How to ripen tomatoes before frost?! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 09-02-2010, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm starting to freak out. I'll admit it, my tomatoes were put in a bit late and the plants looked really small to begin with. It took them a while to get going but now they're loaded with tomatoes. Here's what they look like now. So far I've picked maybe 20 tomatoes. I've been picking them when they're semi ripe and letting them ripen inside on a windowsill then putting them into the freezer until I have enough to start making pasta sauce.

We're in a mini heat wave right now but starting Saturday we're going back to temps in the low 20's during the day and around 10c at night. (70F during day, 50F at night) What do I do with them? At what temp should I start covering them at night, what do I cover them with. Can I do anything to speed the ripening process? I've already trimmed the tomatoes way back, cutting unnecessary shade branches and blossoms/little tomatoes to put all the energy towards the tomatoes that are already there and big.

I feel like I'm in a race against the frost. I'm in zone 4. And I hate most green tomato cooking. I wanted pasta sauce and salsa! Help!

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#2 of 16 Old 09-02-2010, 12:49 PM
 
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you can pick them green and they will ripen on their own. my tomatoes were like yours and then my goats got into them and i had to pick them all. i had several large bowls FULL but they have all ripened now. just pick through occassionally and pick the riper ones out and make sure there aren't any going bad (doesn't usually hapen but if you did miss one that was wounded going in it might make a gross mess an who likes that).
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#3 of 16 Old 09-02-2010, 03:52 PM
 
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At 50 degrees, they should be fine uncovered.

I don't usually cover, if I know it's going to freeze, I'll pick everything that's the right size and let them ripen inside. You can cause them to ripen by not watering for a day or so, it will stress them. Once they start turning red, go back to watering like normal.
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#4 of 16 Old 09-02-2010, 03:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by HeatherAtHome View Post
I'm starting to freak out. I'll admit it, my tomatoes were put in a bit late and the plants looked really small to begin with. It took them a while to get going but now they're loaded with tomatoes. Here's what they look like now. So far I've picked maybe 20 tomatoes. I've been picking them when they're semi ripe and letting them ripen inside on a windowsill then putting them into the freezer until I have enough to start making pasta sauce.

We're in a mini heat wave right now but starting Saturday we're going back to temps in the low 20's during the day and around 10c at night. (70F during day, 50F at night) What do I do with them? At what temp should I start covering them at night, what do I cover them with. Can I do anything to speed the ripening process? I've already trimmed the tomatoes way back, cutting unnecessary shade branches and blossoms/little tomatoes to put all the energy towards the tomatoes that are already there and big.

I feel like I'm in a race against the frost. I'm in zone 4. And I hate most green tomato cooking. I wanted pasta sauce and salsa! Help!
Looking at those pictures, it appears that some of your tomatoes are pretty close to starting to ripen anyhow. They're not exactly green anymore, right? Maybe have a bit of a tint to them that is pinky or yellowy?

The change in temps may actually trigger them to ripen. My tomatoes always go magically and quickly ripe if we get a heat wave followed by a cool down and they are just at that point.

I don't cover plants until the temps are going to be in the 30sF overnight. The online calculator I just used says the C range I tend to cover at is under 4 degrees Celsius.
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#5 of 16 Old 09-02-2010, 06:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks! Some tomatoes are starting to turn more yellowish but many are still hard and green. I have 7 different kinds planted in that jumbled row (won't be planting so close together next year!) so the beefsteak and oxhearts are starting to turn but the romas, yellow pears, tiny tims, pink girl, sweet 100 (or whatever it's called) are still pretty green.

I'll just keeping going along the way I've been doing it and hope for the best. I read that some kinds sort of ripen all at once so maybe that will happen?

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You can cause them to ripen by not watering for a day or so, it will stress them. Once they start turning red, go back to watering like normal.
This has been happening on it's own. I don't water the garden, I let nature take care of it. It's worked so far! We're having a couple days of heat with no rain, then starting tomorrow night it will cool off and rain for a couple of days. My fingers are crossed!

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#6 of 16 Old 09-04-2010, 03:38 PM
 
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One of my garden books is telling me you can cut the entire bush down at the end of the season and hang it upside down in a frost-free area to ripen the remaining fruit. Kinda like what *farmergirl* is recommending. I've also read you can stress the plant by cutting the roots on two sides with a shovel (just dig in with the shovel) and that will cause the fruit to ripen. I live in zone 4/5 too and this is actually the first year I've gotten anything close to ripe tomatoes in the garden. Here's hoping

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#7 of 16 Old 09-04-2010, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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One of my garden books is telling me you can cut the entire bush down at the end of the season and hang it upside down in a frost-free area to ripen the remaining fruit. Kinda like what *farmergirl* is recommending. I've also read you can stress the plant by cutting the roots on two sides with a shovel (just dig in with the shovel) and that will cause the fruit to ripen. I live in zone 4/5 too and this is actually the first year I've gotten anything close to ripe tomatoes in the garden. Here's hoping
Oh, I read that somewhere too and had forgotten all about it. I'll give it a try on some of the plants.

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#8 of 16 Old 09-04-2010, 10:25 PM
 
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#9 of 16 Old 09-05-2010, 12:22 PM
 
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If you do bring in any when green, keep them in a paper bag to ripen instead of your window sill, they'll have better flavor.

You can also shock your plants by pruning the roots with a shovel to speed things up.

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#10 of 16 Old 09-05-2010, 12:35 PM
 
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I've been told that hanging the plants upside down will help any green tomatoes to ripen. Apparently this is what my grandparents used to do and they were harvesting ripe tomatoes at Christmas.

One they are no longer ripening outside you dig up the plant, shake off the soil and hang upside down somewhere cool and dry. We plan to hang ours in the garage.

Till now I have stuck them in the fruit bowl with a banana, we do have some which go soft before they are ripe but most do OK.
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#11 of 16 Old 09-06-2010, 06:11 AM
 
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No advice, but you can make chilaquiles w/ your tomatillos

My MIL makes it... basically blend the tomatillos and jalapenos to taste (optional) for the sauce. Then you heat it w/ tortilla chips (the real Mexican kind, or make your own but no tostitos ). Top with chopped raw onion, mexican quesadilla cheese(grated) & sour cream. Serve w/ eggs

mm..

nak ;]

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#12 of 16 Old 09-06-2010, 11:29 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Erinz View Post
If you do bring in any when green, keep them in a paper bag to ripen instead of your window sill, they'll have better flavor.

This works REALLY well, the paper bag thing! A brown paper bag.

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#13 of 16 Old 09-07-2010, 11:59 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Maiasaura View Post

This works REALLY well, the paper bag thing! A brown paper bag.
Especially if you have an already-ripe tomato to put in with them.

If you don't have a tomato, a ripe apple or banana seems to work too.
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#14 of 16 Old 09-07-2010, 12:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you! I'm happy to report that the tomatoes seem to be ripening quicker on the vine already (to pinkness, then I've been bringing them in) and I'm getting a lot of tomatoes (might be ready to make my first batch of sauce!

Still plenty of green but I have hope.

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#15 of 16 Old 09-07-2010, 02:02 PM
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My friend told me this a while ago and said it has worked for her before. She took a shovel and gave one cut into the soil next to each of her plants, cutting a quarter to a third of it's roots. I guess it makes the plant put all energy into ripening the fruit instead of growing anything new.
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#16 of 16 Old 09-07-2010, 03:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bluebirdiemama View Post
My friend told me this a while ago and said it has worked for her before. She took a shovel and gave one cut into the soil next to each of her plants, cutting a quarter to a third of it's roots. I guess it makes the plant put all energy into ripening the fruit instead of growing anything new.
I have heard this one too, but never got around to trying it. I have always just finish ripening them in the house. Like has already been said a paper bag works best. If I only have a few green ones left I make fried green tomatoes, but I have heard it is an acquired taste and not for everyone.

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