If you haven’t already saved the seed of several of your biggest, best and most delicious tomato, now is the time. It’s easy and I gave step by step instructions in this post:Seed Saving – Tomatoes – How to
Wish I had saved the seed of the tomato below. It was one of the first and one of the most beautiful of the heirloom variety Cherokee Purple.
Eating Fresh Through Year-End
In areas that are frost free until October or later, it’s time to starting thinking about having fresh tomatoes as far into the year as possible.
Towards that end, you may want to cut off (or pinch off) any blossoms left on the vines in order that the plant may direct all its energy to fruit already formed. (Some years I do this and some years I don’t.)
Keep an Eye on the Weather
You can leave the tomatoes on the vine even in cooler temperatures although they won’t ripen quickly. Just make sure you keep an eye on the weather. When you expect frost in your area, pick all the tomatoes that you want to have ripen inside.
I like to do a daily check for frost close to the approximate first-frost date in my area using this map: http://www.intellicast.com/National/Temperature/FrostFreeze.aspx (copy and paste into your browser)
Store on the Plant or Just the Fruit
One of the easiest ways to store tomatoes if you have the space, is to pull them up by the root and hang upside down from the rafters in a barn or shed. (I have a gardening friend who was raised on a farm and they did that every year when he was a boy.)
Since I don’t have the needed place for hanging big plants upside down, I pick all the fruits before frost is expected. Some times I just place them in open flat baskets or shallow boxes. (Pictures in this post. If I have lots of tomatoes and have old apple boxes that have the separations still in them, I’ll store them that way. (Picture here.)
Wrapping Not Necessary
Somebody along the line came up with the idea about wrapping tomatoes in paper before storage. I did that once decades ago and that ended that! Too much work involved. And it’s not necessary.
Important to Check OFTEN
If for some reason you can’t store them in single layers and have to put them one on top the other in a bushel basket or box, it’ll work just fine. The important thing is to check them OFTEN, because it’s normal for some to rot. You want to catch that as quickly as possible. And as they ripen, bring those to the top so they can be used. Single layers make it a lot easier to check.
Many sources recommend storage at 50 º F, but I seldom can maintain that cool a temperature in my enclosed porch/mudroom. Usually temperatures run about 60º. My tomatoes might ripen a bit more quickly at this temperature, but nonetheless, they do well and I usually have tomatoes through Christmas and New Years.
With a little forethought now, you’ll have fresh tomatoes to go with your fall planted lettuce on Christmas and possibly into the new year!
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