Green tomatoes: Fruit of the vegetable patch

By Angela Shelf Medearis

Tomatoes are low in calories and a good source of vitamins C, A and K. They also are a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium and vitamin B-1. (Depositphotos)

Every year, my small vegetable garden produces far more tomatoes than I can possibly use. As the season wanes, an abundance of green tomatoes forlornly hang on the vine looking for enough sun to turn them into red jewels. I’ve begun searching for unique ways to use green tomatoes as a vegetable and as a fruit in my recipes.

Scientifically, tomatoes are classified as a fruit, but since they don’t contain the sweet flavor of most fruits and are typically used in savory dishes, they’re legally classified as a



Tomatoes are low in calories and a good source of vitamins C, A and K. They also are a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium and vitamin B-1. In addition, tomatoes contain lycopene, which has antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties.

My recipe for Green Tomato and Orange Relish uses green tomatoes like a pickled vegetable. It freezes well, and makes a delicious change from traditional cranberry relish for holiday meals.

The spices and flavors of my Green Tomato Spice Cake act as a showcase for the tomato’s fruit-like qualities. Whether you decide to use your abundance of green tomatoes like a vegetable or a fruit, you can’t go wrong with these recipes!




4 medium green tomatoes

1 large purple or Vidalia onion

1 cup orange marmalade

2 cups dark brown sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Core the bottom of the green tomatoes and cut them into quarters. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Using a food processor, pulse the green tomato and onion 8 to 10 times, until the pieces become small (“pickle-relish” size). Do not puree.
  2. Using a 4-quart, heavy-bottomed pot, put in all the ingredients at once. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring until blended and the sugar begins to dissolve.
  3. Turn the heat to medium and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The relish should be syrupy and slightly thick. If it does not seem to have thickened enough, cook the relish 10 minutes more.
  4. Cool for 2 hours, and then put the relish in an air-tight container and refrigerate it. The relish can be refrigerated for two weeks. You also can place the cooled relish into plastic zip-lock storage bags and freeze for up to 6 months. Makes 5 cups of relish.




1 box spice cake mix

1 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

1 cup raisins (or dried cranberries, craisins or currants)

1 1/2 cups diced green tomatoes

1 large, peeled and diced, Granny Smith apple (about 3/4 to 1 cup)

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup sweetened coconut, toasted, optional

Whipped cream, optional


  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In mixing bowl, lightly beat the water, vegetable oil, eggs and brown sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in the spice cake mix and flour, and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla, pecans or walnuts, raisins, tomatoes and apples. Blend well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife or spatula. Cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Using a fine-mesh strainer or a sifter, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. When serving, top each slice with a tablespoon of coconut and/or whipped cream, if desired.


Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian, and the author of seven cookbooks. Please join The Kitchen Diva in supporting Mattress Firms’ efforts to assist foster children through the Ticket to Dream Foundation to make a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of foster children in need. They believe not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child. (


© 2020 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis

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