Save the Tomatoes! Autumn Tips to Prolong the Growing Season

By Linsey Knerl on 20 October 2007 (Updated 12 October 2010) 7 comments

Several of my gardening friends have reported a newer batch of tomatoes coming on their plants as late as last week! While this is great for those of us still craving fresh tomatoes, a cold snap is predicted for the Midwestern states over the next few days. Here are a few tips for saving the good green ones from the frost.

Several of my gardening friends have reported a newer batch of tomatoes coming on their plants as late as last week! While this is great for those of us still craving fresh tomatoes, a cold snap is predicted for the Midwestern states over the next few days. Here are a few tips for saving the good green ones from the frost.

Get a rope. By pulling up your plants (root and all, if possible) and hanging them right-side up in a garage or basement, you can prolong their time on the vine for a few more weeks. Just string up some clothesline or heavy rope across one wall, and clip the tops of the plant to the rope with clothespins or binder clips. Try to avoid too much sunlight, or your tomatoes will spoil or ripen unevenly. A temperature of 60-72 degrees is ideal. You can continue harvesting tomatoes long after the vine has died. (This is essentially what some produce suppliers do in many instances, and this is why you see a little bit of vine on the tomatoes you buy.)

Go the paper route. My grandma used this trick to ripen up green ones over a period of a week or two. Pick only the green tomatoes without cracks, holes, or blight, wrap them individually in newspaper, and place them in a single layer in the bottom of a wooden crate or basket. This takes up a bit of space, and even more time, so use this as an option if you don’t have a place to hang the vine or for the ones that have already fallen off.

Try a room with a view. We would just place any unripe tomatoes in our window sill for a little sun. Be sure they are not touching, and turn them every day or so for even ripening. This may not work for all tomatoes, and some will rot quickly instead of ripening. You will also find yourself with all the tomatoes turning red at the same time, so eat them quickly or freeze for later.

Go green. If you can’t beat em’ – eat em’! Green tomatoes can be used in a few receipes, although they aren’t my personal favorite. Try them in green tomato cake, green tomato relish, or the classic fried green tomatoes!

Saving the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor is a great way to be frugal and try new foods. Now get out there and make the best of your late tomato bounty!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

People put so much effort into their gardens, it's nice to have some suggestions on maximizing the yields. The rope and pull up trick is totally new to me (and cool binder clip idea, thanks). I'll have to pass that one along.

Also, I'd heard of the green tomato relish and the fried ones, but the cake? Totally new. Is it just for moisture, or is it some sort of really unique flavor?

Guest's picture
Kathryn

Last year my tomatoes did really well, and were STILL doing really well when the frosts came along. The ones that were starting to pink up I stored in paper bag (when they do ripen, eat 'em quick, as they go bad quickly once ripe). But the ones that were totally green I made into pickle relish (really good) and several quarts of green tomato mincemeat that was just fabulous. I used the last jar of last year's mincemeat a few weeks ago, and now I'm just waiting it out for the next batch!

Myscha, the taste of green tomatoes in baked goods is not just filler, although it's not "tomatoey" either. More like a tart, tangy fruit taste.

Myscha Theriault's picture

We got the raised bed in so late that it was basically herbs and peppers only, and a pathetic attempt at squash. Hoping to get some tomatoes in this coming spring as they are just so outrageous in the grocery stores. We are definitely planning an indoor integrated greenhouse / garden area / family room when we build so we can have tomatoes all year long.

Guest's picture

Our favorite fall treat is green tomato jam. For every pound of tomatoes you'll need 1 cup of superfine sugar and half a lemon. Cut the tomatoes into bite sized wedges and combine with the sugar. Let it sit for a day, stirring occasionally. Bring the sugar-tomato mixture to a boil and simmer for an hour. Add thin slices of lemon and cook an additional hour. When it's all thick and sticky, put it in jars and seal. Yum!

Linsey Knerl's picture

Just letting you all know that I have made the green tomato cake recipe linked from my article twice this week!  it is yummy!  I add extra pecans or walnuts, and leave out the raisins... a super coffee cake that's very, very moist!

Myscha Theriault's picture

That's good to know. I've never cooked that way with them, so it's helpful to have background info.

 

Andrea Karim's picture

We pickled our green tomatoes, and I am totally in heaven. Mind you, I like anything that's pickled.