Fall is here, frost is just around the corner, and there's an abundance of green tomatoes and even some blossoms still on your tomato plants! Most gardeners eventually end up facing this dilemma as they gaze upon all their still-hard and unripe tomatoes after autumn has set in.
What to do about the tomato plants obviously wanting to thrive now at the end of the growing season?
The good news is that there are several things you can do to save many of them. Not only can the green tomatoes be used in their unripened state, but they can also ripen to red. There are a few ways of going about doing this.
Let's look at some tips and tricks to deal with your end of the season tomatoes. And since some of you have had questions, we also have an interesting green tomatoes Q and A below!
If you're like me, it can be hard to say good bye to the garden and dismantle it after working in it and enjoying a bountiful harvest. So, if you're feeling reluctant to end your gardening adventures for another season, here's a fun idea for you to try before you pull up all your tomato plants!
Did you raise any sweet little cherry tomatoes this year? How about going out and snipping off a few of the smaller branches that still have blossoms and green tomatoes on them? Bring them inside, and stick them in a jar of water. I've used a vintage quart canning jar in the photo above.
Place your container of tomato sprigs in a sunny place and watch how quickly they take root! Those little white nodules that you may see on the stems are called root initials which are where the roots will soon emerge. Besides starting new cherry tomato plants, this will also give the blossoms and fruit still on the branches a chance to continue their growth journey for a little longer.
Keep your jar filled with water. Within three to four weeks a strong root system will have developed. Then you can transfer the tomato plant into a container with potting soil. It will enjoy being placed near a sunny window.
Voilà! Tomato propagation couldn’t be easier. And remember, when you take your cuttings from your most delicious and prolific plants, you'll end up with a virtual clone of the parent plant, retaining the quality of its goodness.
Now that you've got some cuttings to enjoy inside, it's time to go out to the garden and tackle the tomatoes. The frost will soon destroy the plants. But all your tomatoes can be salvaged by bringing them inside. We love those deep red vine ripened tomatoes, but there's still life and hope in the green ones!
Now it's time to sort through them and divide them by colors; red, orange and turning red, green and slightly orange, and very green.
Set the red ones aside to be enjoyed fresh, or process to be used later. They can be canned, frozen, or dehydrated. Grilled, roasted or sautéed, they're delicious. You can make sauces, salsas or soups. There are so many things that you can do with lovely ripe tomatoes!
The tomatoes that are orange and turning red can be left on a window sill. Within a few days they will be ready to eat. Check them daily to ensure that they are not decaying in any way.
And now for tackling all those green tomatoes - and a bit of science to go with it! When ripening green tomatoes, the temperature that they are stored in is a very important factor. The warmer the place the tomato is kept, the quicker it will ripen. The temperature is even more important than how much light the green tomatoes are exposed to.
Another factor that accelerates the ripening process is a gas called ethylene. Commercial tomato producers pick and pack their tomatoes when they're still green and use ethylene to quickly ripen them for the market.
While that sounds unnatural, this ethylene gas is actually released naturally by many ripening fruits such as bananas, apples and tomatoes. So, by placing a ripe apple or banana among some green tomatoes in an enclosed space is another simple way to speed up the ripening of green tomatoes indoors.
There are a few different ways people go about getting green tomatoes to ripen indoors, so take your pick! The maturity of the fruit and the conditions indoors will determine how well the fruit will ripen.
If you only have a few green tomatoes that you'd like to ripen up, you can put them in a closed paper bag placed in a warm spot in your home. A large lidded glass jar can also be used instead of a bag. You can place a ripe apple or banana with the green tomatoes to speed up the process as the ethylene gas produced will stimulate ripening. Check on them at least every other day looking for mold or signs of spoilage. When a tomato has ripened, remove it from the bag. Enjoy it right away or keep the ripe tomato in the fridge for a while longer.
If you have more than just a few green tomatoes, placing them in a covered cardboard box works well. Some people prefer to make sure the tomatoes do not touch one another. Others recommend that you place them no deeper than two layers high. Again, you can add a ripe fruit to the box before closing. Remember to check daily for ripening or spoilage, and then remove those tomatoes.
Yet way of getting green tomatoes to ripen indoors is to hang 'em up! Yep, you literally go out to the garden, pull up the entire plant, roots and all. Gently shake off all the dirt, bring it inside to a cool area like the basement or unheated garage, and hang it upside down. This age-old method of hanging the vines to get the green tomatoes to ripen can be just a bit more bit messy, but done carefully, it's quite easy.
The theory behind this method is that while being protected indoors from the frost, the fruit will benefit from remaining on the plant for a little while longer. It also allows for more air circulation than a closed box allows. Again, it's very important to check the progress daily, examining between the branches and leaves on all sides, removing any ripe fruit or spoilage. When the tomatoes have all ripened, simply dispose of or compost the plants.
Instead of ripening them quickly, perhaps you're wondering how to store green tomatoes to keep them green longer? Here are a couple of tips that you may find helpful.
After removing your green tomatoes from the plants, wash them with water and allow them to dry in a single layer on a clean towel. Some people prefer to individually wrap green tomatoes in newspaper before placing them in the cardboard box. Wrapping green tomatoes in paper reduces the buildup of ethylene gas, causing the tomatoes to ripen more slowly.
Other people prefer to place their tomatoes in a covered cardboard box, one to two layers deep, checking on them often. Some have found that this method results in fewer rotten tomatoes.
Temperature is an important factor in extending the ripening process. If you want them to stay green longer, place your tomatoes in a cool area where the temperature is between 50°F/10°C and 60°F/15.5°C, and no warmer. Do not store the green tomatoes in the refrigerator as it's too cold. Keep in mind that if the temperature is warmer than 60°F, the ripening process will happen more quickly.
Humidity is also a very important factor when storing green tomatoes. If the humidity is too low, they will tend to dry out and begin to shrivel up. However, if the humidity is too high, there is a greater risk of them turning moldy. Good air circulation along with low humidity will help prevent mold from forming on the tomatoes.
It's very important to check them every couple of days and remove any that have begun to spoil or are turning red. Any tomatoes that have ripened will produce ethylene gas which will encourage all the other tomatoes in the box to also ripen faster.
These ways of ripening tomatoes in the house will enable you to feast on your garden tomatoes long after the cold of winter has set in. Enjoy!
Gr. Tom. Q&A
People ask a lot of great questions about green tomatoes. We've taken a few of them to share with you in this Q and A segment...
Q: I was wondering, do green tomatoes turn red after picking them from the garden?
Q: Can we eat green tomatoes without getting sick? ca-w-e-gr-to-5217-688-7583
A: Green tomatoes eaten in moderate amounts are fine and shouldn't make you sick. There are higher amounts of an alkaloid called tomatine in green tomatoes. When eaten in huge amounts tomatine may cause digestive issues and possibly other health serious problems. But there's not enough tomatine in green tomatoes to avoid eating them. It's easier on the stomach to eat them cooked.
Q: Can you eat green tomatoes without cooking them first? ca-y-e-gr-to-5336-730-7310
A: Yes, you can eat green tomatoes raw in small amounts and you'll probably be fine. But if you have sensitivities to acidic foods, know that green tomatoes are more acidic than ripe ones. Uncooked green tomatoes can be hard on the stomach especially if they're too green. If you want to try eating them raw, it may be best to try a small amount at first to make sure you tolerate them well.
Q: Frost is coming and my tomato plants still have lots of unripened tomatoes! Could you please give me some ideas on how to use green tomatoes? o-t-u-gr-to-5534-730-7581
A: Sure! There are several delish ways to use green tomatoes. Fried Green Tomatoes is a favorite comfort food loved by many in the southern United States.
Or you could try Savory Green Tomato Pie, or Scalloped Green Tomatoes. You can try various types of pickles like these Pickled Green Tomatoes known as Pomodori Verdi Sott’Olio, Green Tomato Relish, or one of the many salsa recipes. And how about fermenting them? Try this recipe for the larger tomatoes, Fermented Green Tomatoes, and here's one for your cherry tomatoes, Fermented Cherry Tomato Bombs.
Q: What are fried green tomatoes? It's not something typically eaten where I live.
A: Fried green tomatoes is a popular appetizer or side dish enjoyed in the southern part of the United States. The green tomatoes are sliced, dipped in eggs or buttermilk, then dredged in a seasoned flour, cornmeal, breadcrumb mixture. Then they are fried in oil until the outside is golden and crispy. Here's a Fried Green Tomatoes recipe for you to try! w-a-fr-gr-t-4186-576-7267
Q: Can green tomatoes be frozen for use later?
A: Yes, green tomatoes can be frozen. The best way to do it is to slice them 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick and place them in air tight containers with wax paper between each slice. Frozen green tomato slices will keep up to a year in the freezer. When thawed, they'll be too soggy to use raw, but they're great if you're making fried green tomatoes or other cooked dishs. You can either coat the frozen slices in seasoned cornmeal or flour before frying them or you can coat the slices before freezing them. c-gr-to-b-fr-5295 693 7641
Q: Besides pickling or frying them, can I cook green tomatoes? c-i-co-gr-to-5189-682-7609
You can bake with them too! Cheesy Green Tomato Muffins make a yummy snack or a great addition to a hearty bowl of soup.
You can also use them in chutneys, relishes, marmalades and jams, and salsas. Experiment and have fun! You may come up with a fantastic new green tomato recipe!
Q: What are bread and butter green tomatoes?
A: Bread and butter green tomatoes are a form of pickled tomatoes with a nice mix of sweetness, tangy flavors, and zippy spices. You can follow a bread and butter pickle recipe and use green tomatoes instead of cucumber for a nice twist on an old favorite which is a great accompaniment to a nice dinner. Here's one recipe for Bread and Butter Green Tomatoes you might like to try. br-a-bu-gr-t-5326-699-7619
Now that all your green tomatoes are nicely ripening or tucked away to ripen more slowly, you can take a breather before tackling your next autumn garden chore! And if you've learned helpful tips and tricks over the years of dealing with your green tomatoes, please share them with us along with a few pictures in the form below!
Enjoy your tomatoes the way you like them best, whether they're ripe or green!
Please tell us what you do with your green tomatoes! What are your favorite Green Tomato Recipes? Or, do you allow them to ripen indoors? What method works best for you? We'd love to hear! Let us know in the form below, and don't forget to share photos. It's fun to learn from one another!
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