My tomato growing season in the high country has come to an end. Flagstaff received its first frost this year on September 23 (31 degrees.) I knew it was coming so I covered the tomatoes with towels and a heavy blanket. The plants came through the cold night without damage. However, a few days later a major cold front was approaching with night-time temperatures predicted to drop into the mid-20’s for several nights, so I made the decision to declare the tomato growing season concluded. I harvested all remaining fruit, removed the plants from the containers, and dismantled the cages. When time permits, I will remove and discard the old potting soil and clean and disinfect the containers. It has been a wonderful season for growing tomatoes.
Since I harvested the remaining tomatoes, I have lots of green tomatoes to deal with. They can be used green in such dishes as fried green tomatoes or green tomato relish, but I prefer to ripen them. One option is to hang the entire plants with fruit still on them upside down in the garage or other sheltered cool place. It’s much less messy to ripen the tomatoes off the plants, and this is what I did.
Tomatoes that were almost ripe I put into a large red bowl (the red color seems to hasten the ripening.) The rest went into a large heavy duty paper shopping bag in layers separated by newspaper. I placed several sheets of newsprint in the bottom of the bag. I then carefully arranged the greenest, least ripe tomatoes in a single layer on top of the newspaper, another layer of tomatoes, more newspaper and so on until the bag was full. The bag then went into the garage to keep cool. These tomatoes will ripen slowly over the next few weeks and be nearly as tasty as if they had been vine ripened. If you try this, remember to check them every few days for imminent ripeness.