Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to Easily Ripen Tomatoes in Your Garage

Did you know that you can finish ripening tomatoes in your garage? 

Our growing season is short in Montana, but this year I figured out how to give my tomatoes a little bit more time to finish getting ripe. 

a tomato ripened in the garage, still on the vine.
It worked! This tomato was every bit as flavorful as it looks!

I used to be skeptical of this method. 

Several years ago, I heard that it is possible to finish ripening your green tomatoes by hanging the tomato plants upside down inside, before the first hard frost. I could never quite figure out the logistics though - how to pick up the huge plant and move it inside, what to hang it from, etc.  

In past years, I used other ways to ripen my tomatoes instead.

There are a number of ways you can ripen end-of-season tomatoes after the weather becomes too cold for them, and I have tried many of them. For example, here are three different things I have tried. 
  • One year, when I grew cherry tomatoes in a pot, I brought the entire pot inside, put it by a sunny window, and continued to water it.  Tomato plants are not the most appealing house plant - but we were picking cherry tomatoes for our salads all the way into mid-November! 
  • I covered the tomato plants with thick blankets every frosty night, and let them get sunshine during the day, prolonging the life cycle of the plants outside for as many days as I could.
  • I picked all of the tomatoes off the vine. I let the ones that had begun to turn red finish ripening on my windowsill and wrapped all the green ones in newspapers. I carefully placed the wrapped tomatoes one layer deep in cardboard boxes. I stored the boxes in my cool dark basement, and most of the tomatoes ripen after a few weeks. They were good enough - but not great.

This year I uprooted and brought the whole plant inside - the easy way!

Nearly two weeks ago, our weather turned and we had frost in the forecast.  I really only had one plant still laden with unripe tomatoes, but we had really been looking forward to eating them.  On a whim, I gently pulled the entire plant up out of the ground and wrapped a plastic bag around the still dirt-covered roots. Carefully supporting the stems and tomatoes, I carried the entire thing into our garage and looked around. What to do with it??

There really wasn't an ideal place to hang the plant upside down, and I didn't have much time to deal with it. I placed the bag of roots in a shallow box, propped that up on another taller container, and let the tomatoes trail down onto the ground in an out-of-the-way area of our garage. I didn't hang the tomato plant completely upside down - I just balanced it so the roots were higher than the stem. This seemed to work well and was really easy to do.

I then proceeded to ignore it.

Ripe tomatoes and ready to eat!

My results, after a little over a week.

Today, I took a look. All of the tomatoes ripened perfectly, and we will be enjoying every single one. Once I pick them, I'll just have to wrap the rest of the plant up in the garbage bag, and take it to the transfer station where we take our trash, to be recycled.  

vine ripened tomatoes - in the garage

This was the easiest and best way I have ever dealt with our end-of-season crop of tomatoes.   Maybe it will work for you!

Vine ripened and tasty tomato
We ate this garage-ripened tomato last night, and it tasted just like it had been ripened by the sun!

Have you ever tried this?

What tips do you have for growing, ripening, and harvesting home-grown tomatoes?

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  1. I had never heard of this! Of course, we don't often have that problem here in SC, but it is still a great tip to try. I'm trying to talk my husband into building me a greenhouse so I can start earlier. Our problem is by July we have 'FIRE-ROASTED TOMATOES' instead of regular ripe. I feel like I should wrap them in ice packs!

    1. A green house would be terrific. Our climates are so different. Sometimes, even in July, when I pick my tomatoes they are so cold they taste like they have been in the fridge!

  2. What a great idea! Our poor garden only has a few more days before we have our first forecasted frost. We need to get out there and harvest everything we can. The good thing about it is that means we can finally try our first crop of brussel sprouts! I read that we should keep them in through the first frost... I can't wait to eat them!

    1. As I respond to this comment, it is 32 degrees. Brussel Sprouts are something I have never grown. Have you seen the recipes for how to roast a whole branch of them, right on their stems?

  3. This is such a good idea. We haven't had any tomatoes this year, so I don't have any to ripen, sadly. But I'm tucking this away for next year!

  4. I've done this! Many years ago, but it works really well.

    1. Did you actually hang yours upside down River, or just lay them propped up on something like I did?

  5. We do that most years. Except for the years we make green tomato chutney instead. It does work well doesn't it?

    1. For the first time ever, I now have no green tomatoes ... and your green tomato chutney sounds like such a good idea that I almost wish I did!

  6. Gotta love fresh tomatoes. I wish I had something to offer in way of help but I've never had any issue with them ripening on the vine where I live. Hell, if anything I have to get to them before the animals do.

    1. Lucky you! Our growing season is very, very short. And I totally agree - fresh tomatoes are the taste of summer!


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