KC Gardens

Green tomatoes can extend season

Green tomatoes

Tip of the Week

To me, the last garden tomato of the year signals the end of summer. There is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato. Tomatoes shipped in, or from a greenhouse never match the flavor of those that bask in the warm Kansas City sunshine. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

The average first frost in the Kansas City area is somewhere around mid-October — anywhere between the 15th and 20th , depending on whether you live in the northland or down south. In the Olathe area the earliest fall frost was recorded on Sept. 24, back in 1942.

The first frost puts an end to our growing season. But with a little planning, the season can be extended. Even though their flavor will not match that of their sun-kissed cousins, green-picked tomatoes still taste better than the supermarket variety.

There seem to be many different ways people choose to ripen fall tomatoes indoors. Most of these recommendations are not factual. Do you ripen in the sunlight, or in the dark? Must they be ripened wrapped in newspaper? These are just a few of the suggestions you often hear.

Bottom line is that tomatoes ripen indoors based on temperature. It has nothing to do with light. So if you want to extend your season, follow this recommended trick:

Harvest the most mature fruits before the first frost of the season. Immature fruits will tend to rot. Also, avoid ones with blemishes or damage. Place the green tomatoes in a box or pan and store in a cool location, such as the garage or basement.

To ripen, bring the fruits to room temperature. This will initiate the ripening process. The length of time will depend on how mature the fruit was when picked, and the temperature. It might take as long as one or two weeks to develop a deep red color and ripeness.

By following this method, fresh tomatoes may last up to Thanksgiving. Be sure to check those in storage for decay and discard as needed. If you are like me, you will miss the vine-ripe flavor of a fresh tomato, but at least it gives us something to look forward to next year.

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