Poor green tomatoes.

They just don't have the same sweetness as the much more favored - and more flavored - reddened ones. Their taste, what food and cooking journals refer to as "piquant," is sharper and tangier. While they work great in relishes, the most popular application of green tomatoes is frying.

Adam Carlson, a chef at the Pilot House in Wilmington, N.C., says there's a good reason the dish is a classic - and not just because it has a book and movie named after it. Simply, green tomatoes are fresh and easy to prepare. The green tomatoes Carlson makes are the classic version. Slices are dipped in buttermilk, dredged in cornmeal laced with a bit of low-country seasoning, and then fried until perfectly crispy.

Of course, if you tire of enjoying them on their own, try more inventive meals. Fried green tomatoes can be used in sandwiches in an updated BLT or as a base for eggs Benedict-style breakfast.

Another alternative is to play around with the flavors in the traditional version. Forrest Hair, chef at Hell's Kitchen, also in Wilmington, developed a recipe for what he calls Cajun Fried Green Tomatoes. He doesn't use fancier ingredients, just amps up the spice with lots of cayenne pepper."I'm just a huge fan of spice," he said. "And the spiciness actually brings out more of the flavors of the tomato."

Allison Ballard writes for the Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.