Yesterday I talked about saving tomato seeds. Something else to consider at the end of tomato season is what to do with those unripe green tomatoes that are left on the vine. You can prolong the season a bit by draping sheets over your plants at night when frost threatens, but sooner or later frost will do in your plants. Is there anything you can do to salvage those unripe fruits?
Well sure, there are two things you can do: Eat the green tomatoes or ripen them indoors.
For eating, unripe tomatoes make me think of very meaty sweet peppers. Some of the things you can do with those green beauties is make relish, soup, cake, or the old standby fried green tomatoes. Check out some of the possibilities at About.com’s Green Tomato Recipes or do a search at your favorite recipe site.
If you have your heart set on ripe tomatoes, you’ve got a few choices:
- Do you have a cool cellar or basement? Then pull up the whole tomato plant and hang it upside down in your subterranean vegetable haven. The fruits will ripen on the vine.
- Another alternative is to harvest the green tomatoes and set them anywhere out of direct sunlight to ripen. I have some right now on a tray on my kitchen counter. Be sure that the individual fruits do not touch one another.
- If you have a lot of green tomatoes to store, wrap each fruit in a sheet of newspaper and loosely pack the tomatoes – up to three deep – in a paper bag, cardboard box, or wooden crate. If you wrap your unripe tomatoes and store them in a bag or box, be sure to check on them every week or so and remove any fruit that is threatening to go bad.
BTW, some tomatoes are specially bred to keep indoors. Longkeeper is a nice orange-skinned heirloom tomato that will keep for up to three months. One year when I’d grown Longkeeper, I had fresh tomatoes into January. Seed is pretty widely available. One source is Nichols Garden Nursery, which is an excellent all-around seed supplier that also has some nice unusual offerings.