Indeterminate tomato plants will grow like a vine forever if they have enough food, water, and sunshine. So it doesn’t matter when the frost hits, there will always be green tomatoes on the vines. One of the hardest things about gardening is having to put all those tomatoes in the compost pile. Isn’t there some way to ripen those tomatoes? If not, then what can we make out of them? These questions were recently posed to me and I thought the answer would make a good post.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to encourage green tomatoes along after you have harvested the plant and cleaned up the garden bed. Either one works, use the one that works best for your situation.
With the first method, gather up all the green tomatoes that you would like to try and ripen. Look for tomatoes that have already begun to turn from green to a whitish green. Keep the stem intact. The stem actually helps maintain the tomato, continuing to feed it and keeping it from rotting. Discard any damaged tomatoes. This is very important as damaged tomatoes will rot and then spoil the whole bunch. Wrap the tomato in paper. Newspaper or your old phone book pages will work fine. Place them in a box. Place an apple or a pear in the box as well. The ethylene gases coming from those fruits will encourage ripening. Place the box in a dark place like your closet. Check on them regularly. You’ll be happy to unwrap red tomatoes in a few weeks
That is the part I forget about. It’s like out of sight, out of mind for me and then I forget until I find the box one day. Yikes! So put it on your calendar or something. Check them weekly.
The second method requires you to harvest the entire plant. Shake the soil out of the roots. Pluck off any damaged tomatoes or leaves. Hang the entire plant upside down in your garage or shed. It should not be cold enough to freeze and they don’t need a lot of light. The plant should continue to ripen the fruits. This way works better for me if I hang them in a place I go frequently. The cool room in our barn works really well.
All those really green, very firm tomatoes have uses as well. If you’ve never tried fried green tomatoes – you’re in for a treat?! My favorite recipe goes like this: slice tomatoes, dip in whipped egg, then in seasoned bread crumbs. Fry in butter or olive oil until lightly browned, turn and fry the other side. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot.
Some other delicious ways to use green tomatoes include salsa verde, green tomato soup, and who knows! Check out the food networks online and I’m sure there will be other surprises – another one that comes to mind is green tomato relish. So don’t throw out your green tomatoes. There are lots of good uses for them.