It’s that sad time of year when its darker and darker in the mornings and evenings. Lows at night are dipping into the 40s. Despite our best efforts we turn on the heat. There are so many things to do in the veggie garden to wrap it up for the year. One of my least favorite tasks is taking down my tomatoes, for just the symbolism alone. It’s like I’m ripping summer out of my life.
I know for lots of gardeners in different climates, their tomatoes situation is different. Perhaps your tomatoes are long gone. Perhaps you are just getting started with more. But as it is a Universal Garden FactTM that veggie gardeners love their tomatoes we can all commiserate with this solemn occaision.
Perhaps one of the saddest parts of tearing out tomato plants is seeing all the green ones that remain. Such a waste. Well… not really. You can salvage most and turn them into red beauties- though the taste will not compare with that ultimate Universal Garden FactTM “sun ripened tomatoes are the best tasting”
If there is even a suggestion of pink or red on a tomato- you’re good to go. Those ones will ripen after being picked. Maybe even in a week.
Mature greens are the ones that are big, glossy, not hard as rocks. These should ripen too, with perhaps 90% success (don’t ever try to convincingly claim any fact against Mother Nature. She will prove you wrong). If the tomato has cracks, perhaps due to a swelling after a big rain, this maybe tough… the cracks can invite mold, fruit flies before you get full turning. Keep a careful eye over a day or so and if they start to look like they’re going off the rails use them.
It gets more iffy with the smaller tomatoes. I find that at the end of the season, there may be more small tomatoes- just below the typical mature size. These I find about a 50% success with maturing to red. I think they are small because at the end of the year the plant has less resources to devote to producing big honking tomatoes, so they might be ‘mature’ even though petite. They may not.
Finally, the tiny hard rocks are just that and won’t turn into red tomatoes. Ever. I also don’t have much success with maturing cherry tomatoes unless they are 75% the way to full red.
There are lots of ways to ripen your tomatoes. Some folks cut the plant and hang them upside down. Some folks stuff the individual tomatoes in bags. I’m a windowsill/basket type of person. Least amount of fuss, and I don’t have a good spot to hang a ton of tomato plants. There is something artistic about lining them up on a windowsill or a large basket. Like a still life. Decorating with produce.
I check my heap of tomatoes often- every other day. I turn them. You really want to check on them, because there can be little bits of rot or damage that will turn a tomato into a gushy yuck ball in the matter of days and you sure don’t want that spreading moldiness to its near-by brothers.
These end of season tomatoes will be used up in dinners to savor the last bites of summer. I’ll likely dice and freeze some as well to use just like diced tomatoes in winter chilis and soups. They all won’t taste as good as a fully sun ripened tomato- but they will taste better than something from the grocery store. Because its your tomato. That is another Universal Garden FactTM.
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