Red and Green Tomatoes
By Melinda Myers
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[October 01, 2022]
Nothing beats the flavor of
fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Harvesting when they are fully ripe
ensures the best flavor for eating fresh, cooking, and preserving.
Visit your garden often and watch for the fruit to
turn from green to fully colored. Then leave them on the plant for
five to eight days. Vine-ripened tomatoes have the best flavor for
using fresh or preserving.
Check plants regularly and keep harvesting, so the plants continue
to produce. This also reduces problems with insects and disease
organisms attacking overripe or rotting fruit. Store mature, fully
colored tomatoes in cool, 45-to-50-degree conditions with high
humidity. They will last about seven to 14 days in these conditions.
When growing indeterminate tomatoes, you will notice the plants keep
growing and producing more flowers and fruit until the frost kills
the plant. Redirect the plant’s energy from sprouting new blossoms
and fruit to ripening the fruit that is already on the plant. Prune
off the stem tip of indeterminate tomatoes about a month before the
average first fall frost in your area. This allows the existing
flowers to develop into fruit and the existing fruit to mature
before the end of the growing season.
Extend the harvest season with the help of floating row covers.
These fabrics allow air, light, and water through, but trap heat
around the plants. Protecting plants from the first few fall frosts
often provides time for more tomatoes to ripen.
Sometimes you cannot protect plants from frost or hungry critters
prevent you from leaving the tomatoes on the plant to fully ripen.
You can pick any tomatoes that are starting to show color before the
killing frost and finish ripening them indoors. The blossom end
should be greenish white or starting to color up. Use blemished and
cracked fruit right away since these do not store well.
Store green and under-ripe tomatoes in a cool 60-to-65-degree
location to maximize their storage life. Set the tomatoes on heavy
paper spread apart so they are not touching. Or wrap them
individually in newspaper so the fruit do not make direct contact.
This helps prevent rot spreading from one fruit to the next.
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These tomatoes will ripen over the next few weeks.
You can speed up the process by moving a few tomatoes to a bright,
warm location a few days before they are needed.
Extend the tomato season next year by growing a Long Keeper. The
flavor is not as good as vine-ripened fruit, but you can pick these
before the first fall frost and enjoy garden tomatoes for up to
And don't let the rest of the green tomatoes go to waste. Use them
for frying, chow chow, green salsa, and other tasty treats.
Keep harvesting and enjoying your garden-fresh tomatoes as long as
your growing season allows. Then make space to store them a few
weeks after the first fall frost.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including
the recently released Midwest Gardeners Handbook, 2nd Edition and
Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow
Anything” instant video and DVD series and the nationally syndicated
Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and
contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her website is
[Photo courtesy of MelindaMyers.com]