I’m going to let you in on a little gardening secret.
You can have tomatoes from your garden well after a frost or freeze.
I understand nothing beats a fresh, vine-ripened tomato. I couldn’t agree more. I am still picking tomatoes every day and couldn’t be happier.
Unfortunately, the end of just picked, still warm, juicy, red tomatoes is coming to a close. Tomatoes do best with warm temperatures both day and night. Our days are still warm enough, but the nights are getting much cooler. More than likely, by the end of the month, we will have our first frost and the season of tomatoes will be over.
Or will it?
The key is knowing when your average first frost date is. In my area, that date ranges from October 17th-26th. A couple of years we have gone into November, but for the most part it usually happens towards the end of October.
Just as I do at the beginning of spring, I begin to watch the weather in October. If the night-time temps start to drop in the low 40’s, I go ahead and remove all the tomatoes left on the vine and bring them in the house.
At this point, I can do a couple of different things. I can leave them on the table and let them ripen (which takes about a week), I can make fried green tomatoes or green tomato relish, or I can do what my grandmother did and have tomatoes for several more weeks.
After she brought her tomatoes in from the garden, she would take off the top stem and clean off any dirt. She would wrap each tomato in a piece of newspaper and put them in a cardboard box. Not just any box, mind you, but the same tomato box she saved from year to year. She put the biggest ones on the bottom, the medium ones in the middle, and the smaller ones on top. The box was just the right size to fit under her bed and that’s where they were stored. I can remember giving her the “are you crazy?” look when she first asked me to get her a tomato from underneath the bed. Looking back, it was quite the hidden treasure.
Under her bed provided the ideal conditions for storage- a cool, dark place. Left under the bed, they would still continue to ripen but at a slower pace than if they were out on the counter. This method worked great for her as she was always on top of anything garden inside or outside her house. I, on the other hand, am an out of sight, out of mind person and probably wouldn’t remember until I noticed a puddle of goo oozing from underneath.
Instead, I wrap them in newspaper and layer them in a large, brown paper sack. I try to put the really green ones on the bottom and the ones that have started turning closer to the top. I have one closet that I store canning jars and miscellaneous paper goods and, since I’m in there often, I am continually reminded they are there. Here it’s easy to pull out a tomato and check on its progress or get a couple out to ripen quickly on the counter. Depending on their state of ‘greenness’, I might have garden tomatoes until December. What a treat!