Is My Green Tomato Crop a Failure?

By Clare O’Connor

DSCF3015Being fairly new to Canada, the distinct changes in seasons on the North West coast have presented me with some challenges and required more thought my garden planning.  I like to think I get smarter each year, but I still don’t have it right.

In May I put half a left over tomato into a pot of soil and in a few weeks had a dozen little seedlings.  Then a friend donated a few more tomato seedlings from her own garden.  It was June before my crop was planted out in the garden, well into July before they needed staking, and mid-August when flowers started to appear.  So now when Fall is well upon us, I have bushes laden with green tomatoes and they are still flowering…!  So what the heck do I do with several dozen green tomatoes…?  How do I turn them red and what do I do with them if they stay green??

If you are like me and put in your tomatoes late this year, or had such as good crop with our fabulous summer that they were still flowering in late September, you are probably also looking at a lot of green tomatoes right now.  Here are a few ideas on how to be sure none of them go to waste:

Ripening Green Tomatoes

A quick google search will provide a number of methods for ripening green tomatoes ranging from the very simple (lay tomatoes on a piece of news paper and lay another piece on top) to much more complicated.  Below are a couple I am trying this year.  I selected these because they are quite simple and will allow me to have tomatoes ripening at different stages over the next couple of months.

DSCF3021Selecting the tomatoes to ripen:

Pick the tomatoes that are starting to show a little change of colour at the top (stem) end, or those that are beginning to soften just a little.  These have started the ripening process and have a good chance of continuing to fully ripened fruit.  Keep checking remaining tomatoes on the vine and harvest as they become ready. Gradual harvesting will keep you supplied with freshly ripened tomatoes over a longer period of time.

Once harvested, remove the stalk and leaves which can bruise other tomatoes they touch during the ripening process.  Wash off any dirt and leave tomatoes to air dry.

For a small number of tomatoes:

You will need:

  • paper bag/s (lunch bags or mushroom bags are ideal)
  • one ripening banana or apple per bag (optional)

Instructions:

  • Gently place a small number of tomatoes into the paper bag ensuring they are not squashing each other
  • Add a banana or apple if you want*
  • Close the bag and place in a warm, slightly humid place away from sunlight.
  • Check every few days.  It will take around 2 weeks for tomatoes to ripen without the banana.
  • If the banana becomes too ripe or show signs of rotting, replace it with a new banana (don’t waste the ripened banana – it will be perfect for cooking with!

 

For a large number of tomatoes:

You will need:

  • a cardboard box with a lid or flaps so it can be closed (box size depends on the number of tomatoes you want to ripen at the one time)
  • newspaper or fruit box cardboard
  • one ripening banana or apple per box (optional)

I am using a couple of shoe boxes, one with a banana and one without to get a supply of freshly ripe tomatoes over a longer time

  • Line the bottom of the box with cardboard or newspaper
  • Place a layer of tomatoes into the box
  • Place a couple sheets of newspaper on top before gently adding next layer of tomatoes
  • If you want more layers of tomatoes add thicker layers of paper between each fruit layer to prevent bruising to the lower layers. Note that the more layers you have the more difficult it will be to check the tomatoes on the bottom layers for ripeness.
  • Add a banana or apple if you want*
  • Close the box and store in a warm, slightly humid place away from sunlight.
  • Check every few days.  It will take around 2 weeks for tomatoes to ripen without the banana.
  • If the banana becomes too ripe or show signs of rotting, replace it with a new banana

*  All fruit, including tomatoes, produce ethylene while ripening.  This gas helps the fruit to ripen.  As bananas and apples produce a lot of ethylene they are ideal to add to the tomatoes to speed up the process, especially if green tomatoes were picked when they were only just beginning the ripening process.  Select bananas that are mostly yellow but still have a little green on the plant end.

DSCF3019Frost and Ripening Tomatoes

If the first frost is forecast, pick all tomatoes remaining in your garden as none of them will survive the frost.  Ripen those that are ready and cook the rest.  Which brings us to what to do with the tomatoes that remain green…

Cooking with Green Tomatoes

There are a plethora of recipes for green tomatoes on the web, from relishes and mincemeats to soups, salsas and curries, and of course fried green tomatoes.  Here is one from All Recipes Canada that I’ll be trying this week.  Check out these recipes from All Recipes and Mother Earth News.

 

Green and Red Tomato and Corn Soup

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

4 green tomatoes, chopped

4 red tomatoes, chopped

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels

7 cups vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. In a stockpot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until soft.
  2. Stir in the cumin powder, tomatoes and corn. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in vegetable broth, reduce heat to low and cook until heated through.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with whole-wheat sourdough bread spread with fresh goat cheese
  6. Enjoy!

 

About Clare O’Connor: Clare has recently join the EGP volunteer brigade.  Although she works in higher educaton she has always had a passion for garden, but in the very different climate of hot dry coastal Australia.  She is enjoying the challenges of learning to grow fresh produce on west coast Canada. 

 

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