3 organic or homegrown medium-size firm green tomatoes
- 3/4 – 1 cup organic yellow cornmeal
- Organic Ghee (clarified butter) or other high-temperature healthy cooking oil such as avocado oil
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Himalayan salt – to taste
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- pinch of organic sugar
- Wash your green tomatoes thoroughly. Thinly slice the green tomatoes (about 1/4-inch thick).
- Sprinkle each tomato slice with a pinch of organic sugar and allow them to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Combine cornmeal, garlic powder, Himalayan salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.
- Dredge both sides of tomatoes in the organic cornmeal mixture.
Heat a thin layer of clarified butter (Ghee) or other healthy cooking oil in your skillet (cast iron is best).
Cook in batches until tender when pierced with a fork, and both sides are golden brown — usually 2-3 minutes per side. To prevent your skillet from getting dry, add more Ghee when necessary. Wipe out the skillet in-between batches (otherwise, the crumbs will burn).
Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and serve warm with your choice of a healthy dipping sauce or on a green tomato, lettuce, and onion sandwich.
- Enjoy and savor every bite!
References and Resources
Lanphier, NP, Loretta. 16 Health Benefits of Tomatoes. OAWHealth.com blog. 2016.
Tomatine-containing green tomato extracts inhibit growth of human breast, colon, liver, and stomach cancer cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Jul 8;57(13):5727-33. doi: 10.1021/jf900364j.
Fang EF, Waltz TB, Kassahun H, et al. Tomatidine enhances lifespan and healthspan in C. elegans through mitophagy induction via the SKN-1/Nrf2 pathway. Sci Rep. 2017;7:46208.
Southern Living Magazine. How to Make the Best Southern Fried Green Tomatoes.