Green tomatoes still can be ripened

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

If your tomato plants survived the frost this past week, you may be trying to decide what to do about green tomatoes. The tomatoes need to be picked before they are nipped by frost. They can be ripened indoors in several ways.

One way is to pull the tomato plants up by their roots and hang them in the garage or basement at temperatures of 50 degrees or higher. In this way, the fruit will ripen over an extended period of several months. Another way is to pick and wrap tomatoes individually in paper or store unwrapped. Store them at 50 to 65 degrees.

According to the Extension publication, "The Versatile Green Tomato," the best quality tomato is ripened at 60 to 70 degrees. Those ripened at 60 degrees are firmer and have less decay than fruits ripened at 70 degrees. Also, a high relative humidity of 88 to 90 percent is desirable to prevent shriveling.

In order for green tomatoes to ripen, they should have reached the "mature-green" stage. At this stage they are about full-grown but do not show pink color. When tomatoes have reached the mature-green stage, cream-colored streaks are noticeable at the blossom end and the corky ring surrounding the stem scar has a greater prominence.

Growers can test their judgment of maturity by cutting fruits crosswise of the seed cells. The tomatoes are considered mature enough if the pulp that surrounds the seeds slip aside and cannot be cut by a sharp knife when the fruit is sliced.

Tomatoes that have not developed the jelly-like condition and have soft, white seeds that easily are cut are too immature for harvesting with the hope of ripening. Immature tomatoes, if they ripen, ripen much slower and usually shrivel in the process, resulting in poorly colored fruits that are tough in texture and inferior in quality.

Cooked green, unripened tomatoes can be used as a dessert, a vegetable, a relish or marmalade. Do not eat raw, undeveloped tomatoes as this could cause serious illness.

This information is from "The Versatile Green Tomato." For your free copy of this publication contact Cooperative Extension Service at 262-5824, (800) 478-5824 or stop by our office at the Doors and Windows Building.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.

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