Back in October our first frost was looming and I still had pounds and pounds of green tomatoes on my plants. Not wanting them to go to waste (especially because I’m keeping track of my total yield in pounds), I had to figure out a way to either protect them or preserve them.
I researched my options and this is what I found. When facing a green tomato vs. Jack Frost scenario, you can either:
a) Protect the plants in the garden by throwing sheets, blankets or plastic over them and hope they live to fight another day
b) Pick all the green fruit, store them inside and hope they ripen gradually and don’t rot, or use them in a green tomato recipe (salsa, relish, etc.)
c) Chop the plants down and bring them inside to a protected place (like a barn) and hang them upside down to let the fruit ripen gradually
Our first frost ended up being a hard freeze, so I’m glad I didn’t choose option a). I was also in a situation where I really needed the space that the tomatoes were occupying so I could start my fall crops, and so I chose option c). It was a gamble, but if it worked I would save pounds and pounds of tomatoes from certain death.
We’d been growing the tomatoes in cattle panels, so we chopped the tomatoes down at ground level and brought the whole panel inside. We don’t have a barn, but we do have an unfinished basement. We stacked the panels on top of each other and left the plants to their own devices. That was October 28.
It’s now the middle of December and I still have fresh tomatoes. We have snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures, and I still have fresh tomatoes. A few days ago I made spaghetti for dinner and made homemade pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes. That is pretty stinking awesome.
I’m not saying that these are fresh-from-the-summer-garden quality tomatoes. But then you wouldn’t find that at the grocery store either. After all, these were brought in green, much before their prime.
I do, though, think that having my own homegrown, beyond organic tomatoes that I can use to make “value-added” tomato products in December is something worth celebrating.
Here’s to tomatoes in winter!