I dread the end of the growing season for many reasons, but near the top of the list is that it's the end of fresh tomato season. Unless you've a) had frost already, or b) are sufficiently ahead of the game that you have already removed your tomato plants and cleaned up your tomato garden (and if you have: stop it! - you're making the rest of us look bad), there's still hope for at least some of your remaining tomatoes. This is the time of year when people post lots of green tomato recipes--chow chow, fried green tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe even), green tomato pie, green tomato ketchup, and heaven only knows what else. But I'll share a dirty little culinary secret with you: green tomatoes don't taste very good. Instead of disguising them in pies or breading and attempting to sneak them down the throats of your unsuspecting family members, I suggest you ripen your green tomatoes indoors. They won't taste as good as vine-ripened tomatoes, but they'll taste better than those mushy red abominations you find in the grocery store.
Here's what to do:
1. Pick all your green tomatoes that look remotely mature and are in good shape. They should have something close to their mature shape, be somewhat close to their mature size, and not have bruises, soft spots, insect damage, or other major yucky spots.
2. Rinse or wipe them off.
3. Put them in in a single layer in some kind of container and cover them to keep out fruit flies and other pests. I use paper shopping bags. I put a layer of tomatoes in the bottom, fold the tops down to keep out pests, and put the bags in plastic trays to keep any tomato guts from dripping onto the carpet.
4. Store them somewhere dry and warm (warm as in room temperature, not warm as in Mojave Desert in August). According to a Wikipedia article, tomatoes stop ripening when the temperature drops below 54.5 °F (12.5 °C).
5. Check them regularly, removing any that are a) ripe or b) nasty. I check mine each week.
This method has worked well for me for years. Sometimes I still have fresh tomatoes at Thanksgiving, and I don't have to coerce my defenseless family into eating green tomatoes. What's not to love?
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