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Article: Making mincemeat out of green tomatoes: You really shouldn't eat green tomatoes

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Forum: Article: Making mincemeat out of green tomatoesReplies: 30, Views: 584
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San Francisco, CA

November 30, 2009
5:28 PM

Post #7322128

Green tomatoes contain a toxin, Solanine which is toxic; see the Wikipedia article:

Just three ounces of green tomato is enough to cause poisoning reactions in children and sensitive adults. Frying is safer than other methods, but there really is no good reason to eat a green tomato.
Perry, FL

December 1, 2009
12:36 AM

Post #7323421

Vestia, I really appreciate that you are only trying to warn against eating something that may not be safe. However, my entire family has eaten green tomatoes fried and not fried, every year that I can remember. I have 2 brothers and a sister and we all seem to be fine. Our ages range from 46 to 55. My dad is 81 this year and still going strong. My mom, at 76, is in good health as well. Maybe it can be dangerous to sensitive adults and children, and then, maybe, we are all just too onery to let a tomatoe get us. Maybe the only good reason to eat a green tomatoe is that it taste so darn good! Again, I do appreciate your concern.

December 1, 2009
3:38 AM

Post #7323992

Vestia and Zenoba,

Thank you both for your comments.

I have always heard not to eat the green parts of potatoes but had never heard this about tomatoes.

I read the article. My one big problem with the article is they talk in grams. Most of us don't think in grams.

So how much is 80 g of tomatoes anyway? Does 80 g = 3 oz, as per your statement above? What about tomatoes that have gone through the process in the recipe?

I've heard green olives are bad for you until they are soaked in brine.


Stanchfield, MN

December 1, 2009
6:23 AM

Post #7324318

Vestia, while it is correct that green tomatoes contain the toxin "solanine", it is ok to eat COOKED green tomatoes. Both my mother and sister have pickled and canned green tomatoes (my mother for decades, but not for the past ten years - my sister for the past ten years), and we have never once gotten sick from solanine poisoning. The results of last year's canning/pickling is dee-lish! Green tomato relish, mmmmm... (this year's green tomato crop got blitzed by extremely early - and nasty! - frost)

The "secret" is to COOK the green tomatoes at a high enough heat for a long enough amount of time. Using a pressure-cooker is probably the best way to make sure of both the heat and the time, but even the "hot-bath" method works -- it just takes longer. (I have yet to try fried green tomatoes...)

Aunt_A (April); 80 grams is 2.824 ounces. So it's almost 3 ounces. (1 g = 0.0353 oz)

December 2, 2009
12:43 PM

Post #7327708



Huffman, TX
(Zone 9a)

December 3, 2009
12:29 PM

Post #7330923

In my garden tomatos often don't make the red stage. We can't wait for them to get big enough to slice batter and fry, I have made green tomato salsa, and green tomato chow chow and last I checked I ain't dead yet...:-) rucky

December 3, 2009
6:39 PM

Post #7331858

L.A. (Canoga Park), CA
(Zone 10a)

January 13, 2010
1:47 AM

Post #7456948

I have heard that is it not good to eat green tomatoes from plants that have been growing in soil that is high in selenium, and I have been told that that includes the Central Valley of California. I do not know if either statement is true.

January 13, 2010
3:24 AM

Post #7457234

Interesting, Kelli.

Thanks for commenting. I don't have any idea either. I wonder if the soil is dangerous for other products.

L.A. (Canoga Park), CA
(Zone 10a)

January 13, 2010
3:45 AM

Post #7457267

I sure hope not. Apparently it is just the green tomatoes from selenium soils that are (might be?) poisonous. Red ones are all right.

- from Wikipedia

"The Central Valley is one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nationís agricultural output by value: 17 billion USD in 2002. Its agricultural productivity relies on irrigation from both surface water diversions and groundwater pumping from wells. About one-sixth of the irrigated land in the U.S. is in the Central Valley.

Virtually all non-tropical crops are grown in the Central Valley, which is the primary source for a number of food products throughout the United States, including tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus.

Four of the top five counties in agricultural sales in the U.S. are in the Central Valley (2002 Data). They are Fresno County (#1 with $2.759 billion in sales), Tulare County (#2 with $2.338 billion), Kern County (#4 with $2.058), and Merced County (#5 with $2.058 billion)."

Apparently there really is a high (higher than average) concentration of selenium in the soil and/or water of the Central Valley.

January 13, 2010
12:29 PM

Post #7457699

Thanks for the link; curious minds like to know. LOL



Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

October 9, 2010
8:26 AM

Post #8146370

While I don't eat green tomatoes, I found this subject quite interesting, my initial thought on the subject being that if green tomatoes really were toxic one would expect the south to be littered with bodies.

While reading some of the links provided, I ran across the following on the Wikipedia page for Solanine under the section titled "Solanine in tomatoes" :

"Some, such as the California Poison Control System, have claimed that tomatoes and tomato leaves contain solanine. However, Dr. Mendel Friedman of the federal Department of Agriculture contradicts this claim stating that tomatine, a relatively benign alkaloid, is the tomato alkaloid while solanine is found in potatoes. Food science writer Harold McGee has found scant evidence for tomato toxicity in the medical and veterinary literature."

The following source is offered in connections with the statement:
McGee, Harold (2009-07-29). "Accused, Yes, but Probably Not a Killer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-23

October 9, 2010
9:44 AM

Post #8146436

Thank you for an interesting and useful article.
I shall save the recipe for a year when tomatoes are more productive than this year.
Thanks for the crust recipe also as I have wanted one which used oil instead of shortening.
San Marcos, CA

October 11, 2010
4:52 AM

Post #8149820

About GREEN OLIVES...If you are speaking of olives picked right off the tree with no curing, I doubt that you could eat enough that way to harm you since they are so vile and disgusting. It used to be our 'trick' as kids on the farm in California, who had visitors who wanted to pick and eat an olive. We loved it when they fell for it. ...:) They are horrible tasting when uncured.
Woodstock, NY

October 11, 2010
5:38 AM

Post #8149873

Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers are all night shades. People who have sensitivity to this group should probably avoid them all together. As many of the posts reflect, folks have been eating green tomatoes for generations without a single death! Just become aware of your own sensitivities and take care of yourself!
West Blocton, AL

October 11, 2010
4:02 PM

Post #8150965

I can't ever remember not eating fried green tomatoes, even as a very young child. They are truly delicious. I have had green tomato relish also, and have never had (nor has anyone I have ever known) had a bad reaction to them. That being said, there are always people who are sensitive to different foods. My own grandmother could not eat strawberries in any form without breaking. out in hives.
Monrovia, CA

October 14, 2010
8:57 PM

Post #8156711

"DreamOfSpring" has it right:

"Some, such as the California Poison Control System, have claimed that tomatoes and tomato leaves contain solanine. However, Dr. Mendel Friedman of the federal Department of Agriculture contradicts this claim stating that tomatine, a relatively benign alkaloid, is the tomato alkaloid while solanine is found in potatoes. Food science writer Harold McGee has found scant evidence for tomato toxicity in the medical and veterinary literature."

Lewiston, ME
(Zone 5a)

October 17, 2011
6:36 AM

Post #8852253

I think we all worry too much -- life is hazardous to your health. Heck, even oxygen is toxic in high enough concentrations. On my list of 10,000 things to worry about, the toxicity of green tomatoes ranks about #9,980.


Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

October 17, 2011
7:50 AM

Post #8852371

LOL, Ajhall,

Well spoken. Water, too, is toxic when consumed in large quantities, and as well all know, salt, while essential to our well-being is harmful (and even potentially deadly) in large quantities. The list of things we commonly consume which are actually toxic in large enough quantities, is pretty long. I once read that paprika, for instance, is a stomach poison, but that the quantity needed to adversely effect humans would be fairly massive.
Albuquerque, NM

October 17, 2011
10:17 AM

Post #8852590

In Illinois, where I grew up, everybody had their favorite recipes for green tomatoes because that first frost always left you with bushels of unripe product that was "too good to waste." I don't recall a plague sweeping the community every fall. My mother's green tomato mincemeat was legendary. We all ate it in quantity. Mom lived to be 89. I'm 67. I believe that the warning from Vestia is perhaps unnecessarily cautious.

I run a market garden. I have heard from a few of my customers that they cannot eat unlimited quantities of nightshades without gastric upset and one lady has reported that her arthritis is much worse if she consumes peppers and eggplant but I think that has more to do with the fact that even domesticated nightshades, like potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, are probably a little toxic to some sensitive people. The chemicals involved in this reaction are not solanine, however.
San Francisco, CA

October 17, 2011
11:41 AM

Post #8852684

In agreement and support of DreamOfSpring's response, the key is to be prudent and thoughtful. So many of our foods contain substances that are not just toxic but rather highly toxic. Apricot pits (the kernel inside), often the source of "almond" flavoring can be toxic to sensitive people in modest dosage. Cherry seeds contain cyanide compounds. Nicotine is highly toxic, but most smokers die of secondary effects, not nicotine poisoning. Table salt has been mentioned, and a toxicity of LD50 1000, quite high, has been recorded in man.

For those who are interested, LD50 is the LETHAL DOSE, typically expressed in milligrams per kilogram of body weight, that is needed to kill 50% of a test population. Of course, the LD50 varies according to the identity of the test population; letís hope the measurements for salt in humans were based on an accidental occurrence. Be sure you recognize the fact that a low number for LD50 indicates a high toxicity.

Oneís diet would indeed be limited if all foods containing potentially toxic substances were eliminated. Of course, if a particular food makes you uneasy donít eat it, but donít say the food should never be eaten. And remember that Wiki is a public forum. Anyone who wants to can contribute, and not all who want to should.
San Francisco, CA

October 17, 2011
1:41 PM

Post #8852886

A comment regarding selenium in the Central Valley: First, the Central Valley of California is huge, it includes the Sacramento Valley, north of San Francisco Bay, and the San Joaquin Valley, south of San Francisco Bay to the Tehachapi Range, the northern border of the Los Angeles basin. It stretches from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the Coast Range. It's about 430 miles long (New York City to Akron Ohio, for example) and as much as 70 miles wide. It would be freakish if the physical conditions were uniform.

Mountains on both sides of the valley contribute to the soils; the Sierra Nevada on the east and the Coast Ranges on the west. The former, subject to rains coming from the west are the source of some of the most fertile, productive alluvium in the world. Topsoil was nine feet deep where I grew up. The eastern face of the Coast Ranges gets very little rainfall, plant life is sparse, and the soils that reach the valley are lean, shy of organic matter, and high in salts. Parts of the southwest San Joaquin Valley have no natural drainage and the the mineral buildup over millenia has produced high levels of salts containing selenium, boron, and other troublesome elements in both the soils and ground water. This is a localized issue, not uniform throughout the valley, and the parts of these areas that are under agricultural production get water from California Water Project canals, not from the ground.

Yes, I'm a native Californian and I love it.
Columbus, OH

October 18, 2011
7:19 AM

Post #8853877

Just a reminder--information posted in Wikipedia is not always accurate or well-resourced.

I am one of those people whose arthritis seems to flare after eating a lot of tomato, whether fresh in the summer (love those tomato sandwiches!) or cooked -- more with the fresh I think. My grandmother always said the same.

and about selenium --some decades ago, there was a big problem with selenium toxicity affecting wildlife in certain areas and concerns about pollution of water sources for humans-- perhaps tied to to extensive irrigation/agriculture in the area (truly, I don't recall the details now) but it was in a limited area as I recall; however, at the time it was one of the things that helped us learn that we can't take the consequences of our activities for granted (that is, assuming that things we do for agricultural or industry will be just benignly absorbed by nature without problem). Something that we need to remember as some politicians currently advocate weakening the EPA at the same time that we are dealing with toxic algae blooms in our lakes (for one example).

I have been making green tomato mincemeat for years, since I first saw the recipe in my old FannieFarmer cookbook (my cooking bible!). Delicious and so easy!
Duncanville, TX

October 23, 2011
10:26 AM

Post #8860287

We do need to reflect on the reliability of Wikipedia posts, but this article seems to be reliable. It does not state that green tomatoes are toxic but that some such info exists. I found no definite information to link tomatoes in any form to toxicity. Anything can be harmful to individuals with sensitivity and individuals learn to avoid those things. I have enjoyed green tomato mincemeat in the past but doubt that I could tolerate eating enough to bring me to levels needed for concerns of toxicity. Remember, we are talking about grams of solanine, not grams of green tomatoes.


Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

December 5, 2011
8:25 AM

Post #8917132

Pretty much anything on the internet should be taken with the usual 'grain of salt', and Wikipedia is no exception. That said, in recent years I have noticed a very definite push to make Wikipedia entries more reliable. They now have very specific guidelines requiring that all statements of fact be backed by one or more external resource linked via footnote. When information is added which does not conform to the specification or which does not have the proper references, such information is noted with bold captions indicating this and requesting that someone fix the entry to bring it into line with the specs.

With so many eyes looking at Wikipedia, innacuracies are likely to be fixed pretty quickly. That along with this new tendency for site admins to mark as incomplete and subject to error any entry which fails to provide references for each and every fact has helped me to feel much more positive toward information on that site. Also, when reviewing Wikipedia articles specific to my profession, I have always found the information to be valid. As a result, I am beginning to find the site very credible in recent years.

As to food, there really are many foods which we humans (in one culture or another) eat on a regular basis which have some degree of toxicity. Examples include such seemingly benign items as button mushrroms, which contain a mild toxin when eaten raw, and honey, which despite being considered a superfood by some often also harbors minor quantities of botulism toxin transported by the bees. Some people feel it's best not to eat any mushrooms raw, even those whitish button mushrooms commonly seen in grocery stores and at salad bars. I for one love those button mushrooms raw both on salads and as crudite. Many times I've eaten them by the handfuls w/o ill effects. Honey is considered safe for adults, but fine print on the label warns against giving it to babies as they may be harmed by even the minute quantities of botulism.

The list goes on and on. Then there is poke weed, a toxic plant eaten by many in the south (not me, however). Apparently it can be eaten if you are careful to pick only young leaves (as they have less toxin) and rinse them several times during the cooking process. To me, it doesn't look that tasty, not enough to be worth the risk, but many people seem to love it. There is even at least one company that sells it in cans prepared much like spinach, kale, mustard, and the like. Those are but a few off the top of my head, so to speak. There really isn't enough 'paper' here to type the full list.

December 6, 2011
6:43 AM

Post #8918445

The bottom line has to be : Educate yourself about the foods that you want to eat.
Woodway, TX

November 26, 2012
6:44 PM

Post #9343386

My only comment is to Vestia and others who may have a fear of solanine poisoning in green tomatoes. First, even though solanine exists in tomatoes, it does not exist in adequate amounts to cause harm. Tomatine has a slightly higher chance of concern, but neither has any scientific basis for concern. Restaurants have been serving fried green tomatoes and other variations for far too long for this to be an issue.

Also, if you are considering healthy and delicious foods, please note that tomatoes are in the nightshade family, that includes potatoes, paprika, eggplant, peppers, blueberries, apples, cherries, sugar beets, huckleberries, okra and artichokes, all of which contain solanine. Of these, the green part of potatoes (if that part of the potato has been exposed to sunlight) does have some evidence of a toxic effect.

So, please, enjoy, and don't be an alarmist or alarmed.
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

November 29, 2012
3:18 PM

Post #9345649

Hi, Folks.
I seldom have time to pop in these days but saw this thread and wanted to clarify something:

"Also, if you are considering healthy and delicious foods, please note that tomatoes are in the nightshade family, that includes potatoes, paprika, eggplant, peppers, blueberries, apples, cherries, sugar beets, huckleberries, okra and artichokes, all of which contain solanine."

Actually blueberries, apples, cherries, sugar beets, okra and artichokes are not in the nightshade/Solanaceae family. I'd hate to see folks carry that misinformation along and spread it.

Of the list given tomato, potato, pepper (including "paprika" which is a pepper anyway), and eggplant are Solanaceae family.

I think TommyHutch may have read one of the many websites that have mentioned something to the effect that "non-nightshade plants that contain solanine are:...". I seen the list for several years now but have never seen documented evidence/report, etc, from valued sources or research to offer proof. I think someone once posted it on a blog or website and others have carried on with it w/out researching further. I've looked online for years now and can't find any research on this.

However, on a more uplifting and positive note, as TommyHutch said, "Please enjoy and don't be an alarmist, or be alarmed". I agree with him 100% about the tomatine being or more concern in tomatoes than solanine but think I read it is not existent in red ripe tomatoes. As for the green ones, " Restaurants have been serving fried green tomatoes and other variations for far too long for this to be an issue." Ditto, Tommy! Now let's eat! :>)



Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

December 16, 2012
5:14 AM

Post #9359622

I agree!

We have been going back and forth on this subject for some time now with those of us on the "ok to eat green tomatoes" side continually searching for ever more convincing proof to make our case. Tommy hit the nail on the head. No amount of scientific 'proof' or quotes from experts could possibly improve on the simple (but elusive) argument that with all the restaurants out there serving fried green tomatoes (not to mention all the southerners serving the same dish at home), green tomatoes are undoubtedly safe to eat. Otherwise, if there were any danger, we would surely know it by now. (For starters, in our litigious society, attorneys would be running TV adds in search of green tomato victims.)

I hadn't thought of this until Tommy mentioned it, but probably 1/2 or more of the restaurants here in Charleston have fried green tomatoes on the menu - and as a city that runs on tourism, we have a wealth of restaurants around here.

I agree with you, too, Shoe. Now that that's settled, let's eat!

Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

December 16, 2012
2:21 PM

Post #9360033

"I agree with you, too, Shoe. Now that that's settled, let's eat!"

Welp, unfortunately I don't have any green tomatoes left in the fields to fry! BUT, I did pull some frozen red ones out of the freezer last night to go in a batch of guacamole! Yummy! Now why didn't I freeze some green sure would've made for a great-looking guacamole mix!

Nice to see ya, DreamofSpring.



Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

June 9, 2013
12:49 PM

Post #9552391


Looks like I must have 'unwatched' this thread by mistake, so I didn't see your last post until now. If I had seen it, I would have said, "no problem. I think I like guacamole better, anyhow." But now it will soon be time to pick those 1st green tomatoes again...

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Other Article: Making mincemeat out of green tomatoes Threads you might be interested in:

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