Our first frost this year was September 13th, so on September 12th, we picked most of the tomatoes from the garden, except for a few plants up by the house that were easy to cover and uncover at night for the frosts. Those ones lasted until September 22nd before we got sick of the extra effort and picked all the tomatoes off those ones, too.
In all, we got about ten tons of tomatoes, mostly green. I tried a variety of ways to stretch out the ripening, which I had seen in various books, on the internet, and been told about by friends and family. I hung one plant in the basement by it’s roots. I wrapped some in newspaper and put them in the basement. I put tomatoes in boxes in warm-ish dark places (the upstairs pantry) and in cool-ish dark places (the downstairs cold room), just to check. I ripened a bunch on the kitchen table.
All in all, there were a couple of ‘waves’ of ripening, with the toms on the kitchen table in the sunshine ripening quite quickly, while the ones in the upstairs pantry and on the counter in the kitchen, out of the sun, took somewhat longer. Today, October 27th, I found the first rotten ones in the cold room downstairs, but there are still some kitchen-counter tomatoes that are good to eat. Most of the tomatoes, including the ones hanging on the plant, and the ones wrapped in newspaper, are now turning red, though they could still be left to ripen for a little while. We will still have tomatoes in November, but I am certain that they will have rotted by December. I think the articles that touted Christmas tomatoes were from places that don’t get their first frost until well into October.
No one method of ‘preserving’ the tomatoes (or delaying ripening) seems to work any better than another. Wrapping each tomato individually in newspaper was a pain in the butt, and I won’t bother again. Hanging the plant by its roots was easy, but takes up a fair bit of space, and you have to watch for tomatoes falling off and getting bruised. The simplest method seems to be piling them in shallow boxes and sticking them downstairs, and that is what I will likely do in the future.
I have already dried a bunch of the tomatoes with a sprinkle of sea salt, and made a couple of batches of salsa. I am not quite sure what I will do with this other eight tons coming ripe, but they may just go directly into the freezer, depending on how much energy I happen to have this weekend.
At any rate, I will make a definitive statement here – you can certainly still have tomatoes coming ripe and nice to eat six or maybe even eight weeks after you pick them, however you decide to keep them, as long as they are out of the sun, and preferably a bit cool. After that, I think it is a little sketchier. So, for all you other Saskies out there, enjoy your November tomatoes, but don’t count on serving them at Christmas…