Well here we go again! Autumn is descending and my tomato plants are loaded with unripe fruit. Every year a certain percentage of my crop goes to waste when the wet, cold weather comes and this year looks to be no exception.
I shouldn’t complain, we have had an absolutely glorious late summer. All of August and most of September have been hot and sunny and I have several batches of roasted tomatoes tucked into the freezer so far, but a cool spring delayed fruit formation so there are an awful lot of green tomatoes hanging on the plants and I’m getting nervous that they won’t ripen in time…
I should have laid some red plastic mulch under the tomato plants when they were transplanted into the garden, my earlier experiments with red mulch did show accelerated fruit development, but I didn’t get around to it this year, my bad!
In mid-August I removed the growing tips and flower clusters of all my vining tomatoes to send them into fruit ripening mode. It’s hard to stop them when they’re flowering and setting fruit like mad, but I know that it’s necessary. There’s little point in allowing them to expend energy forming fruit that doesn’t stand a chance of developing.
Lately I’ve been harvesting tomatoes every few days. As soon as they start to turn orangey I bring in a bowlful and put them on a sunny windowsill inside the house to finish ripening. They end up almost as sweet as vine ripened tomatoes, and I know that every tomato I bring into the house is one that isn’t in danger of rotting if poor weather or late blight (usually one follows the other) hits.
The other day I was reading a gardening magazine and came across some advice about ripening tomatoes that makes a lot of sense. In fact, I can’t believe that I haven’t heard this before or figured it out for myself.
Apples! Everyone knows that apples give off ethylene gas and ethylene gas ripens (or if they’re exposed for too long, spoils) fruits and veggies. I have used this trick before; when I have something I want to ripen quickly I put it in a paper bag with an apple and in a day or two, voila, it’s ripe!
I have no shortage of apples right now so I gathered up a bunch of windfalls and chucked them underneath my tomato plants in the garden, put a few inside my greenhouse and even put some on the windowsill with my already half-ripened tomatoes.
It works! The tomatoes on the windowsill ripened up lickety-split and it looks like the fruit still on the vine is ripening more quickly than it had been before I started gassing them. This is so simple it’s stupid!
When I was a kid I remember wrapping green tomatoes individually in newspaper and stacking them gently into cardboard boxes to ripen. This method is slower than gassing them with apples, which might be a good idea to prolong my supply of fresh tomatoes so I’ll be sure to put up a box full of fruit using this method.