If you’ve been growing tomatoes in your garden, now’s the time to get the last of the harvest in before Mother Nature sends a killing frost, which could happen any day now. But don’t just pick the ripe ones – bring in the green tomatoes, too.
Garden master Jim Duthie shows us that there are lots of ways to extend your harvest into the winter, using those green tomatoes, as well as the red ones.
It’s late enough in the fall now, we’re going to be seeing frost widespread just about any day. You may have a lot of green tomatoes left in your garden, in addition to the ones that are almost ripe. You might want to pick them now before the frost hits, and we’ll show you what you can do with them.
Tomatoes ripen best at temperatures above 65 degrees. But with the cooler days of fall, any tomatoes still on the vine will take much longer to ripen, so now’s a good time to beat the coming frosts and pick them all, green ones included.
“There are many ways to take tomatoes in and keep using them well into the new year,” said Gretchen Anderson.
Anderson, an advanced master gardener and a master food safety advisor, says there are almost as many ways to ripen tomatoes indoors as there are gardeners who do it.
“I’ve tested all of the ways to ripen tomatoes, whether it’s in a bag with a banana, or in a bag with an apple. Just hanging in the garage on your husband’s golf clubs. I’ve done it all. And honestly, Jim, they all ripen about the same time.”
“Well, Gretchen, I was wondering, because I brought along a few tomatoes that I have left this morning. Some of them are almost ripe. Now, these are just fine to set on the window sill because they’ll ripen in a few days, right?”
“Absolutely. In fact, you don’t even need to put them on the window sill. They’ll ripen wherever they are,” said Anderson.
“But the green ones need a little time?"
"Oh, they do. And what I always do is, I wash them, so there isn’t any bacteria on them, and then I’ll set them wherever I have space in the kitchen or in the family room. Wherever I have a flat space.”
“We’ve also talked a little bit about tomatoes on the vine. You can take the green tomatoes on the vine, you can hang them up, but you said, you’ve never really noticed that they ripen any faster.”
“You don’t really need to do that. It looks pretty, though, and if you have places in the garage or wherever to hang them, go for it. It doesn’t matter.”
If you don’t want to have green tomatoes lying around ripening, there are some delicious things you can do with them now.
“Oh, absolutely. One of my favorite things to do is to make green tomato raspberry jelly.”
Really? I’ve heard of fried green tomatoes, but green tomato raspberry jelly? Who would have thought?
“It’s the best jelly, though. My daughter has been eating it for years, and it wasn’t until I wrote a blog about it that she realized it was green tomatoes.”
“I know you’ve talked about this before, too, but if you have a lot of red tomatoes already, and not quite ready to do something with them, maybe you’re busy, you can freeze those things.”
“Oh, you know, my favorite thing is to core, score, and store. That’s what I call it. You wash them, take this out, you score the bottom, and you stick them in the freezer whole, and then put them in a freezer bag once they’re frozen.”
“When you’re ready to use them, just set them in your pot that you’re going to make a stew with or something like that, and just like you said, you can just lift the skin right off.”
“That’s a great way to save a little time and still not waste any tomatoes or anything.”
Another easy thing to do is to make tomato sauce that you can freeze and use anytime.
“So, all of a sudden you have this nightshade fruit – tomato is a fruit – that ripens all at the same time, and my favorite thing to do is make a sauce out of them. I roast the tomatoes in the oven, I puree them in the blender, and then I strain it and put it into a freezer container, and I’ll use it all winter long.”
And you can enjoy the delicious taste of your summer, even if your garden is covered in snow.
There are lots of recipes for preserving tomatoes that people post online. For your health and safety, only use recipes that have been properly tested and approved.
And if you want to give that green tomato raspberry jelly a try, here is a link to Gretchen's recipe.