When Are Green Tomatoes Ready To Pick For Frying And Pickling?

While those juicy, red tomatoes are a big hit among home gardeners, the perks of green tomatoes aren’t something to be missed either. Of course, red tomatoes are readily available from the farmer’s market, though they might not be as delicious as the homegrown ones. Green tomatoes, however, are a delicacy only for those who have a tomato crop in their backyard.

So when are green tomatoes ready to pick? How can you use them? Continue reading, and you’ll learn all about harvesting and using green tomatoes.  

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Why Pick Them Green?

Some gardeners like to harvest green tomatoes entirely out of love for fried green tomatoes and green tomato pickles. Yet, others pick them green to salvage their harvest before it all goes to waste. Here are some reasons to pick your tomatoes while they’re still green:

  • If there’s a forecast of frost in your region during the next few days, harvest all your tomatoes, even the unripe ones.
  • Tomatoes are susceptible to many diseases, especially in wet and humid conditions. If there’s any chance that the fruits will rot once they start ripening, the better option is to pick them green. 
  • If you haven’t heard, those tangy fried green tomatoes are worth saving a basket of unripe tomatoes for. 
  • With pickled green tomatoes, you can save and enjoy your garden’s harvest for weeks!
  • You’ll find plenty of other recipes to which the addition of green tomatoes brings a savory twist.

When Are Green Tomatoes Ready To Pick?

When are green tomatoes ready to pick? Tomatoes are green as soon as they are set on the plant, and will gradually change color until they’re completely red. So, through the stages of ripening, when is the best time to pick the tomatoes for frying and pickling?

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Although it’s a matter of preference, most gardeners like to pick their green tomatoes once they’re their mature size or almost that size, but still firm. Initially, tomatoes, as they appear on the vine, are hard to press. As they develop, they turn from hard to firm, still green in color. As they develop further, they’ll turn softer, with a tinge of red or pink on the skin. That’s when they begin to ripen. 

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The best time to pick the green tomatoes is the intermediate stage when they’re green and firm but not rock hard. A slight change of color shouldn’t hurt, but make sure they’re not soft. Just give the tomato a little press, and you’ll know if it’s right for frying. If they’re soft to press, they’ll fall apart when frying.

Green Zebras – Perfect For Frying!

Since we’re talking about fried tomatoes, a mention of Green Zebra tomatoes is vital. These special tomato varieties, greenish-yellow upon ripening, are hard to spot in the farmer’s market.

Home gardeners usually grow them for their raw applications, frying or pickling. What makes them perfect for frying and pickling? They have a sturdy flesh, that won’t break down upon frying and preserves really well. When to pick green tomatoes for frying? For best results, pick Green Zebras for frying or pickling while they’re still firm. 

Steps To Harvest Green Tomatoes

Although you’ll pick them just like you would pick ripe tomatoes, here are some steps to ensure you make the most out of your harvest:

  1. You already know the answer to when are green tomatoes ready to pick. Try to choose the green tomatoes that have grown to their mature size, with a hint of red, or pink color on the skin.
  2. If you plan on preserving them for long, as in the form of pickles, only pick the healthiest fruits, from the healthy vines.
  3. Discard the fruits that show lesions, cuts, or signs of disease or pest damage. 
  4. If you’re picking green tomatoes to ripen them off the vine, remove the stems so the tomatoes are separated and won’t damage each other.
  5. Wash the tomatoes and let them dry completely. You can also wash them in a bleach solution (1 tsp bleach in a quart of water) to eliminate any harmful pathogens lingering on the tomatoes.
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Green Tomato Recipes

Now that you know when to pick green tomatoes for frying, it’s time for some recipes!

Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 4 firm green tomatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying


  • Cut ½ inch slices of tomatoes, discarding the ends.
  • Whisk eggs and milk in a bowl.
  • Take out flour on a plate.
  • Mix cornmeal, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs on another plate.
  • Coat tomatoes with flour, followed by the egg mixture, followed by the bread crumbs mixture.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Fry tomatoes until they are brown from both sides. Do not add too many in the skillet at a time.
  • Take them out on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Pickled Green Tomatoes


  • 1 gallon sliced green tomatoes
  • ½ cup canning salt
  • 6 sliced onions
  • 1 tbsp garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 tbsp whole all-spice
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole black pepper
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 2 minced red bell peppers
  • ½ sliced lemon


  1. Mix together green tomatoes, onions and salt in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. 
  2. Add cold water into the bowl and let it rest for an hour.
  3. Place whole spices and cloves in a cheesecloth and tie them.
  4. Drain out the water from tomatoes and onions.
  5. Mix vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper and lemon in a large pot and add cheesecloth with spices.
  6. Bring the contents of the pot to boil and cook on low flame for half an hour.
  7. Discard the spice bag and pour the mixture in sterilized jars, leaving ½-inch space at the top.
  8. Cover the lids and process in boiling water to seal them. 
  9. Store sealed jars in a cool, dry place and refrigerate the ones that haven’t sealed. 

3 thoughts on “When Are Green Tomatoes Ready To Pick For Frying And Pickling?”

  1. My green tomatoes are hard as a rock yet are developing a pink tinge. Can I pick them for fried green tomatoes?? From what I’ve read they should be firm not hard, but ours are rock hard. Where do restaurants get their green tomatoes that they can have them on the menu week after week??


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