how to ripen tomatoes so they are as sweet as if they were vine ripened

We’re about to hit a cold snap and my garden is not ready for it. And I’m not sure I am, either!

I read today that we’re in for freezing/cold rain and temps in the 40s and low 50s starting Wednesday. So regardless of my emotional readiness, all those beautiful green tomatoes on the vine? They are going to be super unhappy.

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But I’m going to share a few secrets I’ve been acquiring these past few years living above the 45th parallel so that I’ll be enjoying sweet tomatoes through the first or second week of October.

First thing I did this morning after feeding, watering and releasing our chickens was pick all the yellowish and orange almost-ripe tomatoes from the garden Then I put them in a pretty bowl on the credenza in our dining room … RIGHT NEXT TO a BIG BOWL OF APPLES.

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Have you ever noticed how fast your bananas go brown when they are in a bowl with a few apples?Here’s why: Apples of nearly all variety release a hormone that will ripen almost any fruit or vegetable in the vicinity.

So I started keeping the apples in the dining room … to save the bananas because I was getting tired of making banana bread!

That’s also why we don’t store apples in the same room as our potatoes or garlic. It’s why when the avocados from the store are too hard, I pop them in a brown paper bag with a few apples to ripen them … it generally takes only a day or two to have perfect guac-ready avocados.)

It’s why when we DO store apples in the same place as any other fruit they have to be individually wrapped. But even then … those pesky apple hormones are strong. So we really DON’T store apples near other foods.

Which is why we are now storing the not-quite-ripe-tomatoes in the dining room, next to our big bowl of apples. It does wonders to the almost ripe tomatoes that will suffer most if we dip below freezing for a few days in a row. In a few days, I’ll have bright red beautiful tomatoes that will be perfect to make some of our favorite tomato sauce.

But what of those precious little greenies on the vine?

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Three days with lows in the high-freezing will NOT be good for these sweeties. I could wrap the tomatoes and hope for the best.

Or I could look at the long-term forecast and realize that this cold snap may very well be the beginning of the end of the incredible summer we were blessed with this year … in which case, it’s time to pull the plants.

But I refuse to give up on the tomatoes.

I’m friends with a lot of farmers and homesteaders. I am not afraid to admit when I don’t know something. So I ask a lot of questions.

Two years ago I got some incredibly useful advice from my friend Jenny at Sabo Ranch. She said that if the tomatoes aren’t ready to pick (aka, they are super green and won’t ripen in the bowl to sweet garden goodness), then pull the ENTIRE PLANT and then HANG THEM UPSIDE DOWN in a protected area (greenhouse, garage, garden shed, etc …). Apparently, there are still nutrients and goodness in the roots when they are pulled, and if you put the plants upside down, that goodness will travel down the stems and into the tomatoes …

I’ve never taken pictures of it … maybe I’ll do that this year and share them on Facebook or Instagram? (Not sure I’m ready to share an image of our over-crowded garage shrouded in upside-down tomato plants.)

This will be my third year following her advice and I’ll tell you this … it has increased my tomato yield by at least a third each year. Our summer is just not long enough for all the tomatoes I want to grow! And now I don’t have to let them freeze on the vine.

And that just plain makes me happy.

 

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