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Extending the tomato season

 
pollinator
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We still have a few ripe garden tomatoes here on December 11 in zone 6a Midwestern US. While part of this might be due to the unseasonably warm fall we've had, we're a few frosts in, so it's not that I'm still getting them from the garden. I thought they had to ripen on the vine, and when I Googled this a few years ago, all I found was advice to bring the green ones still clinging to the vines into a basement and hang them on the rafters to ripen there. But it turns out you can pick them and just leave them in your basement at around 60-70°F, and they'll ripen just fine.

I've written this up in more detail on my Substack: Putting the garden to bed for the winter. Everything you need to read about the tomatoes is above the paywall.



 
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We have always placed the green tomatoes in a brown paper bag and closed it up. The tomatoes "off-gas" a "chemical" that helps them ripen. Keep the "gas" in the bag as much as possible, but check often enough for any fruit going bad.
 
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We usually get tomatoes almost year-round.

We never let them get ripe on the vine because the birds like the tomatoes more than we do.

We use the paper bag method left on the countertop for several days to ripen them.

These tomatoes are still much better than the ones in the grocery store.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Jim Fry wrote:We have always placed the green tomatoes in a brown paper bag and closed it up. The tomatoes "off-gas" a "chemical" that helps them ripen. Keep the "gas" in the bag as much as possible, but check often enough for any fruit going bad.



Yeah, that's cool, Jim, but what's impressing me here is that you can just put them in pallet frame storage, and they will ripen on their own, without having to resort to the bag/gassing method or going to the trouble of hanging vines in your rafters. This was WAY EASIER.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Anne Miller wrote:We usually get tomatoes almost year-round.

We never let them get ripe on the vine because the birds like the tomatoes more than we do.

We use the paper bag method left on the countertop for several days to ripen them.

These tomatoes are still much better than the ones in the grocery store.



Yeah, Anne, that's lovely for you because you're in 8a. Any green tomatoes left on the vine were destroyed when the first frost hit us here in mid-October.

What's impressive in this case is that I TOOK AN ENTIRE PALLET TRAY OF GREEN TOMATOES (about 50 of them, actually) AND GOT A SLOW, WONDERFUL RIPENING FOR ANOTHER 3 WHOLE MONTHS with very little effort on my part.
 
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Im eating one with my broccoli noodles foe supper that i just pulled from a my brown bag,it had a spot on it so im eating the good part of it,cut away about 25%.Keep a good check on them in the bag,when they turn it does happen fast.

Edit: Lisa i bet it is working the same for you in a larger scale same as the paper bag method since you have so many.They are confined in a smaller area and i think they off gas ethylene that helps the green ones ripen.Bananas do the same thing.Good job on your part for saving them before they froze though,they should last a good while.
 
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At the end of the growing season I bring all the green one in and mostly just let them sit in a fruit bowl on counter. They ripen a few at a time over the course of weeks. My latest one this year ripened around thanksgiving.  If I have more than fit in the kitchen I put some in boxes in basement and check every few days to see what is ripe.
 
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When a killing frost is upon us, we pick and pack the greenie tomatoes in cardboard beer flats. I suppose that concentrates the ethylene gas. They will ripen at different rates based on their maturity; some will rot and some will be kind of mealy. Still, quite a few are saved and the others can be used for cooking. Honestly, though, if they don't have a hint of colour they're never as nice as a vine ripened tomato.

If there are a ton of cherry tomatoes on a plant, we pull it out roots and all and hang the whole thing in a porch or garage to ripen on the vine. It seems to work. Our neighbour thought we were playing a joke when we suggested this; now he does it too.
 
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I store green tomatoes on a table-top, or in crates. I do not enclose them in anything. For the sake of the best longevity, I want them to ripen as slowly as possible. So if ethylene makes them ripen quicker, I want it to waft away.

Storing them a single layer deep allows me to easily screen them for spoiling. A fruit-fly trap nearby helps a lot.

Tomatillos seem like a better winter-fruit option. I still have tomatillos on the shelf that look fine, that I harvested 15 months ago.

winter-tomatoes.jpg
Garden tomatoes in December
Garden tomatoes in December
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Storing them a single layer deep allows me to easily screen them for spoiling.


Agreed, single layer and just loose enough that you can give them a quick shake to spot trouble. This works.

 
Lisa Brunette
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Shookeli Riggs wrote:Im eating one with my broccoli noodles foe supper that i just pulled from a my brown bag,it had a spot on it so im eating the good part of it,cut away about 25%.Keep a good check on them in the bag,when they turn it does happen fast.

Edit: Lisa i bet it is working the same for you in a larger scale same as the paper bag method since you have so many.They are confined in a smaller area and i think they off gas ethylene that helps the green ones ripen.Bananas do the same thing.Good job on your part for saving them before they froze though,they should last a good while.



They're much more ventilated, on a basket set inside a pallet rack. That made the ripening happen a LOT more slowly, so I didn't have 50 of them all going at once. When I wanted a few to ripen more quickly, I brought them upstairs and set them in a bowl together, which hastened it both because of the ethylene gas and because it's warmer upstairs.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Mk Neal wrote:At the end of the growing season I bring all the green one in and mostly just let them sit in a fruit bowl on counter. They ripen a few at a time over the course of weeks. My latest one this year ripened around thanksgiving.  If I have more than fit in the kitchen I put some in boxes in basement and check every few days to see what is ripe.



EXACTLY!!! But the Internet thinks you should hang them on vines in the rafters, LOL.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I store green tomatoes on a table-top, or in crates. I do not enclose them in anything. For the sake of the best longevity, I want them to ripen as slowly as possible. So if ethylene makes them ripen quicker, I want it to waft away.

Storing them a single layer deep allows me to easily screen them for spoiling. A fruit-fly trap nearby helps a lot.



A big YES to all of this: EXACTLY my process (though surprisingly, I have not seen a single fruit fly). I haven't tried tomatillos, but I'm making a note of that. Thanks, by the way, for jumping in here. I'm a fan of your work.
 
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