Well, it’s late June and the tomatoes are all set with an abundant supply of fruit. I’m 10 years old and standing in my daddy’s garden back in Hueytown, Ala. I’m looking desperately for signs of a tomato that is starting to turn ripe.
Oh, for a little hint of reddish-orange tint so that I might figure out when the first ripe tomato will be picked. Everyone in the family is excited about having our first vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced, with nothing but a little salt and pepper and a light smear of mayonnaise to complement that wonderful Mister Tom’s tomato.
Mister Tom–my daddy–knew his tomatoes; he would start them from seed and transplant them in a special plot in his garden. He would cover the plants with newspaper in early spring to keep the frost off of them. Then later on he would stake them and tie the plants with old pieces of bed sheets to keep the plants and fruit off of the ground. He would mulch the ground around the plants with pine straw to keep the weeds out. He really knew how to keep his 10-year-old son busy, but I didn’t mind that much because I knew my rewards would be just around the corner.
Sure enough, that special day came. I had been over to a neighbor house playing with a friend of mine and when I got home my mama announced that I could pick the first tomatoes for supper.
My heart just about skipped a beat, I was just so excited. You see, Mister Tom had a rule: No one could pick a green tomato until the first ripe ones had been picked. Now I knew that tomorrow would be the day that Mama would make me fried green tomatoes for supper—yell boy!
AFR community member Wayne Byram grew up in Hueytown, Ala., where he was “the guy that kept the garden clean of weeds,” among other chores. Byram now lives and works as a chef in Arizona.
Community Kitchen is an occasional column of stories and recipes from AFR members. We encourage you to join the community and share your story. Email Community Kitchen editor Domenica Marchetti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fried green tomatoes were a childhood favorite of AFR community member Wayne Byram, whose father, "Mr. Tom," grew tomatoes in the family's garden in Alabama.
- 3 medium green tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 3/4 cup corn meal
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Place tomato slices on paper towels, then cover with more paper towels to soak up excess moisture.
In a shallow bowl, mix together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch.
Pour the buttermilk into a second shallow bowl.
Into a third bowl, mix together the cornmeal with the remaining 1/4 cup flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
Dredge the tomato slices in the flour-cornstarch mixture, shake off excess and set aside on a baking sheet or plate.
Dip each tomato slice into the buttermilk and then coat in the flour-cornmeal mix. Set the tomatoes on a wire rack. Continue until all slices are coated.
Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch in a 12-inch skillet and heat it to to 335 to 350 F. Fry the tomato slices in batches on one side for about 2 minutes or until golden brown; turn and fry the other side until golden brown. Set the fried tomatoes on a wire rack to rest. Do not crowd the skillet while frying or the tomatoes won't fry properly.
Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste; place on a serving platter and serve immediately.