Though we typically think of them as a red fruit, some tomatoes are ready to eat when green. But how can you tell when green tomatoes are ripe? Here are our favourite green tomato varieties and some tips on planting, caring for and harvesting them.
Ripe green tomatoes? Yes, they do exist, even if camouflaged amongst green foliage. However, they are largely unknown and few dare to grow them. Which is a pity really, because they taste delicious. And, despite appearances, it is not actually that hard to tell when green tomatoes are ripe. Unlike red and yellow tomatoes, the colour of green tomato varieties changes very little, if at all, as they ripen. In unripe tomatoes there is an alkaloid (solanine) that makes the fruit taste bitter until ripe. Just as in coloured varieties, the alkaloid is initially present in green tomato varieties, but is broken down as they ripen. Although still green, they can be safely enjoyed fresh or processed when ripe. In this article we will guide you through the hidden world of green tomatoes, introduce you to the best varieties and give tips on cultivation.
Green tomatoes: the best varieties
Green tomatoes seem quite strange to most people. Yet there are in fact lots of relatives of our cultivated red tomatoes that ripen green, like the wild tomato Solanum chilense which is native to northern Chile and Peru. But green tomato varieties have been fairly neglected in breeding, which is why they are less well known and why there are comparatively few of them on the market. The following are the best heirloom varieties:
- ‘Artisan Green Tiger’ tomato is an elongated cherry tomato that tapers to a point at the bottom. Light green stripes on the fruit turn golden yellow when ripe, similar to the ‘Green Zebra’ tomato. Its taste is sweet, sour, fresh and juicy.
- ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green Cherry’ tomatoes are particularly pretty and aromatic. The upper half of the fruit remains dark green, while the lower half turns a yellow orange. The fruits reach about four centimetres in diameter and taste sweet and fruity. A wonderful nibbling tomato that is a real feast for the eyes too.
- ‘Cherokee Green’ is a stunning cultivar by Craig Lehoullier from 1997. It is a squat round beef tomato that develops an amber sheen on the outside when ripe but remains a light green on the inside. Cherokee green tomatoes are aromatic, tender and soft.
- ‘Green Doctors’ is a cocktail tomato with a wonderful aroma and delicious taste, that is great for beginner tomato growers. It is easy to care for and its ripe fruits are easy to recognise. When ripe, the fruits turn slightly yellow, and the skin becomes very tender.
- The ‘Green Pear’ tomato lives up to its name with its small pear-shaped fruits that take on a golden yellow sheen when ripe. This delicious cocktail tomato tastes sweet and fruity but also has refreshing acidity.
- ‘Green Zebra’ is probably the most widely grown green tomato variety. Introduced in 1983 by tomato luminary Tom Wagner in the USA, the yellow-green striped medium-sized fruits taste wonderfully fresh and fruity. The plants are hearty, robust and suitable for outdoor cultivation.
- From Russia comes a beef tomato with the remarkable name ‘Malakhitovaya Shkatulka’. These squat, lime-coloured fruits reach a weight of 200 to 500 grams and taste sweet, fruity and aromatic.
- The ‘Emerald Apple’ tomato is a medium-size, green beef tomato. It tastes fruity and spicy and is well suited to growing outdoors. The plant reaches a height of 1.80 metres and ripens early, taking on a golden sheen.
How to plant and care for green tomatoes
Green tomatoes do not differ from other tomatoes when it comes to planting and care. From the beginning to the middle of May, start the young plants in a greenhouse and later transplant them into a garden bed or pot. Soil specifically adapted for tomatoes, such as our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, ensures a good start to the growing season. The pH value and the nutrients it contains are precisely adapted to the needs of these nightshade plants. Plant the young tomato plants deep in the soil and support them with a stake. Water and mulch the plants regularly throughout the season. A slow-release fertiliser, such as our Plantura Tomato Food, provides the hungry plants with a lasting supply of nutrients.
When are green tomatoes ripe?
Green tomatoes rarely keep the same shade when they ripen. Most acquire a slightly golden colour, while others develop touches of yellow. This colour change is usually easy to recognise on ripe fruits. If you are unsure or have chosen a fully green variety, press lightly on the fruit a little with your fingers. If the fruit yields slightly and feels soft, it is ready to harvest.