For many home gardeners, vine-ripened tomatoes are one of the pleasures of summer. Sadly, frost eventually puts an end to the tomato growing season. However, individuals can still enjoy ripe, home-grown tomatoes this fall (possibly as late as December) by harvesting and ripening the tomatoes indoors.
Harvest mature, green tomatoes when frost is imminent. The fruit should be solid, firm, and free of defects. Mature, green tomatoes are full-sized and have a greenish white skin color. Remove the stems, then clean and dry the fruit.
Individually wrap each fruit in a piece of newspaper and place in single layers in boxes or shelves. Store the tomatoes in a dark, cool (55-60 F) location, such as a basement or cellar.
Inspect the tomatoes periodically during storage. Discard any soft or decaying fruit. When the tomatoes begin to color, remove the newspaper and place them at room temperature.
An alternate ripening method is to leave the green tomatoes on the vine and pull the entire plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dark location. (Obviously, this method can be a bit messy.) Harvest the tomatoes from the vine as they ripen.
This article originally appeared in the September 12, 1997 issue, p. 125.