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)
Washing Tomatoes Before Storage?!
I was somewhat surprised to see a video recently showing a fellow washing all his tomatoes in warm water before storing.
I NEVER wash my tomatoes until I get ready to use them. I want to keep the natural protective coating that vegetables have intact. The occasional tomato that has something on it, I just wipe with a cloth.
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!
Seed Saving – Tomatoes – How to
How to Keep Tomatoes Through December for Eating Fresh
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I wish I had more space in my garden, Theresa. I’ve had to take out tomato plants to make some room for cool weather things. It’s even tighter with having to reserve space for garlic and with sweet potatoes and winter squash still to come in. Still, it’s been a great tomato year in terms of quantity, and I can’t complain. I’ll choose my best plants and try to work around them. The rest have served us well.
I too wrapped my tomatoes individually in paper. Boy was I ever so glad to hear that was unnecessary as it took me two days to wrap them all 🙂
Theresa, There haven’t been any fresh maters here for awhile now – that Cherokee Purple looks so good I can almost taste it!! They faded earlier than ever here this year due to too much rain and I prematurely yanked all of my plants a few weeks back in hopes of throwing down some winter rye (haven’t gotten around to that yet). I remember reading about this here the past few years, but I’ve yet to try it. Really sorry (again) I didn’t hang a few plants from the crawlspace joists where it’s a consistent 57-58 degrees 🙁
For those tomatoes that you’ll be enjoying around Christmas/New Years …about when are those usually picked from the garden and stowed? While ripening off vine, do they lose much flavor?
Sandra, I’m so proud of you with all the success you’ve had with your tomatoes!
Toni, two days to wrap them all! Wow! I guess you were glad to hear that it’s unnecessary! The main thing is to keep a close check to remove ones that rot. And believe me – it’s a lot faster to check when the tomatoes are not wrapped! Enjoy your fresh Christmas salad!
Jack, this was my first year growing Cherokee purple and I like it. The one in the picture was about the first one to ripen and a real beauty. Others have been nice but not that nice.
I envy you that crawlspace where it’s a consistent 57 to 58 degrees. Just about perfect storage for many vegetables.
Regarding when I harvest tomatoes that I eat for Christmas/NewYears – it depends on existing variables:
–Years ago when we lived closer to the water, sometimes I didn’t harvest tomatoes until December!
–At our current location (only 7 miles away from the old location) I’ve harvested as late as November.
–In recent years, I’d have to wrap row cover fabric around the plant to get it through November.
–And some years, if I don’t have time to protect the plants from frost, I harvest as early as the middle or end of October, depending on when frost is predicted.
Your question about do they lose much flavor is answered in the following two posts, but the short answer is that you will be amazed at how delicious they are. There have been many years that I can’t tell the difference (taste wise) in tomatoes that were picked two months earlier.
Sure appreciate the comments!
Those are my favorite tomatoes. They are so full flavored and rich in taste. I never thought of saving the seeds, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are wonderful
Theresa, you have the right to be proud!!
You’ve taken me from barely getting tomatoes to grow (remember!) to the stage that if I brought another bucket of tomatoes (yes they came in in buckets because they broke my harvesting basket’s handle) in from the garden, there would be collective groans! Not until early October though – up ’till then we ate them fresh every day, put up enough roasted tomato sauce (best recipe ever on this here blog!) to feed five very hungry people until next July – over 50 gallons, made tomato jam (called for waay too much sugar), chutney (turned out well), lots of tomato and basil soup (very good indeed), froze a bunch as well as canned many quarts, and gave away some to special friends.
Guess you could say that you sorted me out good and proper!!!