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Ripening 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 a week,

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 on towels.

 

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.

 

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Harvest 03 © 2012

 

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