Making your own baby food

baby-food-224x300In less than 7 weeks we will be blessed with the arrival of our first grandchild!  Needless to say we are all very excited!!  We have been shopping for car seats, strollers and porta cribs but one of the best gifts that I plan to give my new grandson is healthy and nutritious baby food that I have prepared and frozen just for him.  Although solid foods are not introduced to babies for several months I am starting to plan what I can grow and make into tasty baby food.  When you make it yourself not only do you know that the food you are feeding your baby is nutritious but it also costs much less than buying jars at the grocery store, especially as the baby grows and starts eating more!

Here are some tips to remember when making your own baby food:

  • Make sure everything is clean. This includes washing your hands, washing the fresh fruits or vegetables (even when you are peeling them) and using clean equipment.  Babies’ immune systems are more vulnerable to bacteria so practicing safe food handling methods is especially important.
  • Use fresh fruits and vegetables or frozen ones that have no added sugar, salt, flavorings or preservatives.
  • Cook fruits and vegetables to soften them with a small amount of water unless they are already soft like bananas. Save the cooking water to use if foods are too thick when pureeing.  Use a food processor, blender or immersion blender to get the food to the correct consistency.
  • Use ice cube trays to freeze the baby food. Each cube will be approximately 1 ounce.  Once frozen empty the contents of the ice cube tray into a freezer bag.  Mark the outside of the bag the contents and the date when frozen.  When ready to use always thaw in the refrigerator not on the counter.
  • Always throw away any uneaten leftover food in the baby’s dish.

To watch a video on making baby food, use this link from Spend Smart Eat Smart.  If you are wondering when to introduce food to your baby here is some great information from WIC.

Feeding your family healthy and nutritious foods is a priority for everyone.  I can’t wait to spoil my grandson with my homemade baby food made with lots of love.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts


At this time of year I am starting to think about making Christmas gifts. I like to give family and friends something that I’ve made myself. I thought about the list of salt alternative mixtures we have had in the AnswerLine files. I could make several of these recipes and put them into fun glass jars. They would not need to be refrigerated, so I can make them as I have the time. These recipes would make a nice gift for anyone—they don’t have to be on a reduced sodium diet to enjoy these seasoning mixtures. You may want to try this too.





  • 3 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground basil

Mix thoroughly. Store in salt shake and use in place of salt.



  • 1/2 tsp. sweet leaf basil
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In bowl, crush basil until fine. Stir in rest of ingredients. Spoon it into a shaker. Use to season meat, chicken, fish, casseroles, vegetables and salads.



  • 2 Tablespoons leaf oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons parley flakes
  • 4 teaspoons sweet leaf basil
  • 4 teaspoons leaf tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon leaf sage
  • 4 Tablespoons onion powder
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground marjoram
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

In bowl, combine oregano, parsley flakes, basil, tarragon and sage. Crush with fingers until fine. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, pepper and thyme until blended. Spoon it into a shaker. Use to season meat, chicken, fish, casseroles, vegetables and salads.

REF: Tone’s Spices 1986


ORIENTAL SPICE                                       Sodium: About 1.6 mg per teaspoon

  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seed, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in covered container. To use, sprinkle as desired over poultry or meat stir-fry dishes.


SHAKER SPICE BLEND                                         Sodium: 1.78 mg. per tsp.

  • 5 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 1/4 tsp. thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed

Mix thoroughly and place in shaker for use at table on main dishes or vegetables.


HERBED SEASONING                                           Sodium 0.65 mg. per teaspoon

  • 2 Tbsp. dried dillweed/basil leaves, crumble
  • 2 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated dried lemon peel
  • Pinch freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and blend well. Spoon it into shaker and use with poultry   and fish. Store it in a cool dry place.


SPICY BLEND                                                          Sodium: 0.59 mg. per teaspoon

  • 2 Tbsp. dried savory, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 3/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. fresh ground white pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 12 tsp. garlic powder

Mix thoroughly and place in shaker. Store it in a cool, dry place. Use in main dishes.


HERB ‘N’ LEMON SEASONING                           Sodium: 1 mg per teaspoon

  • Grated peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or basil leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in covered container. Sprinkles desired over meat, poultry or fish before broiling or baking.

REF: Altering Recipes Pm 1064



  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary leaves
  • 2 tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper



  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary



  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. powdered lemon rind

I hope you have as much fun making gifts as I will.  Merry Christmas.



I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Making food ahead

chopping tomatoes for salsaThis is the time of year that we get lots of questions about preparing food ahead of time.  Callers want to make Thanksgiving day (or any day they have family celebrations planned) an easier day by fixing as much of the meal ahead of time as possible.  Often callers want to make and freeze pies and vegetable casseroles days or weeks before the holiday.  Those items typically freeze well and as long as the food is prepared and handled safely there is no problem with an early preparation.

Other callers want to partially cook foods and store them in the refrigerator for a few days before finishing the cooking process and serving.  We typically discourage this sort of short cut as foods that have been partially cooked, cooled, and stored run the risk of bacteria growing to unsafe levels during the storage time.  Those bacteria may not all be killed during the final cooking process. Additionally, the quality of these dishes may not be what we consider “company food”.

We do offer a few tips to people that want to make life easier on the actual holiday.

  1. Dry ingredients can be premeasured and mixed together for baked products and wet ingredients could be premeasured and held in the fridge.  It only takes a couple of minutes to break some eggs and mix all the ingredients together just prior to baking.  And premeasured ingredients don’t make much of a mess in the kitchen.
  2. Plan out the table settings and table linens ahead of time.  Wash and iron linens or wash serving dishes that are used infrequently. This can be done a week or two before the holiday.
  3. Set the table(s) the night before the event.
  4. Either buy precut raw vegetables or cut your own a day or so before the event.
  5. Did you know you can freeze mashed potatoes, or use a recipe that should be prepared a day or so before the event.  There are many recipes for Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes that include garlic, cream cheese, and sour cream.  These recipes should be prepared a day early so the flavors can blend.
  6. Make a time schedule of the preparation times for the items in your menu.  This alone will help you feel more organized and prepared for everything necessary to make the holiday work flow smoothly.

Hopefully these tips will make your holiday easier this year.



I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Freeze some yeast rolls for Thanksgiving

Rolls I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about making food ahead for Thanksgiving. I’ve noticed information in some of the blogs that I read about making and freezing yeast dough ahead of time and then thawing and baking on Thanksgiving Day.  This method is something that I’ve personally been doing for many years.  I have a favorite roll recipe that I often make for our large family reunions, holiday meals, or just family get-togethers.  The recipe happens to be one that includes a fair amount of butter, milk, eggs, and a bit of sugar.  I always use my bread machine, set to the dough setting.  This allows me to measure out ingredients and walk away to do some other chores while the machine is preparing my dough.  When the bread machine is done with the dough cycle, I shape my rolls and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  I freeze them without letting the shaped rolls rise.  Next, I cover the rolls and put the sheet into the freezer immediately.  As soon as the rolls are solidly frozen, I remove the rolls from the sheet and put them into an airtight container.  Sometimes I use a Tupperware bowl, other times I use a zip style freezer bag.

cinnamon rollsI try to make and freeze the rolls within about 2 weeks of the event. On the day of the event, I place rolls onto the baking sheet and allow them to rise until doubled before I bake them.  This step generally takes about an hour to an hour and a half.  I usually bake them while the turkey (or other meat) is resting before carving.  Any deficiency in the rolls caused by freezing tends to be minimized when you are enjoying rolls fresh out of the oven.

There is still time to make some rolls for your celebrations this year.  Enjoy!



I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Storing Your Garden Vegetables

imageMost of us have harvested our last produce from the garden for the year. It is now time to find ways to store them to maintain their best quality over the winter months.  Here are some suggestions for some produce commonly found in home gardens from Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Horticulturist.


Onions should be harvested when most of the tops have fallen over and begun to dry. Carefully pull or dig the bulbs with the tops attached.

After harvesting, dry or cure the onions in a warm, dry, well-ventilated location, such as a shed or garage. Spread out the onions in a single layer on a clean, dry surface. Cure the onions for two to three weeks until the onion tops and necks are thoroughly dry and the outer bulb scales begin to rustle. After the onions are properly cured, cut off the tops about 1 inch above the bulbs. As the onions are topped, discard any that show signs of decay. Use the thick-necked bulbs as soon as possible as they don’t store well. An alternate preparation method is to leave the onion tops untrimmed and braid the dry foliage together.

Place the cured onions in a mesh bag, old nylon stocking, wire basket, or crate. It’s important that the storage container allow air to circulate through the onions. Store the onions in a cool, moderately dry location. Storage temperatures should be 32 to 40 degrees F. The relative humidity should be 65 to 70 percent. Possible storage locations include a basement, cellar, or garage. Hang the braided onions from a rafter or ceiling. Since the temperature in an unheated garage may fall well below 32 degrees F, an alternate storage site will be needed when bitterly cold weather arrives.


Potatoes can be harvested when the tubers are small and immature (“new” potatoes) or when the crop is fully mature. “New” potatoes are dug when the plants are still green and the tubers are greater than 1 inch in diameter. New potatoes should be used immediately, as they do not store well.

Potatoes grown for storage should be harvested after the vines have died and the crop is mature. To check crop maturity, dig up one or two hills after the plants have died. If the skins on the tubers are thin and rub off easily, the crop is not fully mature. Allow the crop to mature for several more days before harvesting the potatoes. When harvesting potatoes, avoid bruising, skinning or cutting the tubers. Damaged potatoes should be used as soon as possible.

After harvesting the potatoes, cure the tubers at a temperature of 50 to 60 F and high relative humidity (85 to 90 percent) for two weeks. The curing period allows minor cuts and bruises to heal. Thickening of the skin also occurs during the curing process.

Once cured, store potatoes at a temperature of 40 F and relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent.  Store the crop in a dark location, as potatoes turn green when exposed to light. If storage temperatures are above 50 F, the tubers may begin to sprout in two or three months. When stored below 40 F, potatoes develop a sugary, sweet taste. Sugary potatoes can be restored to their natural flavor by placing them at room temperature for a few days prior to use. Do not store potatoes with apples or other fruit. Ripening fruit give off ethylene gas, which promotes sprouting of tubers.

Winter Squash and Pumpkins

To insure a long life, pumpkins and winter squash must be harvested, cured, and stored properly. Immature fruit are poor quality and cannot be successfully stored. Mature fruit that have been removed from the vine are still alive. Proper curing and storage slows the rate of respiration and prolongs the storage life of the fruit.

Harvest pumpkins when they have developed a uniform orange color and have a hard rind. Mature winter squash have very hard skins that can’t be punctured with your thumb nail. Additionally, mature winter squash have dull-looking surfaces. Harvest all mature pumpkins and winter squash before a hard freeze. A light frost will destroy the vines but should not harm the fruit. However, a hard freeze may damage the fruit.

After harvesting, cure the pumpkins and winter squash (except for the acorn types) at a temperature of 80 to 85°F and a relative humidity of 80 to 85 percent. Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. The high temperature and relative humidity during the curing process actually reduce the quality and storage life of acorn squash.

After curing, store pumpkins and winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55°F. Do not store pumpkins and squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. Ripening fruit release ethylene gas which shortens the storage life of pumpkins and squash. (Actually, the best storage temperatures for most apples and pears is 30 to 32°F.) When storing pumpkins, place them in a single layer where they don’t touch one another. Good air circulation helps to prevent moisture from forming on the surfaces of the fruit and retards the growth of decay fungi and bacteria. Placing pumpkins in piles generates unwanted heat which may result in the rotting of some fruit. Periodically check pumpkins and winter squash in storage and discard any fruit which show signs of decay.

Properly cured and stored pumpkins should remain in good condition for 2 to 3 months. The storage life of acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash is approximately 5 to 8 weeks, 2 to 3 months, and 5 to 6 months, respectively.


Home-grown apples that will be stored should be harvested when they have reached minimum maturity but are not yet ripe. Mature apples are full-size and have a light straw or greenish-yellow undercolor. The undercolor is the “base” color beneath the red blush. The intensity of the red color is not an indicator of maturity. At minimum maturity, apples will be hard and crisp. They will have developed their characteristic flavor but will be somewhat starchy.

Sort the apples that are to be stored. Remove any that are bruised, cut, or show signs of decay. Plan to consume the larger fruit of any cultivar first, saving the smaller ones for later in the season. The larger apples are usually the first to lose their quality and show signs of internal breakdown.

Low temperature slows the respiration rate and preserves good quality. Apples last several times longer at 32°F than they do at 70°F. Most apple cultivars should be stored at 30 to 32°F for optimum storage. However, McIntosh apples should be kept around 36°F. If possible, the storage temperature should remain constant. The freezing temperature of apples is 27.8 to 29.4°F, so it is best not to store apples in unheated locations where the temperature may get too low. Once thawed frozen apples deteriorate quickly, resulting in softening of flesh and loss of texture. Relative humidity must be kept high, between 90 and 95 percent, in a fruit storage area. If the humidity is not maintained, apples dehydrate and shrivel, particularly Golden Delicious.

Apples can be kept well in humid cellars that maintain a cool temperature below 40°F. They also can be stored in unheated outbuildings or garages, in Styrofoam chests, or with hay or other insulating materials piled around them to prevent them from freezing.

If you are interested in harvesting and storing other vegetables here is some additional information.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Freezing a Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pkeAre you wondering how to freeze a pumpkin pie?  We get so many calls from people that are having a huge group for Thanksgiving and want to prepare as much food as possible ahead of time.  If that is your situation this year, follow these directions.

Freeze your pumpkin pie unbaked. Prepare the pie shell and filling as usual. Have the filling cold before adding it to the unbaked, chilled pie shell. Package and freeze.

When you are ready to use your pie, bake it without thawing at 400F for 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325F to finish baking. Use the pie within 4-5 weeks of freezing for best quality.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Enjoy pumpkin seeds

It’s time to get those pumpkins carved and it is my husband’s favorite time of year.  He loves pumpkin seeds but the ones he buys the rest of the year just are not as tasty as those we make at home.  So he is glad imagewhen it is time to roast our own seeds.

It really is an easy thing to do.  As you carve the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds into a colander and rinse the pumpkin “goo” off the seeds.  You will need to get your hands a little dirty as the stream of water will not remove all of the “goo”, you will need to move the seeds around with your hands. F. for

Next, place the wet seeds onto a dry cookie sheet.  Salt or season as desired and bake at 325°F. for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Store in an airtight container.  Enjoy.

You also have the option of roasting the seeds unseasoned and then drizzling with a bit of butter or olive oil and then adding seasoning.  Ranch can be a popular choice.



I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

More Apple Recipes

imageIt has been a great year for apples! We are helping consumers can pie filling, make apple butter and applesauce and freeze them for use in the winter.  Here are several more unusual recipes that I wanted to share that will give you even more ways to preserve and use the abundance of apples.

There are many berry syrups but try making this Apple-Cinnamon Syrup from the newest Ball Blue Book.

Apple-Cinnamon Syrup

(about 6 pint jars)

  • 6 cups apple juice, fresh or bottled (without added calcium)
  • 3 sticks cinnamon, broken
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups corn syrup
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

COOK: Combine apple juice and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes; set aside. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan; boil to 230°F. Add apple juice, cinnamon sticks, and corn syrup to sugar syrup; boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Remove cinnamon sticks.

FILL: Ladle hot syrup into a hot jar, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

PROCESS: Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process pint jars 10 minutes (below 1,000 feet elevation) 15 minutes (1,000-3,000 feet elevation). Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.


Spiced Apple Rings are a great side dish with Roast Turkey or Chicken. The red color of the apple rings are especially fun to serve around the holidays!  This recipe is from So Easy to Preserve, Sixth Edition, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

Spiced Apple Rings

(about 8 or 9 pint jars)

  • 12 pounds firm tart apples (maximum diameter, 2 ½ inches)
  • 12 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/4  cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 3 tablespoons whole cloves
  • ¾ cup red hot cinnamon candies or 8 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)

Wash apples. To prevent discoloration, peel and core one apple at a time.  Immediately cut the apple crosswise into ½ inch rings and immerse in an anti-darkening solution.  To make flavored syrup, combine sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon candies (or cinnamon sticks and food coloring) in a 6-quart saucepan.  Heat to a boil, stirring constantly.  Simmer 3 minutes.  Remove apples from anti-darkening solution and drain well.  Add to hot syrup and cook 5 minutes.  Fill half-pint or pint jars (preferably wide-mouth) with apple rings, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Fill jars to ½ inch from top with hot syrup.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe jar rims.  Adjust lids.  Process 10 minutes (below 1,000 feet elevation) or 15 minutes (1,000-3,000 feet elevation) in a Boiling Water Bath.


Sweet Apple Relish is a perfect complement to barbecued meat. This recipe is also from So Easy to Preserve.

Sweet Apple Relish

(4 pint jars)

  • 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 ¼ cup distilled white vinegar (5%)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2/3  cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole cloves
  • 4 pieces stick cinnamon   (1 ½ inches each)
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice

Immerse apples in a solution of 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid and 2 quarts of water to prevent browning. Combine sugar, corn syrup, 1 1/4 cups white vinegar, water, cloves, cinnamon and allspice; bring to a boil. Drain apples and add to syrup. Simmer 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cinnamon sticks from syrup and place one piece in each jar. Fill hot fruit into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Fill jars 1/2 inch from top with boiling hot syrup. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes (below 1,000 feet elevation) or 15 minutes (1,000-3,000 feet elevation) in a Boiling Water Bath.

Taking advantage of all of the wonderful apples this year will give you enjoyment all through the winter. Remember you don’t have to just make applesauce or pies.  Be adventuresome and try these new recipes that will become family favorites!

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Family Gardening and Food Preservation

raspberriesMy oldest son after graduating from college, getting married and buying a house has become quite an urban gardener! This summer they planted about 15 different tomato and pepper plants. He has been supplying his neighbors and the family with wonderful produce. We have canned salsa, pickled peppers and frozen tomatoes. Some of our canning lessons have been in person but one was even done by Facetime! My how things change with technology! I love that they are interested in food preservation and that they want to learn the correct and safe way to do it!

Recently they transplanted some raspberry bushes from my daughter in laws family farm. They picked their first berries this spring but the production this fall on their everbearing bushes has been incredible! They have over 10 pounds in the freezer already with many more to pick. I thought I would share with you some of the recipes that I shared with them. Just use the attached links for recipes and directions for raspberry jam, raspberry jelly, raspberry syrup, freezing and canning. These are from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and are tested, research based recipes.

I have also shared with him information on maintaining healthy plants from our Extension and Outreach Horticulture specialists. He was having a problem with small black bugs and with the suggestions given he has eliminated the problem.

Little did I know when I started my job with AnswerLine how the resources that we have could not only help consumers that call in, but also be learning experiences that I can share with my family!

Now our middle son and his wife have purchased a house and are moving into it in November. One feature of the house is that it has a garden. I can’t wait to help them as they grow, can and freeze. The wonderful tradition continues.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Tips for using Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

The leaves are starting to turn colors, the farmers are in the field and the nights are becoming cool! These are all signs that fall is here and the end of gardening is definitely in sight! Many home gardeners still have green tomatoes on the vine and they are calling us wondering what they can do to preserve them. Here are some steps for selecting, picking and storing tomatoes.

Selecting and Picking

  •  Pick ripe, nearly ripe and mature green fruits before frost occurs.  Mature green tomatoes are those with a glossy, whitish green fruit color and mature size.
  •  Select fruits only from strong healthy vines, and pick only those fruits free of disease, insect or mechanical damage.
  •  Remove stems to prevent them from puncturing each other.
  •  If dirty, gently wash and allow the fruit to air dry.


  •  Store tomatoes in boxes, 1 to 2 layers deep, or in plastic bags with a few holes for air circulation.
  •  If you have a cool, moderately humid room, simply place them on a shelf.
  •  Keep fruit out of direct sunlight.  They may be stored in the dark.
  •  As tomatoes ripen, they naturally release ethylene gas, which stimulates ripening.  To slow ripening, sort out ripened fruits from green tomatoes each week.  To speed up ripening, place green or partially ripe fruits in a bag or box with a ripe tomato.

Green, mature tomatoes stored at 65-70° F, will ripen in about 2 weeks.  Cooler temperatures slow the ripening process.  At 55° F tomatoes will slowly ripen, but may of inferior quality. Likewise if tomatoes are stored where the humidity is too high then the fruit can mold and rot.  If humidity is too low, the fruit may shrivel and dry out.  Since homes vary in humidity levels, you will need to learn by trial and error what works best for you.   Unfortunately tomatoes ripened indoors are not as flavorful as vine ripened fruits.  However, compared to store bought, you will be delighted with your own home ripened tomatoes.

If you would prefer to use the tomatoes when they are green and are looking for some recipes there are several to choose from including fried green tomatoes, green tomato pie, green tomato bread and green tomato relish. If you are interested in these recipes use this link to download the publication A Harvest of Green Tomatoes from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Whether you choose to ripen them or use them green you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor and the wonderful dishes that you can make from growing things in your garden.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts