If your tomato plants look anything like mine (refer to the photo above), chances are they are full of green tomatoes! In a perfect world, all of them would vine-ripen before that first frost hits, but sadly, that’s unlikely to happen. In the past, I just chalked it up to a loss, and said “oh well,” but this year I’m really working to be resourceful in my garden.
I thought I’d do a little research and share with you three things you can do if you have the predicament of green tomatoes.
Option #1: Cook with Them.
(Image credit: Hav n Knit Lover)
Upon Googling “green tomato recipes,” I did not come up with any shortage of ideas! Of course, you have the classic Fried Green Tomatoes (recipe: the Kitchn) that might well remind you of the movie…. but I found many additional, inventive recipes across the interwebz for using green tomatoes.
From what I read, you want to choose tomatoes that are large in size – the small ones may be bitter.
Here are some that stood out to me:
Pickled Green Tomatoes (canning recipe)
Green Tomato Chutney (canning recipe; Food in Jars)
Green Tomato Pie (Paula Deen)
Pictured above: green tomato relish makes a festive holiday gift idea! Image credit – peppergrass.
Option #2: Try to Ripen them.
Some fruits will only ripen on the vine or tree, but not so with tomatoes! Here’s what you need to do: pick tomatoes that are close to ripening (either light green, some red, starting to blush in color, etc) and free from disease and insect damage and bring them inside.
(Image credit: Satrina0)
Put them in a brown paper bag and add a banana, which releases a gas that will speed the ripening process. If you have lots of tomatoes, you could try putting them in a single layer in the bottom of a box in a cool, dark spot and check on them every few days. Apparently, the tomatoes do not need sunlight to ripen off the vine.
I have also heard of people digging up the entire tomato plant (or snipping off big sections) and hanging it upside down in their garage to get the little guys to ripen.
Another school of thought is to place them in a sunny windowsill.
I also appreciated this blogger’s advice for getting tomatoes to ripen off the vine: just bring them inside and set them on the counter! (Simple ideas always resonate with me.)
I would love to know if any of these techniques have worked for you, or if you have others to share.
Option #3: Protect your plants.
The other way you could approach the pending frost is to protect your tomato plants. The idea here is to keep the plants warm – kind of like giving them a “coat.”
Here’s one way to do this I adored for its frugality: simply envelop the plant in bubble wrap! Simply wrap it around your tomato cages to create an insulating layer. There is more specific instruction for this over at About – Organic Gardening
(In the image above, floating row covers provide tomato plants from the threat of frost. Image credit – Baha’i Views.)
As for me, I’m not sure yet what my approach will be! I’ve never eaten a green tomato as they are certainly not sold in stores near me, so this could be one of those golden gardening opportunities to try something new and homegrown! I think I will also try ripening some indoors. I need to do a garden clean up before winter, so I don’t know that I’ll be leaving any tomato plants in the ground this year.
What about you? How do you handle green tomatoes? Any other tips you’d like to share?