By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
This time of every year I am faced with a dilemma that completely goes against my frugal nature.
The dilemma I refer to is what to do with my green tomatoes before a killing frost destroys the last of my tomato crop.
There does exist several schools of thought on this matter.
Some individuals just leave the fruit and use it for compost while others just leave the plants’ skeletons up until they till them under next year. But for myself that is a waste so the following hints will help you squeeze the last bit of summer out of your tomatoes by turning green ones red.
Covering the tomato plants completely with straw creates the stacks. These stacks then create a warm environment by which the fruit can ripen. Tomatoes are harvested by removing some straw and picking the ripened fruit as needed. But beware that one only move the straw needed to harvest and must quickly recover plants for best results.
Bring in the Whole Plant
This process is known to produce the best tasting tomatoes. Simply pull up plants and hang upside down in area that will remain above freezing. Areas that meet this criterion are cellars, basements, and garages.
Place in a Box
Some individuals use wooden boxes while others use cardboard but regardless simply line box with newspaper. Then place a single layer of green tomatoes on top of this paper layer making sure a little space is left between them. Then cover with a second layer of newspaper and place in a warm location.
Ripening fruit of any kind is sped up by the exposure of ethylene. Placing 5-10 tomatoes in a paper bag or placing 2-4 large tomatoes in a jar or plastic bag along with a banana, apple or ripened tomato can mimic this. But remember to check the tomatoes often and remove any rotting or molding fruit.
To stagger your green tomato crop store some at 65-70F and some at 50-60F. The higher the temperature the sooner your tomatoes will ripen so plan according to your needs. Also I cannot stress the need to check your tomatoes for their ripeness. Nothing is so disheartening to find your hard work being taken over by fruit flies.
So until we blog again, Green tomatoes now, red tomatoes later, with a little effort they can be on our winter plate forever. So can, freeze, and dry too for future use, but nothing beats that fresh tomato, so go save it before the cold wind bellows.