Unripe and ready

Fried green tomatoes

Everyone awaits the first tomato of summer with eager anticipation. The same holds true for most fruits and vegetables, but toward the end of the season one often encounters a glut of produce that must be harvested before a frost hits or before the heat wilts the plants, even though the fruits may not yet be ready. Over the years, creative cooks have found uses for unripe vegetables by making dishes that became classics like fried green tomatoes.

Recently, chefs have expanded the options for using unripe foods, as indexed magazine Bon Appétit recently reported. In addition to unripe tomatoes, chefs are playing with green almonds, green strawberries, unripe plaintains, and fresh chickpeas, among others. The unripe ingredients add "sour and bitter notes to sweet and savory dishes alike."

Most people would pass over an unripe strawberry, but they are approaching a "cult-like status amongst chefs. At the Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, Missouri, chef Kevin Nashan livens up a foie gras torchon with green strawberry leather and pickled green strawberries." The immature berries have a tart flavor that evokes kiwi and lemon with a texture akin to crisp cucumber. If you are lucky to have a farmers' market that carries fresh chickpeas, you may want to give them a try. You may be surprised by their vibrant green color and nutty flavor.  "Think of them like English peas," Chef Lee Gross of Los Angeles suggests. "Eat them raw, straight from the pods, or lightly steam them."

What dishes do you make with unripe ingredients?

Photo of fried green tomatoes from BBC Good Food Magazine

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