Friday, August 6, 2010

As long as you're green, you're growing. As soon as you're ripe, you start to rot.

We are growing Better Boy tomatoes.  They are resistant to a multitude of pests and diseases.  Plus, they grow and grow and grow and produce a lot of large, flavorful tomatoes.  The problem with these tomatoes is that the stalks commonly break under the weight of your tomatoes.  I found that we will have to tie them up at several heights as the plants grow.  The first of the tomatoes are ready to be harvested and will continue to produce until late fall.
So, the predicament that we’re in is that we discovered too late that the vines can’t support the weight of the huge tomatoes (some over 1 pound!).  Now I have an unexpected harvest of green tomatoes.    Frying up the first greenies of the season was a novelty.  Now I have to do something with a pile of unripe tomatoes.  I suspect we’ll have to do something with the end of the season green tomatoes, as well. 
Note that if the fruit is still solid they have not matured enough to ripen off the vine and you should cook them as is.  I found some techniques for ripening up the softer green tomatoes. 
You have to prepare the tomatoes for ripening.  If they are dirty, gently wash them and allow them to air dry.  Remove any debris (stems, twigs, leaves, etc.) that may damage the tomatoes as they ripen. 

You also need to check the tomatoes frequently for decay or mold.  These should be removed immediately. 

Green tomatoes will take about two weeks to ripen in typical household environments.  However, the colder the storage area the longer the will take to ripen and if it’s too cold they may not ripen at all or just be plain yucky.

The ripening technique I’m going to use is the cardboard box method (for many tomatoes) –

  • Line a cardboard box with newspaper
  • Place a layer of tomatoes in the box, each one next to the other. If you have a lot of tomatoes, a second layer on top is okay but be gentle. Do not make any more than two layers in case you bruise the fruit at the base.
  • Add some ripening bananas or apples if you'd like. The tomatoes are likely to ripen anyway, as they release their own ethylene and influence each other. However, using bananas or apples will help to speed up the process.
  • Place in a cool, slightly humid room away from light. A pantry shelf is ideal if you have one.
Alternatively you can use the paper bag method for a few tomatoes -

  • Open paper bag and insert ripening banana and amount of tomatoes as will fit.
  • Store in a warm, semi-humid area away from sunlight.
  • This method is useful where you don't have a lot of room and you only have a few tomatoes.

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