Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes / Yellow Tomatoes

Tomatoes are my favorite fruit. But they're a vegetable, you say. Fruits are sweet and are thus appropriately artificially approximated as flavors for candy. Even the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that tomatoes are to be labeled, and therefore taxed, as vegetables. But the term vegetable is not scientific and, biologically, a fruit is defined as the ripened ovary of a flowering plant, the simple defining characteristic being the seeds. But regardless of what you want to call it, I think the tomato is grand.

fried green tomatoes

One oddity involving tomatoes that I had long been interested in sampling was the fried green variety. Most fruits are strictly off limits for consumption prior to ripening due to the tough texture, bitter flavor, and occasional toxicity. Cooking an unripe fruit can take care of the hard texture and alter the flavor to a more palatable form. One such treatment is the Southern favorite, fried green tomatoes.

Being of Australian origin and British descent, when I think "fried tomato" I think of a few naked slices of tomato fried up in sausage grease, part of a traditional English breakfast. Suffice to say, I was a little confused when I received my order of fried green tomatoes at Savannah's wonderful Moon River Brewery (highly recommended if you're in the area) and quickly realized how obviously mistaken I had been to think they wouldn't be breaded. The breading, in my opinion, masks the full flavor of the green tomato so I ripped the outer covering from one of the bunch to fully appreciate the taste. With the breading they tasted much like other fried fruits and veggies like fried okra and even onion rings. Naked, however, the flavor was more distinctly "tomato" yet with some of the pungency one finds in the vegetation of the plant.

Not being a fan of battered and fried foods, I think I'll steer clear of these in the future but I might experiment with my own pan-fried green tomatoes to see how they compare.

yellow tomato halves

While the green tomato is simply an unripe red tomato, over the past few years we have seen an increase in the number of tomato cultivars being offered by supermarkets which include some odd colored and strangely shaped varieties. Recently I picked up a yellow tomato thinking that the extraordinarily high price tag would correlate to an extraordinarily wonderful tomato.

yellow tomato + red close

Note the difference between the two tomatoes above. One is of a typical red tomato hue, the other inhabits a more orange/yellow position in the spectrum. But if you're thinking that's the only difference between the two, well then, you're just plain right. The yellow cultivar was really no different from a red of comparable quality. There may have been a slight difference in certain components of the flavor but these were only very subtle.

yellow + red tomatoes

Here's my advice for anyone who loves tomatoes as much as I do: grow your own. I have never bought a tomato from the store that has been anywhere near as amazing in odor, flavor, and texture as those I've pulled off the plant myself. Even when they're scabbed and mottled, the amazing succulence and intense flavor put any of the store bought varieties to shame... yes, even those from high-end, over-priced organic markets. They're relatively easy to grow and incredibly rewarding. Just watch out for the caterpillars.....................

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