Green Tomatoes in the Fall
Tomato plants are fairly susceptible to the early fall freezes.
Even a light freeze can zap any green or partly-ripe tomatoes that are still on
the plant. Once they have been frozen, they are no good.
So it's a good idea as October rolls around to keep an eye on the
weather forecast. As soon as they forecast a light freeze, or even if it is
possible that the temperature will dip below 32 degrees in your neighborhood,
you should be prepared to protect your tomato plants from Jack Frost. That
means cover them, and uncover them the next morning.
If you don't want to dash outside with a tarp or bedsheets to
cover your tomato plants when that first fall freeze is coming around, or if
it's forecast to stay below freezing for a while, there's another way to cope
with fall freezes.
And that is, early harvest!
Yes, you can remove unripe tomatoes from the plant and bring them
inside to a cool basement or garage to finish the ripening process. Even
tomatoes that are still bright green and quite hard will eventually ripen to a
rich, dark red, and they'll taste just the same as the sun-ripened ones.
These green tomatoes have been inside for about
and look how many have already ripened.
It's important to snip each tomato off with scissors or clippers,
to keep a little stem on the fruit. Otherwise, during the weeks it may take to
ripen inside, bacteria can sneak in through a hole that is made if you just
tear the tomato off the stem.
It's a good idea to sort the tomatoes that you are saving by color
- bright green, starting to turn colors, and orange. The orange ones will ripen
to red first, and you might want to store them separately from the others.
It's best to gently wash the tomatoes once you get them inside,
gently removing any dirt so that you don't bruise the fruit. Let them air-dry
Once dry, some people wrap each tomato individually in a newspaper
page, and place them, one deep, in open cardboard boxes or crates that have air
slots in them.
Others lay the tomatoes out on trays without wrapping them,
especially if you are busy and not sure you have time to unwrap the tomatoes
daily and check for ripeness.
As long as you keep the tomatoes in a cool, dark place, such as
the basement or a closet with no lights on, they should ripen naturally. Some
may ripen almost overnight, and others may take weeks.
It's a good idea to check them daily, eat them as often as you'd
like, and, when you have enough ripe at the same time, make pasta sauce or can
them whole or pureed.
If you're lucky and don't have a freeze until November, it is not
unusual to be able to bring in green tomatoes in early November and have
luscious, red, ripe ones to add to your Thanksgiving feast.