BOISE - Gardening season is coming to an end, and you’re probably harvesting the last of your fruits and veggies. But there are always those leftover green tomatoes that don’t ripen up before the first freeze hits.
If you’re not sure what to do with them, don’t worry. Our garden master Jim Duthie has some easy tips on how to ripen them up, so you can enjoy the taste of summer for a little while longer.
It’s early October and the weather is starting to cool down. Lately we’ve had some chilly nights, and we’re getting close to the average first frost date. And while we may still have a few warm days in the forecast, the growing season is quickly coming to an end.
Last spring I showed you some simple methods for planting potatoes in containers, like this wooden raised bed and this black plastic pot. The potato plants above the ground have mostly died, so I know my potatoes are ready to harvest.
The nice thing about containers is that I can just dig through with my hands. I’m finding lots of different sized spuds. These are Yukon Golds and Red Pontiacs. They’ll be great roasted, or in soups, or cooked up with some green beans.
I also experimented with another method that I showed you, using a pot within a pot. It allowed me to harvest a few potatoes now and then during the growing season, without having to pull up the whole plant.
Here’s how it looked before. All I had to do was just lift out the inner pot, which had large holes cut in the sides, and feel around for any potatoes I want. Then I simply replaced that pot inside the other one, and the potatoes continued to grow.
Since most of my fruits and vegetables aren’t producing anymore, I’ve been gradually putting my garden to bed. But I found that I have a lot of partially ripe and green tomatoes, and you probably do too. So I want to show you an easy way to ripen those green tomatoes so they don’t go to waste.
There are lots of different methods that people use to ripen their green tomatoes. One way is to pull the tomato plant up by its roots, and then hang it upside down in the garage or basement. The tomatoes will use the last nutrients from the plant and ripen on the vine, but it can be messy with the dirt and dead leaves.
If you were growing tomatoes in containers, you can move them inside while the last tomatoes ripen.
As you can see, I have quite a few green tomatoes. Some of them are already starting to turn red, and some of the others, while still green, are showing some white or yellow coloring.
I’m not keeping any that are really dark green and very hard, because they’re less likely to ripen up. I’m also going to toss out any that are bruised or damaged, because they’ll start to rot, and that could spread to the other tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes in a single layer in a box lined with some newspaper or paper towels. It’s important to prevent them from bumping around and bruising each other, which could lead to rot.
Some people like to wrap each one separately in newspaper. You can do that, but it’s not necessary, and it’s a lot of extra work if you have a lot of tomatoes.
Tomatoes and some other fruits, like apple and bananas, produce ethylene gas as they ripen. You can accelerate the ripening process of your green tomatoes by placing an apple or two in the box with the tomatoes.
Set the box of tomatoes in a dry, somewhat cool place. I’m putting mine in the garage, out of direct sunlight, where it will stay above freezing at night, but it won’t be as warm as the house.
Check on them often, and throw out any that are starting to ooze juice or rot, so it doesn’t spread to the other tomatoes. Within a week or so, you should see them starting to turn red.
If you only have a few green tomatoes, just place them in a large brown paper sack and close the top. Don’t use a plastic bag, though, because it will trap moisture and lead to spoiling. Let them sit in the bag for a few days in a dry place like the pantry or the garage and they’ll ripen up.
You can also set a few of them on the kitchen window sill out of direct sunlight.
If you don’t want to wait for the green tomatoes to ripen, there are some great ways to use them now, including fried green tomatoes and green tomato relish. See the recipes below.
Those are a few fast and easy ways to enjoy the taste of summer for a few more weeks.
Also, some of you may already have seen some patchy frost in the last week or so. If you haven’t, it won’t be long before you do. The National Weather Service has a chart showing the average date of the first frost or freeze throughout our area.
RECIPES FOR USING GREEN TOMATOES (Courtesy ALLRECIPES.COM):
BEST FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
4 large green tomatoes
½ cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Slice tomatoes ½ inch thick. Discard the ends.
2. Whisk eggs and milk together in medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to coat.
3. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat (at least 1/2 inch deep). Place tomatoes in frying pan in batch of 4 or 5, depending upon the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes; they should not touch each other. When browned, flip over and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels.
GREEN TOMATO RELISH
24 large green tomatoes
3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
3 green bell peppers, halved and seeded
12 large onions
3 TBLSP celery seed
3 TBLSP mustard seed
1 TBLSP salt
5 cups white sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
In a grinder or food processor, coarsely grind tomatoes, peppers and onions. Line a large colander with cheesecloth, place in sink or bowl, and pour in tomato mixture to drain for one hour.
In large non-aluminum stockpot, combine tomato mixture with other ingredients. Bring to boil and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Sterilize enough jars and lids to hold relish (12 one-pint jars or 6 one-quart jars). Pack relish into sterilized jars, making sure there are no spaces or air pockets. Fill jars all the way to the top. Screw on lids.
Place rack in bottom of large stockpot and fill halfway with boiling water. Carefully lower jars into pot. Leave a 2 inch space between jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until tops of jars are covered by 2 inches of water. Bring water to full boil, then cover and process for 30 minutes. Remove jars from pot and place on cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press top of each lid with finger, ensuring that seal is tight. Relish can be stored for up to a year.
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