How to extend your garden-fresh tomato season

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 10/14, 2014 at 08:50 AM

How to extend your garden-fresh tomato season

One of the better garden writers out there is Doug Oster, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Last week, he wrote about tomatoes and how to save them for, believe it or not, Thanksgiving dinner.

That got me thinking; despite our cold morning last Sunday (we got down to 30 degrees in Port Matilda) somehow, someway, my tomato plants survived it despite not being covered. So, this idea of fresh tomatoes in November has a lot of appeal to me and given our mild weather forecasted for the next week or two, any remaining tomatoes can be encouraged to ripen.

But when we get that inevitable killing frost, you can pick any tomato on the vine and get it to ripen. The trick, as Doug says, is pretty simple. Here’s a step-by-step way to get garden tomatoes in November, and perhaps have some for Thanksgiving dinner:

- Pick all tomatoes the day before a forecasted freeze.

- Put tomatoes in a plastic bag, sorting by color. You can, of course, eat or process the ripe ones, but sort out the rest by some that are just blushing, some that are going from green to greenish-yellow, and some that are light green.

- If you like, the green ones can be sliced and put on a cookie sheet in your freezer. When frozen, remove and put in zip lock bags with the air removed to store for fried green tomatoes. There’s something cool about thumbing your nose at the snow and cold by having fried green tomatoes in the dead of winter.

- Now, here’s the unusual part…put an apple in each bag with the tomatoes. Apples produce ethylene gas which causes the tomatoes to ripen.

- Place each bag in the coolest and driest place you can find in your basement. Ideal is 50 degrees, but make sure the tomatoes are not in a place that dips below freezing.

- Check bags at least weekly, and remove any that rot. Some will not turn, of course, and you can make fried green tomatoes with those.

These tomatoes won’t be as good as the ones you pick in summer, but they sure still beat grocery store ones.

Tags: gardening | tomatoes |

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA


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