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.