Odds and Ends: Green Tomatoes—Ripening Rather Than Composting

Remember those tomatoes I salvaged from the compost site (Oct. 27, 2011, Compost Site Diving)? Well, they didn’t quite last until Thanksgiving. Ninety-nine percent of them ripened and have already been used!

Ripe tomatoes ready to be made into roasted tomato sauce.

In talking to a number of people about my windfall, I found that most people didn’t realize that green tomatoes if fully formed will ripen off of the vine. I thought I’d share how I ripened the tomatoes I subsequently used in salads, side dishes, sauce, and on sandwiches and burgers.

Take a flat container with some airflow to it. I used clementine boxes because they are designed to stack and are made of slatted wood and paper. You can also use shallow plastic containers or cut-off box bottoms lined with newspaper. Lay the fruit in one layer with a little space left between each fruit.

The nice thing about this method is that you can easily see how the tomatoes are ripening and use them as soon as they are ready. You can also easily see if the tomatoes begin to rot because of a blemish or bruise. There is always going to be some spoilage, but you can cut away the bad parts and use what is good. (There is a life lesson here.)

I will also sometimes wrap tomatoes in newspaper to nestle them closer together in a container for ripening. I saved a waxed peach case and an expanding wire garden basket and wrapped the fruit I ripened in them. Not only does the wrapping separate the fruit and keep mold or bacteria from traveling rapidly from fruit to fruit, but it also keeps the ripening fruit from being bruised.

Plum/Paste tomatoes: Easy Keeps

Tomatoes ripen and keep well at room temperature (68-70°F). Some tomatoes keep longer than others. My favorite for its holding qualities is any type of paste or plum tomato. They also tend to be lower in moisture, so they are nice sliced thin for use on sandwiches, pizza, or for drying.

Reasonable prices at a Mennonite bulk food store, but my tomatoes were free for the ripening!

Next season, rescue your green tomatoes before the frost, and try ripening them! It doesn’t cost much time or effort to extend the season, but it sure costs money to buy tomatoes! Begonia

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