Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ripening Green Tomatoes Before First Frost by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Tomato season is almost over and there are only a few weeks left before frost. (Average first freeze date in Denver is October 7).  Now is the time to start thinking about dealing with green tomatoes. 

Here are a few tips to speed-ripen on the vine:
  • Stop watering. This encourages ripening.
  • Root prune the plant. Dig into the soil 6-8” deep and cut around a circle 12” from the stem. Shake the plant but don’t dig it up. This will stress the plant and the fruit will ripen faster.
  • Pinch off any flowers, small fruit, new shoots, and suckers. Newly setting blossoms, small and very green fruit won’t mature in the remaining growing season and are best pruned off. It’s too late for them to become anything. Do this now and all the plants energy will go toward ripening.
  • When the fruit set is heavy, try removing some of the mature green fruit to ripen what’s left on the vine. Ripening numerous fruit takes a lot of energy from the leaves and tends to delay the whole crop turning red.
When frost is expected, try these:
  • Cover the plant completely and anchor so the wind doesn’t blow it off. Use old blankets, thick plastic, or anything similar and make sure it goes all the way to the ground providing the plant with trapped warmth.
  • Harvest the tomatoes by pulling the plant from the ground and hanging it upside down in a garage or other shelter. Check often for ripe ones.
  • Pick the pink ones and put them on the counter to ripen
  • Pick the green tomatoes and store them in a shallow tray lined with newspaper. They need 60-70 degrees and no light. The warmth ripens them not light.    
  • For more information, try these Fact Sheets:
Photo by Carol King