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Green Unripe Tomatoes: Can You Eat Them Raw?

Can you eat raw tomatoes
Can you eat raw tomatoes

Have you ever wondered if you can eat unripe tomatoes raw?

Yes you certainly can, but in moderation. Raw unripe tomatoes contain toxins, which in larger quantities could cause some side effects.

Below I will discuss all the ins and outs of raw unripe tomatoes.

In this article I will discuss:

Why are tomatoes green?

There are two reasons why certain tomatoes are green.

It is because they are either not ripe yet, or they are a variety, like Green Zebra, Green Grape and Limetto, that are naturally green in color even when ripe.

In this article, I’m talking specifically about tomatoes that are not ripe yet.

You will find greener unripe tomatoes in shops when the temperatures have dropped to a point where they’ve stopped ripening on the vine.

In most cases, though, tomatoes can be ripened off the vine by keeping them enclosed together.

The ethylene they emit will cause them to ripen further even when off the vine.

The main difference between ripe green tomatoes and unripe tomatoes, is that the unripe ones will be firmer to the touch and have a more sour taste.

Furthermore, unripe tomatoes will have a paler and more even green color compared to ripe green tomatoes that have vertical stripes.

Why are unripe tomatoes green?

Unripe tomatoes are green because they contain chlorophyll in their skin.

Chlorophyll is the organic compound that gives leaves their green color.

It’s the involved in the process of photosynthesis, where sunlight, carbon dioxide and water is turned into oxygen and sugars (carbohydrates).

It’s the same case in most other fruits and vegetables as well, where unripe fruits or vegetables are green.

As certain varieties of tomatoes ripen, their color changes to red.

This is because of the rising levels of lycopene, a non-provitamin A carotenoid, that is responsible for the red color in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables.

Can you eat green unripe tomatoes raw?

Yes you can, but in small quantities, depending on your sensitivity to tomato alkaloids.

Unripe tomatoes are sour and acidic with a firm skin.

Furthermore, they contain toxins called tomatine, solanine and some atropine, with tomatine being the major one.

In nature, as with other raw fruits and vegetables, raw tomatoes contain all these unpleasant qualities to prevent itself from being eaten.

After all, tomatoes contain the seeds necessary for reproduction, and it’s no use getting eaten before the seeds are ready for dispersal.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them.

Just be mindful of the quantity you consume.

People with more sensitive digestive systems should refrain from eating too many.

The best way to find out how you react to raw unripe green tomatoes is to try a little piece of one and see how you go.

There are some different estimates as to the quantity of raw unripe tomatoes that’s toxic.

According to Laidback Gardener, it’s estimated that an adult would need to eat about 300 raw unripe green tomatoes to reach lethal levels of these toxins.

According to My Garden, it’s much less.

So I would say, again, that the best way would be to try a small piece, if you don’t have any known allergies or sensitivities, and see how your body reacts.

What are the benefits of eating green unripe tomatoes raw?

Unripe tomatoes are high in a heap of nutrients that’s good for your health.

These nutrients include Vitamin A, B1, B3, B5, B6, B7, C and K, magnesium, potassium, zinc and phosphorus.

These nutrients help with immune function, controlling blood sugar, and are great for your hair, skin and bones.

But remember, ripe tomatoes contains most, if not all of these nutrients, as well.

So it’s better to eat unripe tomatoes instead of ripe ones.

Can you eat green unripe tomatoes when cooked?

Yes you can. In fact, the better way to eat unripe tomatoes is as a green tomato chutney or curry.

Due to green unripe tomatoes being sour with tougher skin, it’s better to eat them cooked in some form or another.

One way to enjoy these unripe tomatoes cooked is not so much as a meal, but as chutney. Nigel Slater has a great recipe for that.

Some other ways are as a green tomato tarte tatin, pickled green tomatoes, fried green tomatoes, or jam.

Final thoughts

Can you eat green unripe tomatoes raw?

Yes you can.

Will I eat them that way?

No I won’t.

If you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

If I had a choice, I’d eat red ripe tomatoes. They are much tastier and softer, just the way I like it.

But yes, I could use the unripe ones in things like chutney.

There are a heap of other vegetables I would much rather eat raw.

Happy cooking!