I was NOT happy…
…when I found out it was supposed to snow several weeks ago. The calendar had *just* turned to September, and I was not ready to pull out my muck boots and coats. Not to mention this was the first year in a long time that my garden was actually thriving!
So after I finished my little homesteader temper-tantrum, I realized I was faced with a very real problem: what to do with all of my lovely tomato plants, loaded down with very green roma tomatoes…
I agonized over this decision more than I care to admit. Part of me wanted to ignore the weather warnings and take my chances that the supposed snow storm would skip us. But my more cautious side won out, and after asking all the smart folks on The Prairie Homestead Facebook page, I came up with a plan of action to save my poor green tomatoes.
And I’m glad I did–it snowed several inches that night. Thankfully, I’m still enjoying fresh, homegrown tomatoes, weeks after our freak snowstorm, due to the measures I took. Here’s what I did:
How to Ripen (or Save) Green Tomatoes
You have a couple of different options when dealing with green tomatoes. Being the curious blogger-type that I am, I decided to experiment with several of these choices . Here are all the juicy details—>
1. Cover ’em.
I’ll be honest–this option scared me a bit, and I worried my my rag-tag collection of sheets and quilts wouldn’t be enough. But, I decided to try it anyway.
I covered some of my plants with sheets, and then topped them with quilts. I tucked the ends of the blankets around the plants to seal them in as much as possible, used clothespins to pinch up the edges and corners, said a little prayer, and walked back into the house for the evening.
The next morning I hurried outside, expecting to see a tomato disaster. But upon removing the blankets and shaking off two inches of snow, I was thrilled to find my tomato plants happy and frost-free underneath.
Now if you are dealing with subzero temps, this won’t work. However if you are expecting a light frost (or freak summer snowstorm…) then blankets should suffice. Just make sure to pull them off as soon as possible so the weight of the fabric doesn’t crush the plants.
2. Box ’em
I didn’t have enough blankets to cover all of my plants, so I decided to strip several of the plants and place the green tomatoes in boxes to slowly ripen. Now–there seems to be a lot of urban legends surrounding this whole topic of ripening green tomatoes in a box and sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Some people claim you have to layer them just right, wrap them individually in newspaper, or only box up the ones that are the “proper” shade of green.
Most of you know me well enough to know that I am not the type of person to fuss over details, so wanna guess what I did?
Yup. I picked all the green ones (not paying a lick of attention to their shade of green) and unceremoniously dumped them in a cardboard box. I sort of put newspaper between the layers, but it got all messed up the first time I started rummaging around looking for red ones. So they are mostly newspaper-less.
My unorthodox boxing method worked pretty well. I check my boxes several times per week and remove any red or orangeish ones, and also make sure none are rotting. Some folks claim they can keep tomatoes in a box for months and months before they ripen, but mine usually start turning red within a couple of weeks. (I suspect this has much to do with the temperature of the room you are storing the boxes in–the cooler the temp, the longer they take to ripen.)
Regardless, I’ve had fabulous luck ripening my green tomatoes in a good old-fashioned cardboard box–no fuss required.
If you only have a few green tomatoes to ripen, simply place them in a bowl on your kitchen counter. There’s no need to keep them in the fridge– just avoid putting them in direct sunlight (like a windowsill). They’ll gradually ripen over the course of a few days.
3. Hang ’em
When I started researching ripening methods for green tomatoes, the suggestion of pulling the entire plant out of the ground and hanging it upside-down was mentioned frequently. So of course, I had to try it.
I strung a healthy tomato plant (loaded with fat green tomatoes) upside-down in hubby’s shop and waited. And…
The green tomatoes ripens, but not any better or faster than the ones in my cardboard box. Bummer.
So, if you are wanting to drive your spouse crazy by hanging tomato plants that shed leaves and dirt clods in their workspace, this is a great method. Otherwise, I think the ol’ upside-down-green-tomato-method gets more hype than it deserves.
4. Eat ’em
If worse comes to worse and you are fresh out of blankets and cardboard boxes, then you can most definitely pick all of your ‘maters to be turned into the most delectable green tomato delicacies. Here are a a few for your culinary pleasure:
- Classic Fried Green Tomatoes
- Green Tomato Salsa Verde
- Green Tomato Chutney
- Green Tomato Jam
- Grilled Green Tomatoes
- Pickled Green Tomatoes
So spill it– what are your best green tomato ripening (and eating!) tips?