More About Storing Tomatoes

Just when I thought there was nothing else to say about an abundant tomato harvest or storing tomatoes ……here’s more.

Every year I have an abundance of tomatoes in October, but this year I had hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes in October and November; many of which were green when the first freeze approached.  Oddly enough, it was due to the severe drought we had. I’ll explain:

In July and August it was so hot that many things would not pollinate or set fruit.  My early tomatoes gave me a July crop and then sat without producing more tomatoes —-as did my late-planted tomatoes.  At one point I thought for sure this would be the first time in 32 years without tomatoes in the fall.

After two months of severe drought the plants looked great — but no tomatoes!

Then we had just a few days of relief.  Temperatures dropped about 10 degrees, blossoms came,  were pollinated and set wonderful fruit.

The minute we had a reprieve from the high temperatures, my plants set fruit.

It got hot and dry again but my tomatoes looked wonderful and kept right on growing. By the time frost/freeze was expected I had probably a thousand tomatoes (total for about 30 plants), most of which were green.

I picked several hundred and shared some with a friend whose tomatoes had stopped producing some months ago. He and his wife were amazed that tomatoes picked green had such a wonderful taste to them after they ripened. They had always thought you couldn’t get that kind of taste unless it was ripened on the vine. (I think home-grown and method-of-storage is the key, rather than vine-ripened.)

Sliced for lunch December 14, these tomatoes were green when I picked them the first part of November. They have all the taste of a July tomato.

My “storage” area (cooler than the house, but warmer than a garage) was filling up quickly.  When I didn’t have room for any more I decided to experiment.

Here are some findings that helped me and might help you to be even more successful in having fresh tomatoes through December and possibly into January ——if not this year, then next.

  • In addition to storing flat as specified in my post How to Keep Tomatoes Through December for Eating Fresh —- boxes that apples are shipped in, with their cardboard like trays, are perfect for keeping your excess tomato harvest while they ripen. It’s easy to keep an eye on the tomatoes.  Just lift out each tray and set them aside while you check the rest.  Unless you expect it to get below freezing in the storage area, keep the top off the box to allow for better air movement.

These tomatoes were picked green in November and have ripened.

  • I also found that I was able to keep one box of green tomatoes in our shed for about 3 weeks without having them freeze when temperatures outside went to 28 degrees.  (Keep in mind our shed is not air tight and we have excellent air movement although I did not have a fan running  there.) I brought them into the porch Dec.12th.

Hard to believe these funny looking green tomatoes ripen into delicious red tomatoes.

  • The cooler your storage temperatures the longer the time in ripening.  The tomatoes in the shed barely started to ripen.  Now that I have them in a porch that ranges from 55 to 65, they will begin to ripen more quickly. (If temperatures go higher you could have more rot than ripen. If temperatures go lower ripening slows down drastically and some may not ripen at all.)

One Last Thing:

  • If you are a regular reader and/or a tomato fan you already know that tomatoes cannot be stored in a refrigerator and keep their wonderful flavor.  You can however store them in a room that would be the same temperature (I estimate the shed to have been between 35 and 45 degrees) and they will not loose their flavor.  There seems to be something about open air circulation that makes all the difference.

If you have not already done so you might want to read my post on How to Keep Tomatoes Through December for Eating Fresh for more necessary details.


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  • Thank you Beppy!

    This is the first year that I ever remember the cold going on as long as it has and with snow on the ground for such a long period of time.

    Still having fresh onions and tomatoes links me to the garden and I know it won’t be long before we’ll be doing it all again.

    Hope your Christmas will be grand and that you’ll pick some lettuce out of your cold frame on Christmas day.


  • We’ve been storing the late tomatoes and they’re wonderful. They’re kept in an unheated bedroom and that seems to work well. I’ll put a couple on the kitchen counter to finish ripening and voila…a great tomato! There have been several that looked pale and were going soft, when I cut into them, they were a lovely red and tasted like summer!
    Thanks for another great post!

  • Hi Ann,

    Sure glad you told of your experience with the tomatoes. Seeing is believing isn’t it?!

    Pretty wonderful still having tomatoes heading towards January!

    Thanks for commenting.


  • My husband insists on cutting back heartily the leaves of our tomatoes in the beginning of the season (he does not cut back later on in the season). His reasoning is so there is more circulation and to have the tomatoes get sun. Of course, the leaves grow back and we get more flowers, but our tomatoes are not big. Is this a good practice?

  • Lisa, I cut off branches and leaves from the ground to 1 foot up on my tomato plants. Other than that, I don’t cut the leaves unless there is a good reason. Tomatoes need sun of course, but the leaves are there to prevent sun scald as well.

    There is no way for me to know for sure if your husband’s heavy pruning is responsible for small fruit or not. Also, some varieties of tomatoes produce only small fruit.

    I personally would not prune that heavily.

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